EDITORIALS

What's Next for James Cameron's Avatar - More Good Buzz?

by
August 3, 2009

James Cameron - Avatar

I've been thinking about James Cameron's Avatar quite a damn bit since finally seeing 25 minutes of it at Comic-Con a little over a week ago. Not only have I been trying to let it all soak in, but I've also been trying to get a better grasp of the buzz coming out of the Con, in order to gain a better perspective on its situation. What I mean is that, oddly, it didn't come out of San Diego with the most buzz (that was probably Iron Man 2 followed by Tron Legacy). It's less of a question of why, and more of a question of what's next for Avatar? Because if you asked me about the movie a month ago, I would've said it was going to be the next Titanic.

So here's the thing about it - Avatar is not going to be the next Titanic because it's different in so many ways. Avatar is about the technological innovations and stepping forward with 3D and CGI, not simply telling a story we're familiar with (we learned about the Titanic sinking in elementary school). It's also about introducing us to an incredible new world on a planet far, far away called Pandora. And I have a feeling that no matter what, even if it's not the biggest box office success since Titanic, it will still be remembered and praised for those kind of groundbreaking achievements more than anything else (or so I expect).

I'm trying to hold back my true thoughts on Avatar until the upcoming "Avatar Day" arrives on August 21st. The primary reason being that the San Diego Convention Center's Hall H isn't the best place to experience something as visually astounding as Avatar. Sure, I love seeing footage in that room, but it won't compare to actually sitting in an IMAX theater watching it directly in front of me on a truly larger-than-life screen. So while I've been waiting to express my true feelings on the footage, I have instead been grappling with the buzz from Con and the reports coming out from almost every press outlet in the world (at least those that got in). And, of course, I've talked with almost every friend of mine who also saw the footage.

Avatar - Na'viThe buzz is certainly still strong, that's for sure, but it's not the strongest of the Con (as I've said many, many times before). So looking forward to "what's next," the next biggest make-or-break moment in the "life" of Avatar will arrive on the 21st. That's when the world will get to see the first official trailer (which will probably contain footage that none of us even saw at Comic-Con anyway) and millions of people will make their way to theaters to see the 15 minutes of it being screened for free. It's sort of the storm before the storm. There isn't a real saying like that (just "calm before the storm") but I'm making it up right now because it works quite accurately for this situation.

First off, I commend Fox and Cameron for coming up with "Avatar Day." What a brilliant idea, something we haven't ever seen a studio do before (correct me if I'm wrong?), and I'm excited to be there in-person to experience it. I'm fascinated by this event because I think it's an evolution of the "double dipping" idea. I know double dipping with DVDs is generally frowned upon, but what I mean is that the buzz is building for the 21st in a big way. I expect people to line up early and fight to get into the preview. That usually happens when a movie is released, not when they're just teasing it. So therefore, if it blows everyone away, it's a double dip because that excitement is going to be repeated again on December 18th when it actually hits theaters.

But the biggest struggle for Fox is going to be marketing it in general to a mass audience. When I was on the Comic-Con showfloor taking photos of the AMP mech on display (see those here), I heard two guys walk in behind me excited, only to discover that "oh, this isn't The Last Airbender?" Woops! Paramount is the one probably getting better marketing out of Avatar's early buzz (for their in-development adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon). I know that every last person reading this knows exactly what Avatar is, but does the rest of the world? Nope, not yet, as far as I can tell. That could all change on the 21st if things go very well - but that's a big "if."

I'm not the only one who realizes how much hinges upon the success of "Avatar Day." A good mainstream article about this can be found in The Guardian newspaper from the UK, where (after linking to my article about Favreau's comments on Avatar), they go on to say: "Maybe Avatar Day is also meant to consciously dampen expectations, too. At the moment, following the frothing, celebratory 25-minute Comic-Con preview, the public at large would be forgiven for thinking that Avatar is not just a quantum leap forward in terms of film-making, but also the dawn of a new chapter in the history of mankind." Interesting claim.

Another great article on the current Avatar dilemma, or so I'll call it, comes from Graeme McMillan at io9. He addresses two issues surrounding the movie, the first being that it "better not" fail because this year has already brought us too many fanboy upsets (they claim Terminator Salvation is one of them); and secondly that there's almost no way it can live up to all the hype, and, that we're building up our expectations so much thanks to our imagination and not actual footage. Which is why I am so intrigued by the response coming from Comic-Con - now that we've seen some footage, is our excitement and hype actually justified? At this point, I want to say "no," but I'm going to wait until the 21st to give you a real answer to that.

