Sunday, January 10, 2010
Avatar marches on
With this weekend's earnings- just under $50 million according to estimates (and possibly over $50 million once final figures are reported)- James Cameron's Avatar now ranks as the 7th biggest movie of all time in this country, and it's still going strong. Though I still basically believe that the story isn't all that special or new, and that it's the 3D that's wowing people, maybe things are a little more complicated than that. Maybe the film's 3D, on the story level and not just the visual one, is making serviceable scenes in a serviceable story into exciting scenes in an exciting story.
In other words, because we're in there with the characters, we're more invested in what's happening to them, even if we saw it all before in countless other movies. Myself, as well as remembering the effectiveness of the big sweeping battle scenes, I particularly remember quiet scenes of Siguorney Weaver and her cohorts sitting around the lab looking at their interactive information screens, talking about the same things people in labs in these movies always talk about.
But because of the excellent 3D work, we were in the lab, too, leaning over those same screens evaluating the information about the planet along with the characters. Being there made what they were saying more important, in a way that the not terribly complicated scripting likely wouldn't accomplish on its own. And if the 3D makes mundanes scenes like that more vivid, imagine what it's doing for the big action moments, the money shots if you will.
I guess my point is that eventually we'll start missing a great story if all we're getting is great 3D. But not yet. Because, as media guru Marshall McLuhan famously said, the medium is the message. And maybe James Cameron knows that, knows that his innovative new 3D system is the message right now.
Earlier versions of his script reportedly featured a much more complicated story with more subtle nuances (Jake Sully apparently cried upon first experiencing his new, working avatar legs), but I can see Cameron reconsidering scenes like that and shaking his head. "Too much," he might have said, as he thought of his audience members. "Let's not overload them. This new 3D process is so immersive that that alone will shellshock them. We'll save the truly complicated emotional and plot stuff until next time, once they're more used to being in the movie." Of course, I'm just speculating here.
In any event, are you like me, and think that the movie's 3D makes Cameron's story better, doing what- in a regular movie- an extra revision or two of the script used to accomplish? It's all very interesting to consider.