AVATAR – Will it Fail?

If you’re not familiar with “Avatar” it is James Cameron’s new movie featuring a lot of blue people. Actually the movie follows a soldier that is recruited to participate in a “procedure(?)” (I don’t really know what to call it) that takes his mind and basically puts it into an “Avatar” which is a hybrid-type Na’vi creature. The Na’vi are the native people of the planet Pandora. Soon after he becomes this “avatar” he falls in love with a Na’vi woman and is then caught in the middle of a military operation and his feelings, or something along those lines.

It sounds like it could be decent, but is it going to be the huge hit that Cameron and critics think it will be? I’m going to come out right now and say that it’s going to be the Waterworld of today. For those of you unfamiliar with the “Waterworld” analogy, it was a movie made in 1995 with Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper where the whole world was covered with water and everyone lived on floating barge towns or tanker ships. The only key to survival was tattooed on the back of a young child that everyone was trying to get their hands on. The tattoo was the coordinates to Mt. Everest which is the tallest place on Earth, thus would seem the only likely place that land would still exist if the world flooded as badly as portrayed in the movie. Now it wasn’t the premise of the movie that was the issue it was the budget. At the time “Waterworld” was the most expensive movie ever produced. It cost $175 million to produce (which in today’s standards would be closer to $230 million) and only grossed $88 million at the domestic box office. In the end the film ended up turning a profit if you take into account foreign box office number and home video/DVD sales and since then there have been quite a number of movies that have bombed far worse that “Waterworld” did, but at the time it was unheard of for a movie to cost so much money to produce.

With that in mind, “Avatar” is now rumored to be the most expensive production ever, that title was previously held by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End which cost $300 million to produce. So taking that into account we know that “Avatar” is rumored to be costing the studio more than that, but would you believe that the estimates are closer to $500 million!! That’s a lot of cash to be dumping into an original story with no existing fanbase. I understand that people put James Cameron and his movies up on a pedestal mainly because he’s only made a handful of movies and has a pretty good track record. His past movies include Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, The Abyss and of course Titanic. All of his movies have been successful and with the success of his last movie, Titanic, I think it was only fair that the studio give him a blank check to create something new.

Cameron has had the idea for Avatar for a while, but he said that he’s been waiting for the technology to catch up so he could create it the way he wanted to and apparently that time is now, but does it really have the power to be as big of a success as he wants it to be? I don’t think so. Besides the fact that it is a brand new story with no history and no existing fan base, you already lose those people that would see it just to see it if they were already fans of the storylines or characters. The next downside is that it’s a science fiction movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of sci-fi, but it doesn’t have as broad of a fan base as say a comedy, drama or even an action movie. And the third thing, which bothers me the most, is the use of CGI. I understand that, that was the whole point of waiting to make the movie, the CGI wasn’t up to par yet, but from the trailers it looks like an animated movie. Almost like a “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” if it were made today. The Na’vi creatures look way to fake to me in the trailers, maybe they cleaned them up a bit in the final product, but I really didn’t like the way they looked in the trailers, it was very distracting. Even some of the backgrounds and whole action sequences seem way to fake. I like practical effects that are “enhanced” by CGI, not sequences that rely so heavily on CGI that they look like a cartoon.

So those are the biggest things that I think are going to lead this movie to flopping. I’m sure it’s going to make a good amount of money and will probably do much better in blu-ray sales than box office numbers, but I don’t think it’s going to live up to the hype that Cameron and the studio are putting on it. I did see that there was a test screening last week and that everyone seemed to love the movie, but I still have my doubts. I most likely will not be seeing it in the theater, but I am curious to see how it does. I wish Cameron and company the best of luck and I hope they prove me wrong as I’m a fan of his work (Aliens especially), but we’ll just have to wait and see.

So what do you guys think? Do you think this movie is going to be as big of a success as everyone is predicting/hoping? Are you planning on seeing in the theater? I’d like to hear any opinions regarding the movie as I’m curious as to what everyone else is thinking…