The last little tidbit I want to throw out there is the possibility that what has been shown publicly so far - roughly 25 minutes - is still not a good representation of the complete story we'll see over the course of Cameron's three-hour movie. As baffling as it may be, there's the possibility that the story could be as exceptional as anything Cameron has done before, and we just haven't seen enough to get that sense. So, when we see a trailer and 15 more minutes of footage on the 21st, our expectations could be kicked back up a notch because we finally get a real sense and it does look incredible (combined with breathtaking visuals).

Anyway, at this point I think I'm getting too far ahead of myself, almost right back to the point where all I'm doing is building up my own expectations once again. And oddly, I'm doing this even after having seen 25 minutes from Avatar. It's almost like I'm pretending I haven't seen anything yet, or I'm just trying to fool myself into believing I haven't seen enough. I don't really know? As excited as I am for December 18th to arrive so that we can see this in all of its glory, I'm probably more excited for August 21st. That's going to be a big day for Fox, for James Cameron, and for everyone. Calling it "Avatar Day" couldn't be more fitting.

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  • Cat
    What's next? The trailer of course and then more good buzz.
  • Greedo
    Trailer won't necessarily sell it. Remember, it's designed for 3D. I don't even know if the footage at Comic Con was in true 3D. So the only place you would see the best trailer is in a 3D-capable theatre, and I don't think there's any big movies coming out in 3D till Christmas. You say it's gonna be the next Titanic, it could be. Titanic made a lot of money, but anytime it's on TV, I skip past it. Seeing it once or twice is enough. A lot of the dialogue I was reading from Comic Con reviews of the footage made it sound like it was a really stiff dialogue movie. It felt like James Cameron doing his James Cameron impression. Sounded like a mashup of Aliens and The Abyss. Ripley uses a mech, an avatar if you will, in Aliens. And the stuff on the planet, crazy bugs and creatures, just sounds like Peter Jackson's King Kong, which got old quick. And everything I've read about the plot just sounds like recycled filler. Some called it Dances With Wolves in Space. Granted, I haven't seen anything from it, but there's not a lot of buzz with the lay person. Take The Jazz Singer for example. First sound film (at least the popular notion). Terrible film. But certainly a watershed film. I just feel like it's gonna be too much gimmick and not enough substance. I don't really want to wait for an hour before they finally land on the planet.
  • Fuelbot
    I read that decade old scriptment and the material wasn't necessarily that strong. It's a story we've all seen before countless times. However, it's the details with which he littered the film that really drew me in and made me care about Pandora.
  • 1001
    I'm so there. This can't fail. It's JAMES FREAKIN' CAMERON! He doesn't do fail.
  • I think Cameron should be commended for pushing things forward, the technology developed in making his films changes cinema and film making each time for better or for good who knows? Remember all the morphing blobby creatures after Terminator 2? Well me either, but at the time seemed like every other film had them in, like with Bullet time after the Matrix. Without a good story films fall flat after the hype, so whether it's 3d or it has some fully cg blue cat people if you can't enjoy the story then the film fails. Saying that, people still go to see Michael Bay films, so really all Cameron needs to do is blow som stuff up, put it in the trailer and there ye go.
  • Hari Seldon
    If Jesus himself announced that he was going to descned from heaven on a certain day, he wouldn't get the media attention that Avatar is getting. The diffrence is that Jesus wouldn't disappoint. As much as I want Avatar to be as great as they are claiming it is, I'm afraid that no movie can live up to the hype that it is getting and no matter how good t may be, it'll be considered a let down. Fox and Cameron need to lighten up on this or they'll kill it before it even get's out of the gate.
  • http://www.JamesCameronAvatar.com Jim Cameron is a wonderful man at the telling of stories. T2 is still one of the most beautiful examples of skill and idea's
  • HellBoy
    Avatar is about the technology and not about the story....Cameron has already said that....and also told not to expect the same...so lets just for the trailer and decide....18 MORE DAYS TO GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • midnightlight
    JC needs to show some footage to people who were not at Comic Con, its not going to have hype without that. With Tron and Iron Man 2, people know what the plot is all about. With avatar, there is little that we know about it, so it needs trailers and other marketing to build that same type of familiarity.
  • Han
    Dude, stop over hyping this movie. People are already back lashing it from the Comic Con screening. It's not revolutionary, it's not the second coming. It's just a movie that looks nice. The creatures look CG, the animals look CG and the world looks CG. There is no uncanny valley in between. Everyone don't get your expectations high from the Avatards.
