question of the day: Can any movie possibly live up to ‘Avatar’’s advance hype?

The movie won’t open till just before Christmas, but already James Cameron’s Avatar is being hyped to levels that it seems impossible it could actually meet. We already know, for instance, that this is the movie Cameron has been actively working to drive cinematic technology forward in the last 15 years in order to make: that’s enough to make you wonder what all the fuss could possibly be about. But today at I read this headline:

Will James Cameron’s 3D ‘Avatar’ change cinema forever?

Wow. Change cinema forever? The article itself just keeps upping the ante:

“The 3D is going to be mind-boggling,” David Cohen of film industry trade magazine Variety told CNN. “He may indeed be pushing 3D to another level.”

“Avatar” is a combination of live action and photo-realistic CGI and is being touted as a huge leap forward in film technology — likened to the first movie in sound or with Technicolor.

In July, Cameron showed a 25-minute preview to fans at Comic-Con in San Diego and since then frothing commentators have described “Avatar” as everything from mind-expanding to the future of cinema.

His peers are impressed too: Ridley Scott says he is filming upcoming sci-fi adaptation “Forever War” in 3D after seeing some footage of “Avatar.” While “Iron Man” director John Favreau described the film as “a game-changer” and says he thinks it is “the future.”

The Guardian’s Film blog noted almost a month ago that today’ Avatar Day — 15 minutes of the film will be shown for free to IMAX audiences — could be Cameron’s perfect counter to that hype… but only if that footage lives up to the hype. But isn’t it more likely that any movie, even the most amazing one, will feel like a bit of a letdown when we’re all expecting the Future of Cinema!?

Can any movie possibly live up to Avatar’s advance hype?

If you were lucky enough to get a ticket to one of the Avatar Day previews, let us know what you thought of what you saw.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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Fri, Aug 21, 2009 11:22am

I just want the movie to Not Suck.

I don’t care about it changing the world of cinema forever. That’s already been done when they brought sound and color to it. Just make the movies, you know, enjoyable again. I miss that. Was it just me or were the movies of the 1980s and 1990s just… well… better?

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 11:28am

I just saw the trailer and kept wondering whether it was an amazing looking James Cameron film or a remake of The Never Ending Story.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 11:48am

After seeing the trailer, the only thing I could think was “the man who directed the sublime ‘Titanic’ is directing…THIS?”. Methinks it’s going to suck.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 11:59am

Sorry, Kate… if you’re calling Titanic “sublime”, then you’re not allowed to have an opinion about Avatar. I’m kidding, of course. (mostly) :)

But seriously, no film can ever live up to its hype, and reading the mixed reactions to this new trailer is a perfect example. I look forward to any attempt by any filmmaker to make a balls-out science fiction epic, and I hope this one is as good as it looks.

PaulW (Fri Aug 21 09, 11:22AM):

Was it just me or were the movies of the 1980s and 1990s just… well… better?

Yes. It’s just you.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 12:03pm

Of course not. I always try my hardest not to let hype about any movie get to me so that I don’t end up being disappointed if/when it’s not what it’s hyped up to be.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 12:18pm

Why of course it will! Just take a look at how another eagerly awaited, incredibly over-hyped film, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, turned out. Remember how impressed we all were with it?

Oh…wait a minute…never mind.

Bret Micheles
Bret Micheles
Fri, Aug 21, 2009 12:38pm

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Cameron’s Avatar since I first heard mumblings about it several years back. I’m totally jazzed about the trailer, I’ve played it back at least 10 times today and stepped through a ton of frames looking at the incredible details. But every time I play it, I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen Pandora and the Na’vi before. The world and the creature designs look like they were plucked right out of Delgo. Did the same art crew work on both movies?
Link to images:

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 2:35pm

Cameron directed two of my favorite movies ever, Terminator and Aliens. I am always somewhat disappointed with the movies that he directed after those two.

I do admire the technical advances (for the time) prevalent in The Abyss and Titanic, but with each new movie the characters seem to become less important. Jack and Rose just don’t matter to me the way Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and Bishop do (or Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese).

Having said that, I still like all of his movies (Piranha II doesn’t count!) and I’m going to do my best to avoid any more hype and go see this opening day.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 3:35pm

I’ll be looking forward to this simply because it’s original. For all his grandiosity, Cameron seems to know when to quit flogging an old franchise and strike out for new territory, both in visuals and subject matter. He clearly does not rest on his laurels, and given that fact and his track record to date, I’m willing to give this a strong chance for success.

Keelan Ford
Keelan Ford
Fri, Aug 21, 2009 3:59pm

I saw the 15 min 3D trailer today. The 3D is simply awful. Everyone around me in the theater got a headache after 5 min.

The King of The World is going to have to fix this one or he will be responsible for the biggest flop of the year.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 7:56pm

What is it with this obsession of style over substance? People rant on and on – Cameron himself included – about the huge technical advances on this film as if the movie industry had suddenly become the latest field in cancer research. My point is, no matter how photo realistic something looks, I’ll still choose a good story, with emotional depth, over the Avatar CGI crap I saw in the trailer.

