Back in 1997, there was near universal speculation that the film “Titanic” was sure to be an absolute disaster. The film’s set in Mexico was pummeled with vicious storms, the budget ballooned, and the film was pushed back from its original release date. The film had an insane running time of well over three hours. All signs pointed to the movie being a colossal dud.
Of course, you now know that isn’t the case. “Titanic” became the highest grossing film of all time, won a zillion Oscars, and set a box office record that I daresay has no chance of being broken.
But for director James Cameron’s followup, the 3D sci-fi adventure “Avatar,” the exact opposite story may be taking place. Before any footage of “Avatar” was released to the general public, the movie was already being touted as perhaps the biggest film of the decade. A screening of 20 minutes of footage in Amsterdam last June elicited breathless praise. “Avatar” will change movies forever, and such and such.
If you’ve seen the commercials for the movie lately - and how could you miss them? – it’s hard to believe that hype. How can you change movies forever when I’ve seen this plot in roughly 4,000 other movies, from “Dances With Wolves” to “Alien Nation”? Most chilling of all, Cameron’s movie is reportedly set to clock in at nearly three hours long: From FilmDrunk:
A report on MarketSaw supposedly confirmed by Fox says that the final running time for James Cameron’s Avatar is 161 minutes.
Obviously, running time was no detriment to the success of “Titanic.” But think about what that movie had going for it. It had public fascination with a known historical event. It had a love story between two gorgeous and talented actors. “Avatar,” by contrast, is not based on any known quantity, something extremely rare in Hollywood these days. And its love story concerns a giant blue alien and a man disguised as a giant blue alien. I have nothing against giant blue aliens, but I really hope there isn’t a nude portrait scene. Also, the film appears to be riddled with Cameron’s signature awful dialogue.
What we have with “Avatar” then, is the inverse phenomenon of “Titanic.” “Titanic” was expected to flop, and ended up crushing everything in its path. “Avatar” arrives heralded as the greatest film event in history. But all the 3D pterodactyls and giant robot exoskeletons in the world won’t help the movie if it ends up, you know, sucking. It’s impossible to know until you see for yourself, but it sure doesn’t look very promising right now.
Drew Magary is a writer for deadspin.com