Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #347: Why?

Welcome to the show folks, right now I have a question that I need answering.

Here's what I think are the reasons why I think James Cameron's Avatar is going to flop:

1. The plot isn't exactly original, it's basically
Dances With Wolves in Space. American Soldier goes to a civilization that seems primitive and alien to him, learns that their simple ways are superior, and he turns against the evil forces of western industrial civilization that threatens to destroy them.

Now this plot hinges on certain conceits:
  • Centuries into the future humanity hasn't learned how to handle their own pollution even though they appear to have mastered interstellar travel.
  • Centuries into the future humanity hasn't learned how to trade with alien cultures, or in Cameron's view, trade in itself has become a fundamental evil.
  • That these minerals couldn't be found someplace else in the galaxy, or figured out a way to get them that won't result in an expensive war.
  • That the somewhat condescending notion of the "noble savage," won't rob the Na'vi characters of any traits that the audience can honestly relate to, and make them caricatures of angelic primitives yammering a lot of claptrap about a lifestyle that the filmmaker himself wouldn't dare live without the ability to return to his mansion at a moment's notice.
2. James Cameron hasn't made a film in over a decade. His excuse is that technology hadn't caught up with his wondrous artistic vision. That set my bullshit detector into the red-zone. Yes, Titanic was huge, in fact, it was titanic, and it appears to have unleashed the beast of self-indulgence. We've had ten years of anticipation for him to do something, something that he promises to be so huge, he had to wait 10 years for technology to catch up with him.

That gives me the impression he's trapped in the notion that whatever he does, he must top
Titanic in size, scope, and most of all importance.

There's the rub, but it comes with no tug. The moment you start aiming for importance before story, the story will suffer, and that will make the audience suffer. You have to let the importance emerge organically from the story, or you'll end up making some tedious pretentious crap. It happens to a lot of Oscar winners, because the moment they win one, all they can think about, is winning another one.

Years ago I wrote an article, sadly it appears lost, where I advised James Cameron to just get back on the horse and make something completely trivial. A light-hearted action movie, or comedy, something on a small scale, anything really, to break the cycle of self-importance, and remind him that film is supposed to be entertaining. And if people compared it unfavorably to
Titanic, he should tell them to go kiss his ass, he's James Cameron, he made over $100 million on Titanic, and can do whatever the hell he wants.

But he didn't listen to my advice, and now I fear it's going to drop a bigger bomb than the Enola Gay*.

3. The budget is reportedly over $300 million. Or to be more exact:
Three fucking hundred fucking million fucking dollars!!! It would have to be as big as The Dark Knight just to break even once you bring in prints and marketing.

Now that's what I think, I could be wrong, I mean there's a first time for everything, and I want to hear what you think.

Will Avatar sink or swim?

*A Dennis Miller Style Reference Level 2 Alert.


  1. For all the myriad reasons listed above I won't be seeing it. Hell, I've never bothered to see Titanic.

    I like my science fiction honest and this sounds to me like a dishonest turd of a movie that's going to sell itself as a wonderful tale of the future while it tries to convince me that I'm a slimy bastard because I like to go to WalMart.

    And if that budget estimate is anywhere close to true this thing will bankrupt whichever studio is financing it 'cause it's not even going to come close to that in box-office. Be quite a thing if it makes, oh...., call it $200M, which would be a block-buster by anyone's standards, and still hasn't made half it's total budget back.

  2. This will be the 'Heavens Gate' of lame.. well. I have no doubt due to the Heavy amount of exploding scenes cut into the trailer will draw in a sizable crowd for the first week, but then begins to plummet the next to a take home when every thing's done of around 300 million dollars!


    It might break a bit even..?

  3. One MAJOR rule why AVATAR will BOMB. When a film or any entertainment product takes way too long to make be WARNED. it will most likely suck.

    TO make a good film you need to be disciplined to get your stuff done and on time.

    Look at GNR's Chinese Democracy, it took over 10 years to make and guess what it SUCKED.

    We have crap like Duke Nukem (taking) Forever that started in early 1990's and I do not think they are even seriously working on it anymore.

    When a film gets over-indulgent any "importance" the film has gets drowned out really quick. Cameron has a overbudgeted, overindulgent film on why being primitive is some how noble.

    SW Episode 1, was a pile of bantha poodoo, because it was nothing more than Lucas feeding his own indulgences. We saw that with the Special Editions, where he has to then photoshop hayden Christensen in at the end of Jedi.

  4. That's what they said about Titanic.

  5. Well, Dirty Dingus McGee*, those who thought Titanic were going to fail didn't take the overwhelmingly obsessive nature of tween and teen girls and their passion for the non-threatening Leonardo DiCaprio.

    I don't see that same affect for Avatar.

    And the other Dirty Dingus McGee** who thought it might break even, there's a simple formula to determine profit or loss. You take the production budget, double it to include prints, advertising, and the other extras, then if the movie hits that, it's beaten the odds, if not, it's a loss.

    Superman Returns made about $300 million at the box office, and cost $300 million to make (including the $65 million in development costs) which means that it actually lost money rather than broke even, even with the merchandising deals.

    *Please refer to my policy on Anonymous comments on the sidebar.

    **Ditto all you Dirty Dingus McGees.

  6. ...So 'Avatar''s cost being 300 million to make alone and double that would be SIX HUNDRED million?

    So Camaron needs to pull in that much to break even?!

    It sounds like his trying to push a boulder twice his size up a wall.