Oh! It never ceases to amaze me how often sit down to write my column about a particular subject, and like in this case, actually write more than half the article when I get blindsided by something else that I just have to talk about.
This column was going to address my first exposure to the British science-fiction series Doctor Who as I sat in front of my television all day Saturday and watched the BBC America marathon on the show. I was going to talk about what a fun day I ended up having, and about how sad I was, even after just that smattering of episodes, to see David Tennants Doctor regenerate into a new, younger, and dare I say, more frenetic persona created by Matt Smith. I was going to talk about the wonderful little tributes to both Star Wars and Star Trek in Tennants final episode and I was going to say Ill likely be watching much more of the show now that I have some of the history :
But really, my column isnt about “Doctor Who.”
On Monday morning I woke up and read that James Camerons Avatar is believed to have crossed the $1 billion mark for worldwide box offices sales, with The Hollywood Reporter telling me it was done in just three weeks!
Several reporters do put caveats in their articles by clarifying that 3-D ticket sales are usually twice as expensive as regular tickets. While thats true, I dont think it takes away from this obviously shattering box office score.
Do you want to know what it is about this announcement that I think really means something?
“Avatar” is, for all intents and purposes, an original movie.
Sure a lot of people are saying that the story is just another Dances with Wolves told with animation – but so what? Thats not the kind of originality Im talking about. “Dances with Wolves” was a great story, but the story itself isnt that new – its actually pretty formulaic. The protagonist is given a job to spy on the enemy only to find out that theyre not really the enemy. The enemy really is his/her own kind; protagonist decides to do the right thing and joins to fight for the subjugated group. Theres nothing new there! Its a Shakespearean tale! Its Greek drama! Its aboriginal mythology! Its a tale as old as they come!
Im calling “Avatar” original because it isnt a current Hollywood franchise. Its not Star Wars! Its not Star Trek! Its not Harry Potter or Batman or Spider-man or Transformers or X-Men or Iron Man or Terminator or the Fast & Furious or Twilight or : shall I go on?
I have found it remarkable that the two best performing movies for their genre this year (“Avatar” for sci-fi and “The Hangover” for comedy) were not sequels or based on any other existing franchise.
Alas, due to their success I admit I know whats coming – Avatar II: Pandoras Revenge or some such nonsense, and maybe Hangover II: Atlantic City. But just this once, I think their success says something that the suits in Hollywood should really be paying attention to.
Sure sequels and remakes are easy money, but I think the populace might be tiring of them, especially since a lot of the sequelsstories are much so much weaker than their original films. Dark Knight may have been an exception to this affliction, but Im not sure any future movie with Batman will be able to live up to the exceptional storytelling of that film.
Star Treks own production team is wisely, I think, taking a step back and has stated the next film wont be released until 2012 instead of the 2011 date they had originally been intended. While there was a wave of disappointment from a lot of the fans, there was rather surprisingly a wave of relief expressed by a greater majority of fans, myself included. Were all hoping that the time taken with the next film means the next Star Trek movie will have a better script, one more worthy of the Star Trek name.
I will certainly wait one more year – even 10 if it means theyll be doing the franchise justice.
People dont mind franchises and they dont mind sequels – but they do mind a poorly told tale. If X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Terminator: Salvation taught anybody anything – its that one single lesson.
“Avatar’s” success cannot be ignored. It proves that even in a crappy economy people will horde to a theatre to see something truly unique and awe-inspiring and they’ll even spend more than normal to see it in a unique way.
So while I know franchiseitis and sequeloma are still Hollywoods biggest diseases and worse, theyre not even searching for a cure – I hope that “Avatar” might be that shot that gives Hollywood suits the ability to grow a set and give a new script a chance.
*She lifts her pinky-finger to the corner of her mouth in her best Doctor Evil impersonation*
There might be a billion dollars in it for them.