The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
Features  |  Reviews
Find a Movie
Movie List
Loading ...
Find Theaters and Movie Times
Search Movies

First look at James Cameron's Avatar

Titanic Gamble
By BRETT MICHEL  |  August 26, 2009

James Cameron captained the biggest box-office smash of all time, his Titanic having grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide. But that was 12 years ago, long before the recession appeared on anyone's radar. Now, even Hollywood is feeling the pinch. Last Friday, hoping for another Titanic-size hit, 20th Century Fox took the unprecedented step of screening 16 minutes of Cameron's latest, the science-fiction epic Avatar, for those who scored free tickets on the Web. But will this odd strategy — luring sci-fi fans out of their basements once for a peak at what Fox hopes will be a longer, second engagement on December 18, the film's release date — make for smooth sailing?

"Avatar Day," which studio flacks hyperbolically described as a "global, history-making event," kicked off with the unveiling of the film's two-minute-long trailer (in both cinemas and on the Web) and culminated with evening showcases of the extended footage in IMAX 3-D theaters worldwide. History's not always kind, however. Within minutes of the trailer's online debut, frantic fanboy cries of "That's it?" were clogging message boards — quite an unexpected change from last month, when "King of the World" Cameron personally presented 24 minutes to an enthusiastic Comic-Con crowd in San Diego.

Locally, the college-aged viewers who filled the AMC/Loews Boston Common to capacity for the 12:01 am premiere of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds were unmoved by this two-minute peek. Appearing as it did immediately after a teaser for Christopher Nolan's Inception didn't help. While The Dark Knight (the second-largest domestic moneymaker behind Titanic) auteur's name alone elicits rapturous applause, the words "from the director of Titanic" do not appear to resonate with this coveted demographic. The Avatar clip, which begins with futuristic military action involving marines in mech suits battling on the distant moon of Pandora, contained a single line of dialogue delivered by the cartoonishly CGI, 10-foot-tall title character: "This is great!" Based on their stone-faced silence, the audience didn't seem to agree.

The problem is, while Cameron created much of the aesthetic of modern sci-fi, his "game-changing" work here lacks wonder (at least from what he's revealed) and, ironically, appears derivative of the very properties he's inspired, from Halo to District 9.

Later in the day, I saw the extended 16-minute preview at the Jordan's Furniture IMAX in Reading in 3-D, which seemed slightly off-register at times, a quality that actually added to the artificiality of the images. The Zach Snyder–ish slow-down/speed-up style that Cameron has adopted disappoints, as do the lackluster designs of the "Na'vi," the blue-skinned creatures that I presume will occupy much of the film's running time and romantic subplot.

Fox should have been preaching to the choir here, but the pittance of polite applause that concluded each "sold-out" screening (empty seats remained) wasn't what I'd call "history-making."

Iceberg . . . dead ahead?

Related: Review: District 9, Review: Terminator Salvation, EXTRAS! EXTRAS!, More more >
  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Recessions and Depressions, Movies,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   REVIEW: FIVE MINUTES OF HEAVEN  |  September 23, 2009
    It's easy to see what attracted Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt ( Bloody Sunday ) to Prime Suspect veteran Guy Hibbert's screenplay: it's an actor's showcase.
  •   REVIEW: LOVE HAPPENS  |  September 23, 2009
    Half an hour into the screening of this tearjerker from Brandon Camp, three women exited. They made the right choice.
  •   REVIEW: STILL WALKING  |  September 16, 2009
    By now, it's a bit of a cliché to compare the work of Hirokazu Koreeda to the masterful films of Yasujiro Ozu — something of which I've certainly been guilty.
  •   REVIEW: BETTY BLUE, THE DIRECTOR'S CUT  |  September 09, 2009
    "I had known Betty for a week," a voiceover intones. The voice is that of Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade), an unpublished novelist, whom we see fucking Betty (Béatrice Dalle in a star-making turn) in the slow zoom that serves as the opening shot of Jean-Jacques Beineix's well-remembered contribution to erotic cinema.
  •   REVIEW: 9  |  September 09, 2009
    "Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7-8-9!" Although the logic of this riddle may puzzle adults, the word- (or number-) play slays 'em in the schoolyard.

 See all articles by: BRETT MICHEL

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2009 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group