- 04 January 2010
- By John Howell
You may have heard recently that Fox’s science fiction spectacular Avatar has reached worldwide box-office takings of over US$1.02 billion. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Variety and others, Avatar has become the fourth highest grossing film ever, behind Titanic ($1.8 billion), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1.12 billion) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($1.07 billion). At the rate it’s going Avatar will probably surpass these numbers shortly, giving it the all time top spot. James Cameron’s Avatar has had the best “third week” in film history.
For some of you this may sound like great news for science fiction and fantasy films everywhere, a testament to James Cameron’s theatrical vision, for me though it’s bad news - awful in fact. Cameron's success is likely to send a loud and clear signal to Hollywood producers everywhere (as if they hadn’t received it loudly and clearly already) that stories and characters are redundant, or if not redundant, at least a minor part of what makes a profitable film.
I know some of you will disagree, but I felt that Avatar's story was average at best, lazy at worst (you can read my review here). The characters were cliched and pointless, most of them barely outlined. But let’s face it, who needs them? Just add intense visual effects, a dash of 3D, and a wide-ranging marketing campaign; it will get you there in the end. Storytelling in cinema appears to have a secondary role. A special effects budget can conquer all. Cameron wants Avatar to be the first of a trilogy, and no doubt nothing will stand in his way now, certainly not a descent pair of screenplays.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate Avatar; on the contrary, I loved the film. It was an amazing visual delight, an intense, crazy spectacle that set my eyeballs spinning and my brain aflame. And that’s what scares me even more. Even though I can rave on about how special effects are dominating ahead of the story and characters (in some cases completely), and even though I’ll rant here until I’m blue in the face that Avatar’s story is lame, shallow and positively middle weight, at the same time I’m arranging to go and see the film again in IMAX 3D with my brother and some friends. The battle has been lost before it’s even begun. I’ve given in. Goodbye script. Farewell character development. The visuals reign supreme. I don’t care if the story is lame. Avatar looks that good. Just give me more eye candy Mr Cameron. I’m all yours.
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