I finally managed to catch Avatar last weekend. I don't know if holding out this long was more because of the demands of infant children or my holding out hope that withholding my handful of dollars might keep the movie from steamrollering to the top spot in all-time box office. That last option turned out to be a lost cause, as James Cameron's latest took less than two months to achieve this, and has since become the only movie to gross $2 billion, the first to gross $1 billion internationally, and the first to gross $100 million in specialized IMAX theaters.
Okay, first of all...wow, was I wrong. I mean, I never said the movie was going to flop, just that it wouldn't make Titanic money. Clearly I underestimated the lethal combination of Cameron's Svengali-like hold on the moviegoing public, nerd OCD, and the insinuation of furry porn in our society. For that, I can only say mea maxima culpa.
And while it's easy to talk about stuff like "inflation-adjusted dollars" and inflated IMAX ticket prices, Avatar has been #1 at the box office since it opened, holding out against supposed contenders like Sherlock Holmes and The Book of Eli. Now that there's no longer a question of "if" the movie will shatter box-office records, all that's left is seeing how high Avatar can go.
Oh, and of course there's going to be a sequel. And of course it will be in 3-D (which reminds me: congratulations, you assholes...because Hollywood studios are such exemplars of original thought, every other tentpole release from here on out will utilize the same eye-watering, migraine-inducing technology). Admittedly, it's hard to blame Cameron (who already has a couple sequels under his belt). The guy spent five years and a couple hundred million dollars designing the technology, after all. Hell, why not use if for all your next movies? Better yet, see if George Lucas wants to make any more Star Wars movies with it. I'm sure we all want to see an updated Jar-Jar.
Sorry, I'm just so giddy for Cameron...or "Jim," as his friends call him. Friends who may have spec scripts that wouldn't require anywhere near the time or money Avatar did, for example.
Having said that, Avatar really is the purest example of a "word of mouth" performer I've ever seen. There wasn't a built-in audience for it (like you see with franchises and sequels), you could pretty much guess the entire plot from the first trailer, and while the critical reception has been very good, critics don't affect box office (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen grossed over $400 million, for example). Believe me, I used to be one.
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And putting the critic hat back on last weekend, I saw a movie that was: visually stunning, technicaly flawless, and wholly derivative. Seriously, I stopped counting "influences" at 15, though I did come perilously close to leaping up and shouting "For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!" when Jake hopped on the Great Leonopteryx. There are also all the old Cameron chestnuts: the strong environmental message, a paradoxical combination of military hardware fetishism and intense distrust of the military, and Sigourney Weaver.
But aside from the technological advances on display, nothing about the movie screams "$2 billion!" I (sort of) understood Titanic: ladies love cool Leo, after all. But while I mostly enjoyed Avatar, I don't really get why people are going to see it five, ten, or twenty times. In a world where I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry can gross 120 mil, I guess anything's possible.
Seriously though, Jim...call me. I have a great treatment for a full-length Xenogenesis movie.