Sorry, Mr. Cameron, Avatar is no Star Wars

In case you missed it, there was this small little movie that came out last year called Avatar.  (Not to be confused with Avatar:  The Last Airbender.)  It really struggled; only pulling in three Academy Awards.  (So sad.)

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, director and creator James Cameron is talking about its impending 3D re-release; including more Pandoric atmosphere and a missing tear-jerker moment.

Apparently, he is hoping this re-release will test out whether or not the Avatar brand can develop into a Star Wars- or Star Trek-type franchise.

Perhaps, being an old fart Star Wars fan, I find this difficult to believe.  But stranger things have happened.  (As in back in 1977.)  And even an attempt at doing more with the Avatar franchise will make at least the Avatarians (Pandorians? Avatar fans?) happy, for now.  So more power to him.

25 thoughts on “Sorry, Mr. Cameron, Avatar is no Star Wars

  1. MattDoc

    I didn’t think anyone but Cameron really cared about this movie anymore. 9 minutes of extra footage? That’s it? Is that really worth another $12+ at the theater?

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  2. Doyle

    I would be wiling to go and see this again if I could go and see it in IMAX, but alas I still do not live near an IMAX theater.

    I know that there are a lot of things that a lot of people have a lot of problems with in this movie, but none of them are really things that have stopped science fiction and fantasy films from being turned into successful franchises before.

    My biggest personal concern is that the first film has no real sense of scope or purpose. Almost everything is covered in only the most superficial of ways. We’re informed that the things that are going on are all dreadfully important: The Na’vi tribe can’t leave their home tree and make the humans happy and go away because it is their home but we’re never shown enough of their home life to make that mean anything to us, and the humans can’t leave the Na’vi alone because they need to get to the Unobtainium deposit beneath the tree because they need it but that doesn’t mean anything to us either because we don’t know anything about the state of humanity back home. There are two sides. They are fighting. Their reasons are superficial and undeveloped…And that’s all you need to know apparently. It’s a bit too much like a video game to really work as a competent narrative film, and it currently isn’t something that lends itself well to a sequel.

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  3. Erika Kim

    I haven’t seen all of Avatar–just a small bit while buying a Star Wars poster in Wal-Mart–but it seemed a little, well, dumb. Yeah, we all know Star Wars has its awkward moments, but I just don’t really like the whole idea of half the characters being created digitally, unless the movie is Mary Poppins. And I really, REALLY hate the whole 3D craze. The ticket prices are ridiculous, very often the quality is horrible, and it’s just plain weird.

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  4. Paula Post author

    I think, at best, Avatar will have the staying power of The Matrix. And that might even be reaching.

    There’s enough world-building and digital effectery (yes, I know that’s not a word) to keep some entranced for a while. But I don’t think there’s enough to the mythology to go much beyond that.

    And I have to say that I haven’t been seeing much presence from Avatar fans out in the world. So if there are really passionate, crazy fans like for Star Wars or Star Trek, they sure are keeping it quiet.

    I guess I’ll find out at Dragon*Con. (By the way, the Star Wars track is having a panel about the Avatar vs Star Wars thing.)

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  5. Zee Zee

    Sorry, but Avatar had to be one of the most over-hyped movies of the last ten years – and that includes TPM! Now he wants us to shell out more dosh to add to the $2.7 billion they’ve made on this film!

    Anyway, it was the fans that made both SW and ST into the cultural phenonomens and successful franchises that they are today, not the director nor the studio. The fans bought into (both literally and metaphorically) the fantasy Lucas and Roddenberry created from day one. Cameron’s got a long way to go if he expects the same from Avatar.

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  6. Alex Johnson

    It’s very hard to match the fanbase that franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek have amassed. I don’t think Avatar has hit the same note with viewers that Star Wars did; yet.

    I think the real test of it’s appeal to fans will be when the sequels come out.

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  7. Mark Newbold

    I think the Matrix analogy is a good one. That was HUGE when it launched (still grates that it won best FX for bullet time – who uses that now?) but faded with reloaded and revolutions.
    Trek and wars are exceptions, especially Trek which has endured through 6 decades and a lot of ups and downs. Star Wars hasn’t had the same trials. Lucas stopped Star Wars during the late 80’s and early 90’s through choice. Roddenberry always wanted to do more Trek, and fought to make it happen. No one ever doubted that there was a Star Wars audience, Rod had to fight to prove there was a Trek audience, and ultimately went to the well too many times (a potential problem for SW)

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  8. mike I

    heck I have yet to see it (I like a little thing called plot with my tech reel demos) and double dipping the audience for a mere 9 minutes is ridiculous. now if he says all proceeds from this theater run goes to charity fine, but come on.