Also, everybody gushes how it’s going to look fantastic … well, Transformers looked cool, but it was still a mindless piece of junk.

Further – and I’ll probably ruffle a few feathers with this opinion – I don’t think Cameron is such a great director .. comments I’ve read on other sites all pleaded that we should have confidence in Avatar, even if it looks like Delgo/Blue Legolas/cross between the Masai and llamas/giraffes because Cameron gave us Titanic! At some point in his career he started relying too much on CGI and too little on story .. Terminator was good, Titanic not so much.

Bottom line, I’m tired of hearing people saying they want to see something just because it looks good .. cinema is more than just moving, pretty pictures ..and Avatar is basically Pocahontas in space ..the trailer has all the cliches in the book ..the screaming fierce warriors, the blossoming romance, the damaged hero …I just don’t see anything that promises a good/new use of those cliches, or an engaging story.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 7:59pm

If The Dark Knight lived up to its tremendous hype, i suppose that there’s a chance Avatar could too.

I mean, this is James Cameron, the master of sci-fi, we’re talking about her.
The man who gave us Terminator, two of the most kick-ass female action heroes ever (Ellen Ripley & Sarah Connor), and the creator of the biggest film of all-time.

Okay, so he didn’t create Ripley, Ridley Scott deserves credit for that.
But let’s face it, Ripley’s now an icon ‘cuz of him.

To hear that he’s been waiting 12 years for technology to catch up to his vision is something that excites me.

I think if anyone could revolutionize cinema, he can.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 10:31pm

Am I the only person who is not excited about this movie? I saw the trailer, watched it several times and all I can say is “eh.” It was beautiful I’ll give him that but all I can think was this looks like a video game.

I really don’t get the hype about the movie…maybe I’m not smart enough to understand it.

I’m more excited about Alice in Wonderland than Avatar. And I’m more impressed with the special effects of District 9 than what I saw in the trailer. With District 9 they don’t dwell on the special effects. It was there but it wasn’t the main reason for the movie..which is what I’m getting from Avatar. It’s like Avatar only exist to show how advance things have gotten with special effects.

Lucy Gillam
Lucy Gillam
Fri, Aug 21, 2009 10:37pm

I’m really disappointed to hear that the hype is about 3D. I was seriously hoping that fad would fade out again soon. I wear glasses, and find the sensation of 3D glasses over mine at best uncomfortable and at worst migraine-inducing. I just really don’t get what’s gained by 3D.

Fri, Aug 21, 2009 11:43pm

Well, Lucy… as someone who wears glasses you’ve never properly experienced it. When done right, this new 3D technology is pretty mind-blowing… it’s too bad you don’t have contacts or something.

Some folks can’t view the new 3D without getting a headache, which is similar to the reaction to the old Red/Blue glasses… but there are tons of things in movies that can give you a headache. Try sitting in the front row for The Bourne Supremacy (I almost puked).

But no, the hype for Avatar is not all about the 3D, it’s (supposedly) about the advances in CGI. I’m not really into all that; if somebody wants to do something they can’t do in real life with real actors, that’s what animation is for. :)

Dr Rocketscience
Dr Rocketscience
Sat, Aug 22, 2009 12:25am

I don’t see how it’s possible for Avatar to live up to the hype Cameron has created for it (Dividing cinematic history in “before Avatar” and “after Avatar”? Really, Jim? You maybe wanna show us a few production stills at least before you make that kind of claim?).

Neither the teaser trailer (Looks like a visual ripoff of Halo… which was a ripoff of Starship Troopers… which was a ripoff of Aliens. Hey, we’ve come full circle!) nor the posted plot synopses (anyone else find it ironic that Cameron felt he needed to wait neigh on 30 years for the technology to be advanced enough to tell his trite anti-technology story?) are instilling much confidence.

But, I didn’t see the ComiCon 25 minutes, and I won’t get to see the 16 minute previews this weekend. So maybe I’m wrong.

Sat, Aug 22, 2009 9:48am

Yeah, I saw this trailer and it looks like shit. It does not look like a good movie in any way. The last time Cameron made a movie was before the all-CGI era, and I honestly don’t know if he’s prepared for the freedom it grants him.

The other thing that turns me off is this labor-of-love fifteen-years-in-the-making stuff. This sounds to me like a fruit that was ripe for plucking years ago, and it’s too late now. You know how in Wonder Boys, Michael Douglas’s book just kept getting bigger and bigger and he couldn’t stop himself from adding more and more on? That’s probably what this is going to be like.

Sat, Aug 22, 2009 2:33pm

I know I am late to the discussion but I only just got a chance to watch the trailer. I think I am missing something, I have to be missing something. So there is a grand vision, right? That had to wait for technology to catch up. This grand vision is space elves? I am not trying to be condescending I really don’t understand what the hype is. We have had ‘regular’ movies in 3D with the polarized lenses for the last couple of years and ‘regular’ movies being released in IMAX a bunch as well. Sure the CG looks great but doesn’t is (almost) always these days? Can someone explain it to me?

