James Cameron announced three sequels to his 2009 film Avatar saying that they will be – and I quote – “bitchin’”. The films will be released yearly between 2016 and 2018, and the director claims that they will “make you shit yourself with your mouth wide open”. If the original film is anything to go by, I suspect that my mouth will be wide open yawning, and that they will be shit.
The problem with Avatar, and I suspect with the rest of this “quadrilogy” as Cameron is calling it, is that it’s only value lies in its special effects – and yes, seeing the film in IMAX when it first came out was, I will admit, pretty exciting. But that’s because it was new, and that kind of technology had never been seen before in film. Within about a year, the gimmick of 3D very quickly died, and most people I know now deliberately avoid 3D screenings at the cinema. Remove the novelty of technical spectacle, you are left with incredibly weak writing (the mineral they’re mining the planet for in Avatar is called Unobtanium, fuck sake) and unoriginal storytelling (it is basically a sci-fi remake of Disney’s Pocahontas) will an admittedly well-intentioned message about environmental sustainability which was unfortunately about as subtle as being hit by a planet. At this point, the only thing Avatar has provided is a decent idea for a Halloween costume.
I have no problem, per se, with this high-technology filmmaking. I don’t even really have a problem with 3D; I saw Life of Pi at the cinema in 3D and it was beautiful. But this technology needs to be used not just for the spectacle but as a storytelling device. The Lord of the Rings films were cutting edge when they came out; though the CGI looks kind of dated now, people still love them because the story is what mattered. Even the recent Hobbit films, which have had a decidedly mixed response, had value because they worked from such a beloved book. But if transforming the Hobbit from one book to three movies seems stretched, imagine trying to get another eight hours of film out of a story that was already wrapped up, and which no–one really cares about anyway. I have no time for this storyless spectacle, and I suspect that few others will either.
[Clare Patterson – @clurrpatterson]