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  9. Josh

    I personally think Avatar won’t have the staying power of Star Wars simply because the characters and story didn’t stick with people like they did in the OT. When was the last time you heard someone using a quote from Avatar out of context? As opposed to things like “May the Force be with you” and “Live long and prosper”, which are still in our cultural consciousness 30 or 40 years on.

    If you ask me, as far as “the new Star Wars” goes, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Matrix films are much stronger contenders.

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  10. Ruccaz

    can we please look beyond the razzle-dazzle? sure the movie looks fantastic but theres no substance. james cameron literally created nothing new. no new story or characters or anything like that. it’s a carbon copy of pochontas or dances with wolves. best movie uve ever seen? puhaha

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  11. Ryorin

    It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my indifference to Avatar.

    My brother recommended it to me, saying that it was probably the best original movie he’s seen in the past decade. I think that odd word in italics might have something to do with it’s popularity. It’s not based on a book or comic and it’s not a sequel, prequel, or remake. And it is a big-budget, ultra-glittery sci-fi adventure movie set in a glittery new world. How many of those can you name from the past ten years?

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  12. Bryan

    There will never be another phenomenon like Star Wars. Every big movie that comes out is hailed as “the next Star Wars” or “this generation’s Star Wars”…then the movie makes a bazillion dollars because of the inflated prices nowadays and it’s called “better than Star Wars”. Then a week after the movie leaves the theaters, everyone forgets about it. Star Wars is forever, and there will never be another.

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  13. Christine

    I just can’t imagine:
    a) having to paint myself entirely BLUE to participate in that Pandora world.
    b) building and/or wearing the costume to make me ten feet tall.
    c) arranging or creating hair that would mate or interface with my pets.

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  14. jawajames

    so i actually haven’t seen Avatar the first time around, so i might actually see it this time. or not, considering that i think the last movie i saw in the theater was 2012, and nothing can top that so why try?

    Paula: when comparing Avatar to SW, don’t forget this:
    http://clubjade.net/?p=19652

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  15. Chris (The Exalted)

    I thought it was a good film and the effects were exceptional, but it ain’t as good as Star Wars and it certainly isn’t an original idea! Still good watching, the blue ray release looks immense.

    That being said I can’t believe Josh put LOTR in the same category as pirates and the matrix ;)

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  16. Josh

    Well, I was only talking about the films (not the Middle-earth franchise as a whole), and it was less a comment about quality than it was about films that had a similar kind of feel and buzz about them to Star Wars.

    The Lord of the Rings films (and books for that matter) rate much higher for me than Pirates or the Matrix, but you can’t deny that Captain Jack Sparrow and bullet time made an impression on people, if only briefly. :)

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  17. Paula Post author

    Oh, James, I forgot all about the Clone Wars Avatar episode!

    Ryorin, there is something to the idea of the “originality.” Although the story ends up being a retelling of Ferngully, officially it’s an original fantasy film. We haven’t seen an original in a really, really long time. So I will give some props to Cameron for that.

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  18. Jen

    So true Josh, I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t love POTC. I also love the LOTR trilogy. They are brilliantly made movies. Haven’t seen the Matrix movies though.

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  19. Rebel Without A Cause

    I have to say, I enjoyed Avatar for what it was: sci-fi for a mainstream audience. Pop-sci-fi, if you will. It wasn’t overly tech-driven, its plot was something we’d all seen before (as everybody’s already mentioned: Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves), and we had some solid stock characters.

    In a lot of ways, this is similar to the way in which Star Wars entered the arena. The tech is easy enough to comprehend for the general audience, the plot is classic hero-lore retold, and again we had some solid stock characters.

    But the place where the two films really differ is the scope that Star Wars encompasses. It’s easy to imagine that Luke, Han, and Leia will continue their fight against the evil Empire. It’s not like they’ve accomplished all of the goals that the Rebel Alliance set out with. Avatar, on the other hand, leaves me with the impression that the Na’vi (is that the right place to put the apostrophe?) will just go back to doing the simple things that their culture did before the mean, bad humans came. Which equates to….what? Pretty much what the main character was doing the whole time in the film. I mean, they won. It’s over. Unless the humans come back or something even worse comes around, the Na’vi are fine with hanging around in the jungle doing everyday things. As a student of literature, I know that this does not a compelling extension to an existing story make.

    Furthermore, as an audience of humans, we need to feel that we are not always the “bad guys” which is essentially the message of Avatar. It’s hard to get total audience buy-in like we have with Star Wars when you can’t even keep your human body to be a part of the tribe. At least in Star Wars, there were humans on both sides, which gives the audience the impression that it’s not about which side you’re born to (or the Life Tree puts you on), but that it’s your choices that make you a “good guy” or a “bad guy” in terms of the story’s internal logic.

    Sorry, long rant.

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