Hasimir Fenring
Hasimir Fenring
Sat, Aug 22, 2009 7:49pm

But seriously, no film can ever live up to its hype

That’s quite a claim. I submit Dr. Strangelove. For years, I was told that it was the greatest satire I’d ever see. I read film reviews and articles about film that said Dr. Strangelove was the greatest satire I’d ever see. I’m a fan of Kubrick, and in articles and specials about the man and his work, I was told Dr. Strangelove was the greatest satire I’d ever see. So finally I watched Dr. Strangelove, and just as the credits rolled, I thought to myself, This had better be the greatest satire I’ve ever seen. About two hours later, I thought to myself, This is the greatest satire I’ve ever seen. The movie had surpassed the highest expectations I’ve ever had for a film, even higher than I’d had for The Phantom Menace.

(As an aside, I’ve heard endless defences of The Phantom Menace as an over-hyped movie that was the victim of backlash. I don’t see it. To me, it’s a dreadful film, no victim of anything but its own badness. True, an okay film would’ve generated a backlash. But The Phantom Menace is not okay. It’s not even not very good. It’s downright awful, and the only defences of it that I seem to come across essentially try to blame me for expecting too much of it.)

So I disagree that no film can live up to its hype. Avatar certainly can live up to its Lucas-ian heights of hype.

But I’m not betting on it.

Sun, Aug 23, 2009 8:14am

@PaulW: Hm. Let’s see…

Raging Bull
The Empire Strikes Back
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Matrix
Pulp Fiction
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Terminator 2
Back to the Future
Die Hard
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Saving Private Ryan
Schindler’s List
Jurassic Park
Mulholland Dr.
Fight Club
Ed Wood
Do the Right Thing
The Last Emperor

Dude, it’s not just you.

Sun, Aug 23, 2009 9:04am

Oops! Scratch off Mulholland Dr (2001). and substitute Blue Velvet. Or Heat. Or The Shining…

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Sun, Aug 23, 2009 10:48am

I’m not even sure District 9 can live up to its advance hype. So I guess I better go see it.

…and Avatar is basically Pocahontas in space ..

You mean it’s a musical?

That I have to see.

Was it just me or were the movies of the 1980s and 1990s just… well… better?

No, they made plenty of good movies before then.

Lately, however…well, it depends…

But The Phantom Menace is not okay. It’s not even not very good. It’s downright awful, and the only defences of it that I seem to come across essentially try to blame me for expecting too much of it

Fans played a similar hat trick with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, arguing that anyone who hated the film–even a certain noted science fiction writer who wrote the script for one of the original show’s more famous episodes–really didn’t get Star Trek and were just reacting to hype.

Then when the other movies in the Star Trek series came out, it became popular for the same fans to argue that ST-TMP was never really that good in the first place.

Oh, well.

Most movies are best appreciated about five years after they come out, anyway. And if they don’t hold up over time, the chances are they were never all that great to begin with…

Sun, Aug 23, 2009 9:06pm

as someone who wears glasses you’ve never properly experienced it. When done right, this new 3D technology is pretty mind-blowing… it’s too bad you don’t have contacts or something.

Too bad somewhere around half of Americans wear glasses. I don’t think a new visual effect that’s uncomfortable for half of a potential audience is going to be the wave of the future.

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Mon, Aug 24, 2009 1:30pm

So if epileptics were to become more numerous, strobe light effects would become a thing of the past?

Lucy Gillam
Lucy Gillam
Tue, Aug 25, 2009 4:45pm

So if epileptics were to become more numerous, strobe light effects would become a thing of the past?

Oh, God, I wish. I know no one who finds those visually appealing, and I actually have to cover my eyes, as they’re one of the few consistent migraine triggers I have. However, having to miss a few minutes or even a whole scene is a far cry from a movie just being unwatchable.

Tue, Aug 25, 2009 5:09pm

Lucas is no Cameron in the directing department, so (I’m hoping) comparisons to Phantom Menace go unfounded. That being said, I could really care less about Avatar. It’s Cameron’s “Chinese Democracy” and that has me worried. Nothing that’s been incubating this long can be any good, I don’t care how long the technology has taken to “catch up w/ Cameron’s vision.” The brief trailer is over-CGIed but I don’t exactly see anything groundbreaking here. It just looks like an ordinary space opera w/ extra shiny effects. I expect more from Cameron, even after the Titanic debacle. I must say, Avatar could be the next Battlefield Earth and I’d still love him for bringing Aliens, Terminator/T2, and True Lies to the world.

The Gaucho
The Gaucho
Wed, Aug 26, 2009 11:27am

You guys must be visionaries when you judge an entire film on a two minute teaser trailer with unfinished effects, seen on a screen the size of a gnat. Oh well, I can still remember how everybody thought the whole of Lord of the Rings (movies from beyond 2000!!!) were going to suck by the look of the teaser trailer.

Just wait and see, folks, and judge after you have seen the whole thing. I am looking forward to this movie, and hope for the best.

But it could be a suckfest, for sure.