Saturday, February 27, 2010


James Cameron's film, Avatar, opened in December and as of today has earned a staggering worldwide box office gross of $2,466,701,910.

It is big, the technology is dazzling, and there's no arguing that those effects raise the bar for filmmaking. That is, the handful of filmmakers that are granted a $300 million+ budget.

Recently, I came across Batman Begins on cable. Although I saw the blockbuster film during its 2005 opening weekend, I was surprised how little I remembered. The scene in play had Tom Wilkinson (portraying a gangster) threatening the villain, Scarecrow, played by Cillian Murphy. Tom Wilkinson---what? I always enjoy his work but this performance slipped through my memory completely. Later, Rutger Hauer appeared---zip, zilch, no memory of him either. What I do recall: a fast car, a girl held captive, a few chase scenes and lots of explosions. Omit the rubber costume and you have the template for most contemporary action films. Add a villain attempting to take over the world, or a setting in the distant future or alternate universe and the story becomes secondary to how convincing the fantasy has been presented.

The technology of Avatar is so exciting that it easily overshadows and distracts the viewer from noticing the thinly written characters and their stock dialogue. There are better stories with more complex characters and far superior writing than what is delivered in Avatar, but according to the growing box office, it really doesn't matter.

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