‘Avatar’ and the lessons learned

Dec. 06, 2009 | 4:47 a.m.


It’s almost time to run through the jungle. James Cameron’s “Avatar” is fast approaching and here at the Hero Complex we’re past the halfway mark in our 30-day countdown coverage and, yes, by the end you’ll be blue in the face. For our mellow Saturday installment, a roundup of the week’s “Avatar” news, presented in terms of things we learned.

Lesson 1: Fox is not above using their scripted television shows to promote a film. There was consternation, eye-rolling and plenty of resigned shrugs this week when Fox used their smart and sexed-up forensics franchise “Bones” to hype “Avatar” by weaving the movie into the plot line. Joel David Moore, a star of both “Avatar” and “Bones,” was a key player in the episode’s winking plugs for the sci-fi epic and here’s what he told the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog:

Moore said “Bones” is an ideal show to pull off a marketing gimmick because “it doesn’t take itself too seriously.” “You couldn’t have done this on ‘CSI,’ where everyone takes themselves so seriously all the time,” he said. “And you never see a clip of me or my avatar in the TV episode. It does get confusing. You can understand how an actor can go crazy and start drinking at noon.” All kidding aside, Moore thinks the crossover is a good idea, noting that everyone has DVRs and fast forwards through commercials. “This is an ad you can’t fast-forward through,” he said. “And if it convinces a ‘Bones’ watcher to see it, all the better.” Read the rest

Here’s the preview for that episode, which aired Thursday (and was, in my humble opinion, too contrived to be especially effective as a promotion but also blatant and playful enough that it didn’t offend me nearly as much as the automobile plugs that have popped up in “Fringe” ):

Lesson 2: James Cameron believed “Polar Express” was on the wrong track. A while back, we interviewed a key member of the “Avatar” team, production designer Rick Carter, who told us that Cameron and performance-capture specialist Robert Zemeckis are clearly philosophical rivals who keep an eye on one another. It’s easy then to read between the lines of these quotes in a Variety Q&A with Cameron: “I was unfamiliar with performance-capture technology, and the performance-capture technology I had seen I didn’t think would measure up to what we needed. So, basically, we threw out the book and started from scratch and built up our own system, and, of course, because I was unfamiliar with any other system and we were building it from scratch, it was sort of custom-tailored to this film.” Read the rest

Lesson 3: Leona Lewis can get real mushy. On Friday, Popeater got a chance to let the world get its first earful of “I See You,” the “Avatar” theme song by British singer Leona Lewis. She also explained to the website that she visited Pandora before recording the track: “James and I spoke about the meaning and emotion of the song. He showed me clips from the film which gave me insight into the characters and this whole other world that he had created. The song represents the feelings shared between Jake and Neytiri, it’s very powerful and beautiful.” Read the rest and hear the song

Lesson 4: Not everyone likes mushy.The often-acerbic Culture Vulture at the New York Magazine website was giggling when it listened to that Lewis track: “made in the mold of “My Heart Will Go On” and fortified with a full range of late-nineties radio-schmaltz pyrotechnics … maybe it’ll sound better in 3-D.” Read the rest

— Geoff Boucher


Jon Landau on wild budget reports: “They’re all false” 

“Avatar” as innovator: “We were in new territory … there was no road” 

Jim Cameron, cinema prophet? “Moving a mountain is nothing” 

Avatar: The Game will follow its own path through the alien jungle

Sam Worthington looks for “Avatar’s” humanity: “I don’t want to be a cartoon”

Giovanni Ribisi loves Jim Cameron

James Cameron on “Avatar”: Like “Matrix,” it opens doorways

“Avatar” star Zoe Saldana says the movie will match the hype: “This is big”

Welcome to the jungle: Mixed reaction to “Avatar” trailer

VIDEO: “Avatar” interviews with Sigourney Weaver and Jon Landau

Peter Jackson: Movie fans are fed up with the lack of original ideas 

More in: Uncategorized, Avatar


4 Responses to ‘Avatar’ and the lessons learned

  1. Doug says:

    you lot and your stupid comments, once again knocking a british singer makes me want to puke. im sure if she was from USA this song would automatically become a world beater. she is great your comments are pathetic.
    The song is fantastic, but im sure if you knock it enough, you will have done your job.

  2. AuroraWinter says:

    I can't wait to see this movie! I hope it's just as beautiful as Leona Lewis's song, "I See You"
    I love this song, and I'm sure I'll love the movie! Finally, an original story idea that's worth going to the theatres for!

  3. Travis says:

    What’s the lesson that’s going to be learned when “Avatar” opens to $84 million on its way to $179 million in the U.S. and $340 million internationally? How will Fox feel when its “game-changing” movie ends up somewhere in that “Attack of the Clones”/”Ratatouille” territory of $500-$600 million worldwide. By all accounts, it will be tremendously respectable for a movie — a hit, even.
    But the games it’s been seeking to change may very well be 3-D just as planned, but not in the WAY planned. Traffic patterns for 3-D films are very clear, and no exhibitor wants to get creative, and no studios (God forbid!) want to cooperate! The simple solution: one theater shows one screening a day of “Avatar” in 3-D … it plays only ONCE in the format, from the first day to the last day it plays. Buy your tickets weeks in advance if you must. The rest of the time the theater screens normal films. The amount coming into Fox is slower — harder to trumpet in trade ads. But you build a base, you build a solid foundation (assuming the movie’s good), you build this into something grand. LIMIT, not satiate, access.
    Of course, none of that will happen, cooler heads rarely prevail in Hollywood. Three-D has a future. It’s just not the future they’ve been prophesying … and it’s not going to be following the business models they developed. THEY who knew everything did not know how to see the future, just a very limited-view, money-drenched version of it. That version hasn’t happened.
    So, I’ll make my goodbyes to my friend 3-D now. The next few months are going to be rough as you’re flogged and beaten to a pulp — but I know how strong you are and how insistent that you’re going to break into Hollywood. So, give it more time. Yes, I know — it’s been 50 years already. Just be a little more patient. This “wave” will die down very, very, very soon. A few people will be fired (never the ones that should, of course), and teams of strategists will scratch their head to figure out what happened. So here’s a clue:
    The movies stunk: “My Bloody Valentine 3-D”? “Avatar”? “A Christmas Carol”?
    Tell a good story, 3-D or not 3-D. Tell us one we haven’t seen before, not about the old man and the ghosts, or the serial murderer in the mine, or the danger the military bring when they discover a new world.
    We proved in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that we didn’t want 3-D — not because it wasn’t good, but because it wasn’t telling good stories, certainly not ones that justified a buck or two increase in the price. It didn’t work then.
    So, Jeffrey and Jim, tell me again, please … WHY would it work now?
    You’ve got another year or so … milk it for all its worth!

  4. rehabdoc says:

    Travis, your comments don't make any sense. You're so fixated on the 3D aspect of the film, when the 3D Imax theaters it will go into will only constitute a very small portion of the viewings of this movie.
    Your entire argument is based on the 3D aspect of it, when most people will simply never see it in 3D.
    Every movie that Cameron has written and directed has made money… lots of money. That includes the one that cost $200 million and made 1.8 billion. What does it matter if it's in 3D digital, or 8 mm silent? It's a James Cameron film, so it will not suck. Your predictions of $500-600 million are a huge underestimate.

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