‘Avatar’ trailer premieres online to decidedly mixed reaction

08.20.09 8 years ago 70 Comments

20th Century Fox

Uhhh… that image?  Of that swarm of gunships against a sunset on Pandora?  That is officially f’ing cool.

You know what’s not cool?  The way fandom seems to have decided that, no matter what, they’re going to sit cross-armed and irritated over the entire idea of the film. 

First, check it out for yourself at Apple.com, the home of the exclusive world premiere of the first trailer for James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Really?  Someone takes the full resources of a studio and manages to get them to greenlight an original SF film instead of a remake or a retread or a superhero film, and it’s from the director of some of the most universally-loved SF action films of the last 30 years, and THIS is the film that we decide is going to be the sight-unseen punching bag of the fall season?


RT @t_futurist Finally watched AVATAR trailer. This is the new big step in film effects? Rubber fake-looking CGI aliens fighting humans? Yawn.

I guess you can color me profoundly out-of-step with what looks to me to be the general response to the trailer, because I thought it was a simple, elegant introduction both to the world of Pandora and the general idea of the film.

I love that the only line of dialogue in the entire thing is Jake’s cautiously pleased “This is great.”  It’s the smile that sells it for me.

[more after the jump]

What seems to be the most common freak-out among those who are freaking out is that the Na’vi are “CGI.”  Well… yes.  That is true.  And I suppose at this point, there are people who have just plain decided that they are never ever going to accept any character that comes out of a computer as “real,” and that’s certainly a choice you’re free to make.  But if you can look at even these brief glimpses of the Na’vi and you tell me that the work is “terrible,” well… we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that.  The ultimate test of these characters comes from the way they behave, not from the skin textures (which are amazing) or the eyes (which look to have built off the great work done on Gollum) or the environments (Pandora looks like a location, not an effect), and for that, we’re still going to have to wait for the film, obviously.

RT @arcane_bimmer $300 mil to make photorrealistic alien trees that look just like Earth trees. At least the WETA programmers are happy making mortgage paymts

Fox is going to have to weather this first round of snarky fanboy backlash to get to the mainstream audience, the real target of this campaign.  And until they see this trailer and, more important, until we see if they show up for the film based on what they’re seeing, it’s still a giant fingers-crossed crap shoot.  And hype (which is what begins now, with the actual campaign) as opposed to buzz (which is the organic conversation or interest that has been driving any talk of the film so far) is a dangerous thing.  San Diego was the first part of the hype campaign, and now this week marks the second part, and so far, it seems to me that for most people, the jury is still out.

RT @BrianLynch When James Cameron re-invents THE SMURFS, he doesn’t mess around.

In many ways, Cameron is his own worst enemy from now until the film hits theaters.  Every time he and Jon Landau talk about the film, they are putting a target on their own backs.  There are people who despise hype, who still have some weird grudge simmering over “Titanic,” (which was not called “The Titanic,” as the “Avatar” trailer calls it for some odd reason), and the more they hear “it’s like dreaming with your eyes wide open,” the more they’re going to push in the other direction.

And no, I don’t think it’s a calculated response to dislike the trailer.  Some of the responses I’ve read are absolutely just people offering up their honest reaction, and they didn’t like what they saw.  Fair enough.

RT @ petershall James Cameron’s AVATAR is the best looking thing that ever fell out of a hard drive from 2003.

But I think there’s also a brewing backlash that is based on factors other than the film, and this morning was a very clear demonstration of what the conversation’s going to be like moving forward.  Months of this, clear battle lines drawn, over a movie no one’s seen yet.  Personally, I’m content having some faith in a filmmaker who has, film after film, proven himself to be one of the best guys working in SF or action, and having him back in the director’s chair would excite and intrigue me no matter what the subject matter.

The fact that he’s gambling as big as he is, creating his own brand new world in the process… well, that’s just gravy.  If he wants to take me to Pandora in December, I’m more than happy to buy the ticket.  And if you guys want to sit it out because the trailer didn’t literally rewire the chemistry of your brain, as it seems it was supposed to do, then that’s fine, too.

I’ll have a full report on Saturday about the footage shown at “Avatar” day, the IMAX sneak preview of fifteen minutes of the movie, and obviously, as we get closer to the release of the film, we hope to have even more coverage here at HitFix.


Wanna see the international trailer?

Huh.  Looking at it, I don’t see a difference.  Still, nice to have an official embed of the trailer from Fox.

I’m going to get further into this as the weekend continues, once I’ve seen the “Avatar” day presentation tomorrow, but I think there are some interesting challenges ahead for Cameron between now and December, and I think the first of them is the most important:  cut fandom loose.

Forget the fanboys.  Take it to the mainstream.  Sell the new love story from the man who made “Titanic,” and sell the idea of escaping your own body to run wild on an alien world.  The fanboys will go see it anyway, so dealing with all the gnashing of teeth and spilling of tears today, but for the next four and a half months?

Not worth it.

I like the comments here, even the ones I’m not in agreement with, because you guys seem to be able to actually discuss it.  There are other places where I am ashamed to share any common interests with the rabble that are just bleating waves of knee-jerk ignorance, places I’m not even going to link to.  Thanks, and I look forward to continuing the conversation late Friday or early Saturday.

In the meantime… are you really going to tell me that this is “bad” CGI?

Zoe Saldana's character in

Or how about this one?  Again… if the style doesn’t work for you, or the designs, that’s cool.  I can get behind that.  But as far as making it look like a physical object, holding the same space as the human cast?

Sam Worthington's character in

Yeah.  Works for me.

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