Put up or shut up

Posted by · 9:21 am · December 10th, 2009

Zoe Saldana in AvatarToday is the real “Avatar Day.”

Later tonight at the Chinese theater in Hollywood, James Cameron’s heavily anticipated opus finally goes before discerning critical eye.  (It will be doing the same momentarily in London for junket press.)  The project has been percolating for a decade.  Months of tangible hype began at Comic-Con in July when fans and press were dazzled by a half hour of 3D footage.  The marketing has reached a fever pitch.  TV spots are ubiquitous.  It’s time to hold ’em or fold ’em.  The gambling’s done.

Can any film hold up under this pressure?  I have that weird feeling in my stomach, where it seems like something is teetering on the edge, set to fall one way or the other.  And honest to God — I have no idea which way this thing is going to fall.

I hope knives aren’t being sharpened.  I’m not in the tank or a Cameron fanboy or what have you.  But I am very intrigued by a guy rolling in money using it to push something forward, forcibly, and it’s impossible not to have that hair-raising sense of excitement at a cinematic milestone like this.  And win, lose or draw, the unveiling of “Avatar” is indeed going to be a milestone.

Or will it?  How much of a messiah do people really expect a film to be?  How much of a giant leap forward can honestly be taken by one film?  The history of cinema is one of slow progress more so than drastic shifts in philosophy or approach.  So I hope no one is going in there expecting to be fellated, but it can be difficult to taper the anticipations of the hordes.

We’ll know in, oh, 12 hours.  Reviews are embargoed until December 18 but I imagine word will seep out sooner rather than later.

But hey, at the end of the day…it’s just a movie.  But does anyone out there actually plan on viewing it as such?

→ 17 Comments Tags: , | Filed in: Daily

17 responses so far

  • 1 12-10-2009 at 9:24 am

    Chase K. said...

    “Reviews are embargoed until December 18”

    What? Embargoed until the nationwide release date? Good luck with that, Fox…

  • 2 12-10-2009 at 9:28 am

    aspect ratio said...

    I read on Simon Pegg’s twitter that he was going to see it today too, in England. Since he’s not news media I can’t imagine he’s got a gagging order, and with a horde of followers who will surely want to hear his opinion, that might be someone to watch for a reaction.

  • 3 12-10-2009 at 9:29 am

    Bryan said...

    “How much of a giant leap forward can honestly be taken by one film? The history of cinema is one of slow progress more so than drastic shifts in philosophy or approach.”

    This is what gets me. I hope this really is the game changer some tout it to be, but even if it is, is it going to change the way the majority of films are made? Certainly not soon. Over time, maybe. And I sincerely hope visionary directors begin to use the fruits of Cameron’s labor for truly magnificent things. But for now, I see no room for the Bright Stars, Serious Mans, or An Educations–my favorite films so far this year–in this new world.

  • 4 12-10-2009 at 9:32 am

    aspect ratio said...

    I have to say the notion that reviews are embargoed until the 18th, as opposed to a few days ahead of the release really seems bad. Not that it would automatically mean the film isn’t living up to expectations and is heading for bad reviews, but it’s pretty much just one step up from when the studios hold no press screenings ahead of the release.

    An embargo date 2-3 days ahead of the release date would certainly exude more confidence.

  • 5 12-10-2009 at 10:00 am

    red_wine said...

    Its not even gonna change 1% of the movies. The majority of great movies have nothing remotely to do with special effects so no, this is not a huge step forward at all.

    Will the Coens or Paul Thomas Anderson or Wong Kar Wai or Haneke be using mo-cap in the near future. Absolutely no. Will Michael Bay use it? Roland Emmirich? Absolutely yes.

    The entire notion of advanced special effects is gonna effect only blockbuster event movies, and 99% of movies won’t be affected in the slightest. Will Campion make a fantasy adventure next, hell no.

    Another thing is budget. Only 2-3 directors in the world can muster up this kind of budget. So nothing’s changing at all. Game changer? What game -changer. Is this technology even accessible to the rest of the world. Film-making is not just block-busters in America. So I don’t see it changing cinema at all.

    Even Sigourney Weaver’sclaim that this will change what viewers demand of a movie. I demand a good story,good direction and good acting, so no, thats not changing any time soon.

  • 6 12-10-2009 at 10:04 am

    Loyal said...

    reviews from yesterday’s pre-premiere premiere in London

    (and yes, it’s The Sun owned by Fox)



    I wasn’t nervous, I had faith all along. But for some, I’d imagine it’s a big sigh of relief.

    Hopefully the other London screening and LA/NY screenings go just as well.

  • 7 12-10-2009 at 10:42 am

    cc said...

    After reading the guardian it seems the foreign critics are embracing it and the Golden Globes Nom’s now seems like a legit story. I’m curious to see what the America’s critique take on it is.

  • 8 12-10-2009 at 10:45 am

    SHAAAARK said...