  • Tra la la la la di da
    Everyone fails sooner or later. This will fail simply 'cause of hype. I already have no interest because of "the mystery" although the plot has been overdone and the visuals are...well, 3D doesn't do much for me. It's fun, but I prefer 2D.
  • Brian Barajas
    we need a little more fill in with the back story, like how exactly does he bend air? but seriously, 90% of the time i say avatar, people think im talking about airbender. night scored by getting his trailer out first.
  • Kubrickan
    @ Han, did you even read the article? It sounds more like Alex is UNDER hyping it.
  • I understand the concept of lowering expectations, and I do worry that despite trying to temper it, my imagination would not be satisfied when 18th December arrives. However, my experience of trailers is that they give away too much to entice you to come back. If the footage is nonsensical then maybe that would work but if it's like the first 15 minutes, your mind will have the next 4 months to create your own imagining of where the story will end up.
  • Bishop
    Ok, one thing I am really tired about is all these fanboys complaining about Avatar being over-hyped and that James Cameron and Fox need to "lighten up" on the hype. 99% of the hype for this movie is driven by the fanboys themselves. James Cameron hasn't even released a trailer yet and has been super-secret about this project. He didn't do much more than any other director at Comic Con to promote a future project. The fanboys are feeding off each other and taking small snipets from what other directors or actors have said and making their own assumptions and blowing things out of proportion. Just avoid the hype and you won't have any expectations. I'll be honest though, it's hard to ignore the hype because this project is so fascinating. But one thing I do know, James Cameron has never dissappointed. Although he is the best at f/x, action sequences, etc.......story always comes first with him. So I am putting my trust in James Cameron.....fanboys, lay off JC and turn off your computers for the next 4 months then hopefully you can enjoy Avatar.
  • Greedo
    I actually think its problem is that it hasn't been over-hyped enough. At least not in the mainstream. I've mentioned it to a few people who have never heard of the project. I think the average non-fanboy moviegoer is out in the cold. Probably because every damn big movie nowadays has a trailer 6 months in advance. We haven't even really seen any stills from this movie that aren't video game stills. I don't know how much this cost to make, I'm imagining quite a lot of money, but it's not being marketed like your normal blockbuster movie. Maybe once the trailer comes out, there will be more of an influx of imagery.
  • Whilst Avatar is a vehicle for technology in filmmaking Cameron has also spent a lot of time on the story. It is not ok nor acceptable to simply state that this is all about the technology. Cameron has stated that its the most imporatn factor for him. He made AVATAR because of a desire to see where he could go from a technological standpoint but he has not ignored the storyline at all. I think there is a genius to James Cameron. Spielberg is far mrore succesful however although rather a high class problem a Spielberg movie is just another Spielberg movie the same as oh it's just another late work by Picasso....Cameron always offer's an event. It is always the best that it can be. http://www.JamesCameronAvatar.com http://www.thewonderfulsainttitan.com
  • Vision
    Something that goes completely unnoticed when it comes to the success of Cameron's films is the magnificence of the musical scores. The Terminator theme song still takes me to another place emotionally. Titanic became the best selling movie of all time largely because James Horner orchestrated a brilliant combination of notes that moved audiences worldwide. If Avatar's musical score can come close to the brilliance of these two examples then combining that with a great story and visuals could make it Cameron's best film to date.
  • Corran Horn
    Bishop has it right. The hype for this is almost completely exclusive to Cameron fans, while the general public has not yet been made aware. That will change come August 21, though. Personally, I'm glad Cameron has kept this under wraps. It gets extremely tiresome to go through 6-month promotional campaigns for blockbusters these days. I'm fine with trailers, TV spots, and posters, but all these behind-the-scenes thing and first-5-minutes clips are unnecessary. Save the behind-the-scenes featurettes for the DVD. I prefer to watch a movie before I find out everything that went into making it.
  • Corran Horn
    I should add though that my biggest concern for AVATAR has been put to rest. Given that this was going to be heavily mo-cap, I was concerned about the presence of "dead eyes". Anyone who's watched Zemeckis' recent works knows what I mean. Thankfully, that doesn't appear to be the case with AVATAR (for which I thank both Cameron and the wizards at WETA).
  • muggins
    i guess a movie of this hyped magnitude will do well. anyhow with a hollywood ending there will be more. we all know it wont fail right!!! 1-its bound to make $400 mill (and more) 2-interesting to look at 3-sequels to come 4-fanboys applaud jcs god like status 5-academy award for fxs so turn off the avatar links on the computers like #15 says and get on with your lives.
