Even by writing this article I feel a great sense of apprehension in giving James Cameron’s latest film Avatar any attention at all. Much like you would treat a naughty little child, I feel Avatar should have been told to go sit in the corner for while and think about what it has done.

While I am not among the many that loathe and detest the film, I am hardly going to say that this movie is a modern day masterpiece either. My fears are that it may have altered the movie landscape and perhaps not for the better.

James Cameron’s 3D visuals have been the hot topic of conversation, leaving the public craving more of the same. With upcoming productions such as Tim Burton’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and a remake of Clash of The Titans (starring Avatar’s Sam Worthington) set to be in 3D, it’s clear it won’t be going anywhere soon.

This is of course problematic if you find 3D films uncomfortable or difficult to watch. It is clear from watching Avatar that the visual capabilities of the technique are still in need of development as the image sometimes blurs around the edges and is less impressive when action scenes commence. I’m not saying that Avatar or 3D films in general are not visually impressive, but there does seems to be a pattern within Hollywood at the moment that emphasizes the visual over any form of emotive narrative.

Hollywood studios are now obsessing about spectacle more than ever. In a time where we persistently suffer through the likes of Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, Terminator Salvation and Knowing to name a few, has the idea of an emotionally capturing story been forgotten?

Of course a film that focuses on narrative instead of the visual will always grab less at the box office, so should we just accept this and carry on with cinemas current mind numbing existence? I’d rather not.

I don’t wish to totally condemn Avatar, however, as it’s not completely contrived and infuriating like many other recent productions. It just didn’t fulfill beyond visual novelty.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility to marry the technological advancements Cameron has made with concise and encapsulating storytelling. After all Cameron has shown he can do both when he wrote and directed the groundbreaking The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. There are even recent examples such as J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, and yet Avatar has 9 Oscar nominations and Star Trek only 4 with no Best Film nomination?

Maybe we will wake from our digitally induced coma and ask for something more than the current crop are providing. However, I won’t be holding my breath.

Jack Jones

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4 Comments

  1. MyNameIsNoOne
    March 12, 2010 at 09:18 — Reply

    Hmm, fears for the health of quality narrative storytelling are always worth considering. I like the fact that you appreciate Avatar succeeds at both negative and positive reactions: It demands both reaction and response!

    However people have got it the wrong way around with Avatar. It is for example much like the Iliad (Polyphemus), a classic story or Odyssey with a hero’ s journey. The novel visuals match this awesomely. So when Hollywood produces a blockbuster, let’s hope it is as good as this! More films in 3D will be too much of a good thing and probably won’t be good to begin with. However economics leads this in Hollywood.

    Let’s hope foreign film markets fill the gap!

  2. Marcus
    March 12, 2010 at 15:55 — Reply

    I enjoyed the read & perspective. The main thing with the whole revived movement of 3D is that I thought it died decades ago—a long time ago. Sure, maybe the technology is better today to showcase 3D in more unique ways but I, like many, still find 3D to be very gimmicky & it brings nothing more to the film. Besides, is producing hundreds of millions of plastic 3D glasses a good idea, too?

    Avatar was a crap film. Take away the beautiful & technically impressive visuals and you have an amalgamation of Pocahantas & Fern Gully with one-dimensional characters that spit out lines that are forehead-slapping bad—shame James Cameron, age is certainly getting to you.

    I must defend Terminator Salvation. I thought it did great justice to the legacy of T1/T2 while adding completely new elements to the Saga and maintaing ties to the past, both of which worked very very well together with respect to script & story. Because it is the FOURTH film in a TWENTY-FIVE YEAR Saga, unfortunately for “newcomers” much of the emotional core is, like the aforementioned, tied to the past. Like all sequels, series of novels, and serial television shows, you can’t just jump in “cold turkey” & judge accordingly. Terminator Salvation is a very dark film, rightfully so given the context of the saga, that too many pass off as negativity & unemotional. As for art & the film’s action sequences, it had to be one of the best directed films in the decade…aren’t you tired of shaky-shaky action cameras, too?
    Bottom line, you get it or you don’t and this growing attitude (amongst “Critics”) that every film must serve everybody is absurd…and to consider Terminator Salvation a failure financially when it made an 85% profit (of a historically huge INDEPENDENT budget) is ridiculous, too. Sorry if this turned into a little rant but somebody’s opinion on the 8th Harry Potter film when one has not seen 1 thru 7 (& doesn’t “dig” the mythology) is to be taken accordingly.

  3. Neil
    March 12, 2010 at 18:43 — Reply

    Apparently, so the story goes, a Hollywood bigwig invited to a presentation during the 50’s of the ‘new’ 3d technology wasn’t impressed and didn’t know what the big deal was about and so he with his power and influence treated the tech like it was a gimmick and so it went. Later it was found out that he was blind in one eye and didn’t UNDERSTAND the technology and so it was just a headache for him.
    ————————————————————————–
    Some films are best watched silently, some just in black and white, some in colour, and now some in 3d. The thing to understand is something is always lost with each of these technologies. “Raging Bull” would not be the classic it was if filmed in colour and Avatar is a classic because its intention was always 3d. Like it or not it is another tool for art. Time for us to catch up!

  4. Marcus
    March 12, 2010 at 19:11 — Reply

    Good points, Neil, but sorry, Spy Kids 3D was “intended” for 3D, not Avatar. Avatar 3D was far more subtle and not “poke your eye”-3D, which was meant to enhance, not be the reason to go to see the film—but perhaps I’m giving Jim Cameron too much credit there?…Oscars told us something.

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