    *sharpens knives*

  • 9 12-10-2009 at 10:45 am

    Matt T said...

    This will be the greatest movie ever made ever. Period. Ever.

    All kidding aside, I hope it’s good. I’m certainly excited.

  • 10 12-10-2009 at 10:52 am

    qwiggles said...

    I’m of the opinion that everything Avatar-related we’ve seen so far has been pretty shitty, but the notice in the Guardian gets my hopes up quite a bit, since they’re usually smartasses and all. Fingers crossed.

  • 11 12-10-2009 at 11:04 am

    Maxim said...

    ” But does anyone out there actually plan on viewing it as such?”

    Of course. But of course. And my expectations are perfectly in check (and not just because I’ve already seen some 3D footage). I just know it when fanboys buildthemselves up and I also know not to trust overzealous fanboys.

    A good time in the theater is all I ask and all I expect.

  • 12 12-10-2009 at 11:20 am

    Michael said...

    I am going to see the movie on 12/18 just to get it over with, but I seriously just want the whole thing to be over. I am sick of the hype, the speculation, the hope, or the expectation of failure/success. I just want it to end so I can get back to other movies that I am more excited about (like half of the foreign films longlisted by the Golden Globes.)

  • 13 12-10-2009 at 11:53 am

    Brian said...

    For it to change movies, it needed to be a monster hit, which it still might be, but when studios look at the bottom line for this compared to Holmes, I think they’re going to order more Holmes than Avatars.

    I trust zero opinions on this until I set it. The Avatar war leading up has been ridiculous and always amusing.

  • 14 12-10-2009 at 12:25 pm

    Jane said...

    Is it really the people’s fault that expectations are unrealistic? I mean, Cameron and co. are the ones who’ve been claiming all these crazy things like how movies will never be the same again. Look at their ads. If the movie suffers from too much hype, it’s their own fault… it was all manufactured by Cameron and didn’t come about in a natural way.

  • 15 12-10-2009 at 2:23 pm

    Adam Smith said...

    I’ve never been anywhere with an IMAX theatre before, but I plan to do Avatar in IMAX. Up until recently, I didn’t much fret over Avatar, but now I’m excited to see it–I couldn’t tell you why, but I’m psyched to see what Cameron has

  • 16 12-10-2009 at 2:46 pm

    Joe W said...

    From Slashfilm

    @petershall: “The AVATAR buzz is an understatement. That movie was unbelievable.”

    @chasewhale: “Just finished AVATAR. Special effects were top notch. The movie ran a little long for my likings but I liked it!”

    @comingsoonnet” “Okay, about Avatar?…. WOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW! Unbelievable… amazing.”

    @MikePereira21: Was blown away by Avatar! For 150 minutes, I was a kid again. Thank you James Cameron! BTW, the groundbreaking 3D was mindblowing.”

    @rejects: “I’m not supposed to talk about Avatar… That said, it was a spectacular experience. Like nothing I’ve seen before.”

    @markwalters74: “Just saw AVATAR. Not allowed to talk about it yet. Not allowed to say how it’s an amazing visual feast, or that Jimmy C’s still got the gift.”

    @dmann11: “Holy effing crap!!! Avatar was FREAKING AWESOME KICK ASS SWEET!!!!!”

    @TheGate: “For the record ‘Avatar’ was worth the $400 million, and no it is not even remotely “vomit inducing”.

    Read more: First Avatar Reactions | /Film http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/12/10/first-avatar-reactions/#ixzz0ZKRJp4mf

  • 17 12-10-2009 at 2:51 pm

    Kevin said...

    I think in some ways, a lot of people (film buffs and general film fans) have forgotten how to just sit back and enjoy a movie. Does everything really have to have a screenplay that offers complex, mind-bending things, poses big philosophical questions, grand social implications, or a cynical and critical commentary on the human condition?

    A good film is a good film is a good film. It’s a god story told well. Since when has Cameron NOT delivered in that department? And I highly doubt that he would have invested the kidn of time and money and creative energy in anything less than great. He’s well known for being a perfectionist. And you know what? Who cares if there are a few cheesy moments or lines of dialogue? Name me any great film without one of those moments. And like Kris said, Cameron isn’t one to be satisfied with just visual grandeur. He’s said that over and over again. This isn’t Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, or any of those other hacks. This is James Cameron. All of his movies are great and do what those aforementioned directors can’t seem to do. Successfully mix visual grandeur with good story-telling. It’s the same reason filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro, and others are successful. Big canvas story-telling is possible. And I’ll say it again. When has Cameron not delivered? I don’t really care one way or the other if this film does anything to change cinema. It looks great on all fronts. I’ll be lined up at the IMAX at midnight December 17th, ready to put on my ugly 3D glasses and buckle up for what looks like one hell of a ride. Welcome back James Cameron. Don’t take 12 years off filmmaking next time, please?