  • alan
    i don't know any retard that confuses this with the last air bender cuz these movies are like water and fire meaning two very different movies and im incredibly excited to see both the movies for very different reasons but good luck to fox it think this will redefine their marketing strategies. im keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it is what every one is saying it will be.
  • JimD
    Its funny you mentioned "The Last Airbender" thing. Almost everyone I talk to regarding Avatar thinks its about the cartoon series. Cameron is a smart guy and obviously we all know he can tell a good story. Too many most movies that get hyped also leak too much in their trailers. I doubt he would make that same mistake. I somewhat expect that Avatar will bring photrealism to CGI. The irony is that things may look so real that people may overlook what they are seeing. We expect that CGI characters ecpecially those with human form have an artifcial look. An artificial look in their eyes. Its in the eyes. I have read in several places that the Navi pic poster (the one you see on this page) is CGI. If thats true that alone is impressive.
  • viral
    not sure hyping a genuinely good movie is such a bad thing... look at TDK it was hyped beyond belief... everyone was waiting to see it fail and then snigger... but it didnt because it was brilliant... drawing the same analogy if Avatar is good and as path breaking as has been reported then more hype to it.. personally i think James cameron is a master of film making... scoffing at titanic may be the cool thing to do but it changed the game completely - no laonger was it ok to make scale models a and unrealistic looking set pieces to do justice to a movie... it still remains a technical marvel.. am hoping that this movie continues in the trend of have great characters that are memorable a beautiful score and we all know about the stunning visuals already... @23 i am so with you on the realism in the eyes of Naavi poster... a good call on that one... it is the eyes which tell the story... very interesting to see how that goes...
  • Linkfx
    Your writing is hard to read so much filler so little actual content with a ton of redundancy it's very frustrating. This article could have been made so much shorter if you had removed some repeated ideas and narrowed the time spent on asking unanswerable questions and posing thoughts that go nowhere. I knew your hyping this movie was getting out of control a few months ago. Sometimes I feel you write articles to fill a daily Personal quota.
  • Martin
    Every time I read comments from journalists who have seen the CC footage, I get the feeling they were totally spoiled with too much footage. Cameron and Fox should have edited together a long five minute trailer or just showed one scene, the last one with the Jake taming the banshee and I think everyone would have said that we all should await the second coming of movies. By showing less, Cameron would have created a far bigger buzz, than he did now with all the 25 minutes. I still think that what was shown was mind-blowing, but those who have seen it were expecting more and can never be totally satisfied until they have seen the whole movie.
  • gary m
    avatar is crap, stop wasting your time
  • Black Flags
    What a terrible piece of journalism. Of course a 25 minute segment of 3 hour movie isn't going to give "a good representation of the complete story." That's not a "possibility," that's just common sense. Cameron has nearly 4 months left of editing and visuals to work on, so what was shown at Comic Con was an underrepresentation of the final movie at best.
  • David Banner
    After the 15mins in selected theatures(mostly in the US??) there has to be a trailer. I find it odd it's been so long in the making, a trailer is due 21.aug. I have yet to find any fottage showing fan-filmed scenes from ComicCons 24-25min showing, they mostlikely do not exsist(?). After aug 21 fan-filmed scenes will be all over the web, in poor quality. So a trailer will be out, and 10million hits a day(an hour?) on the site that shows it. Also, ppl do not like feeling 'cheated', so many want to see a trailer or a tidbit from the film, yet so few have. Avatar cannot be compaired to Titanic-no movie can. Titanic has made $3.2 BILLION and counting. Avatar will make a truckloads of cash, no boubt, but no movie can ever touch Titanics success. Avatar will introduce most ppl to 3D. Those who were eager to experience 3D with trash like 'My Bloody Valentine 3D' will be suprised how far and good this medium can and will be. I base this solely on what I have read about Avatar and I know Cameron has always kept his word, and entertained me over 2 decades. Well, not with his flying fish movie :)
  • jomila
    Lot of people are looking ahead of this movie from James Cameron he was capturing a good faction in this movie and I think it was one of the movies teens should fell in love with in the future I have seen the trailer and a fine review of this movie and it was quite interesting to see wonderful movie such as this one Source http://www.onlinemovieshut.com/movie-reviews/avatar-2009-combat-for-survive

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