OT: Avatar2 earns over $2B and counting

Since I have recently been cast in the role of defender of all things Disney, I just wanted to say that I saw Avatar2 (née: Avatar: The Way Of Water), and I thought it sucked. More than sucked, was a cloying, trite, piece of doggerel that didn’t deserve the celluloid it was printed on. (OK, I’m not sure celluloid is still involved, but you get what I mean.)

It is crossing the $2B mark this weekend, soon to overtake three of the only six to ever do so on it’s way to becoming the 3rd highest grossing film in history (Behind the original Avatar and Titanic.) Those about to be passed are two Avengers films and StarWars VII.

I am supposed to mention there may be spoilers ahead, but it’s hard to imagine that, since everything - excepting the spectacular graphics - has been seen before in countless films including, and I mean it, back to the beginning of the industry.

If it isn’t one thing it’s another, from the cloying happy family with the wise ole’ Dad and rebellious teen to the wrongly threatened and invaded village, and there are at least three repetitions of the Damsel in Distress trope. (She’s not tied to railroad tracks, instead she’s handcuffed to a ship railing. That makes it different?) Cardboard characters, hackneyed story line, trite dialogue, and the explosions! Oh my the explosions! (Ah well, it can play overseas.)

Phooey! Beautiful imagery in the underwater scenes, I’ll admit; over-the-top CGI with the battle scenes. The bad guys get massacred, the good guys scarcely get touched, and Mr. Meany, the baddest of the bad guys, Mr. Evil himself, well let’s just say he gets what he deserves. But there’s going to be a sequel, so maybe not.

Crappy, awful, terrible film unless you are on acid and want a pretty cool visual experience, but that is less than half of what a film should be. We first went to a 4DX showing (by accident) but walked out after the trailers, the theater being determined to show us how violent the seats could be. We went back for a 3D show, which was certainly 3D visually, but flat as wallboard in every other respect.

Congratulations to Disney, who gets credit for this film even though it came by way of the Fox acquisition. Soon to be the 3rd, perhaps 2nd highest money maker in film history. Bah.

4 Likes

I rented the original Avatar from the library (free) a few years ago. I immediately recognized the cavalry vs Indians plot, as I grew up watching those movies. If you get down to it, “Star Wars” has a pretty standard plot, dressed up with fancy F/X. So Avatar gives another standard plot, with even fancier F/X. Seems that is what makes money. Wasn’t one of the features of the society in “1984” machine written erotica, to keep the mob distracted? Interestingly, this paper says that Orwell’s inspiration for the department of the Ministry of Truth that generated the novels was Disney, and the way his cartoons were cranked out.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/25124469

4 Likes

Geez, Louise! What a Grinch!

I don’t have time to opine on every point you made but I enjoyed “Avatar 2” tremendously. I also admired the extreme technical efforts by the cast and crew, who risked their lives making extended underwater scenes. Plenty of YouTube videos show the making of “Avatar 2” which help explain why this may be the most expensive movie of all time.

I saw the impressive exhibit James Cameron – CHALLENGING THE DEEP, a traveling exhibition produced by the Australian National Maritime Museum, when it was on display at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, OR).

Although Cameron does not have a formal academic degree in oceanography, he used his profits from “Titanic” and “Avatar” to finance his scientific passion for the undersea world. Cameron personally plumbed the depths of the Challenger Deep in a submarine he financed himself and dramatically advanced the science of the deep in many ways.

Cameron’s genuine love of the undersea ecology is explored at length in “Avatar 2.” I felt that at least 45 minutes of the film was pure travelogue and would have been cut if this was simply a Marvel-style comic book. Instead, Cameron created a magical world of beauty, mingled with actual facts from Earth. (Including the fact that humpback whale mothers will swim slowly and not abandon their young even when they realize they are being hunted by orcas or humans.)

As for the plot, it was a classic which has surely been told since the days of Homoe erectus. (The TMF computer won’t let me post the correct term.) A technologically-advanced group invades the territory of a less-powerful group, which fights back strenuously. The more-advanced group kills many of the less-advanced group and displaces at least some of them from their territory. The refugees are forced to flee and attempt to be adopted by a tribe of their own culture in a safer area. But ultimately, no area is safe if the more-advanced group continues to send more invaders.

I’m sure that the Neanderthals told the same story, since they inhabited Europe for 300,000 years but became extinct within 5,000 years of Homoe sapiens reaching Europe. A fascinating exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, “Dark Caves, Bright Visions,” showed how the H. sapiens’ weapons were more advanced than the Neanderthals’. A book was made about this exhibit but seeing the originals was illuminating.

I think that James Cameron made excellent use of classic mythology in the development of the characters as well as the plot. You may turn up your oh-so-sophisticated nose at this but the power of myth has held human attention for thousands of years. “Avatar 2” dresses these myths in visually stunning effects and also provides positive role models for girls and women that were missing from earlier myths. (Those girls in “Avatar 2” did a LOT more than just being tied to a railing. And Mom was a danged good shot with her bow and arrow.)

I’m so glad to see you posting on METAR, @Goofyhoofy. As I have said so many times, METAR benefits from a wide range of opinion. I think that the marketplace will agree with my opinion. I hope that James Cameron will use the profits from “Avatar 2” and the sequel(s) to continue his scientific explorations of the last frontier on Earth – the ocean depths.

Wendy

6 Likes

Cavalry vs Indians. I’ll rather watch “Cheyenne Autumn”, which was very “woke” for it’s time in portraying Native Americans sympathetically. “Cheyenne Autumn” failed at the box office.

Unfortunately, the trailer for “Cheyenne Autumn” includes part of the ghastly, comic, bit, with Jimmy Stewart, that John Ford stuck in the middle of the film. To this day, that comic sequence is controversial.

1 Like

Given that Neandertals were interfertile with modern humans and there are still a noticeable number of their genes in modern populations, one can’t really say that they were a different species from an evolutionary point of view and thus are not really extinct. I’m sure we all know somebody who reminds them of a Neandertal.

2 Likes

TL:DR There’s room for both good movies and profitable movies. And a studio probably needs both.

As a minor counterpoint, this is an economic discussion group. Not a film critic group. I’m not qualified to talk about the quality of films - I rarely understand all of these issues that film critics and film buffs like to talk about.

But I do understand economics. And looking at the economics, Avatar 2 is a success. In a brief time, they’re earned more at the box office than the movie cost. As you mentioned, box office is about $2 billion so far, of which about half goes to the studio. And it reportedly cost around $250 million to make. So the studio has roughly tripled their money on this movie. So far.

And this seems to be the way of the film industry. The most popular films at the box office (and therefore, typically the most profitable) rarely get much critical acclaim. Those that do get critical acclaim aren’t usually blockbusters. So movie executives need to make sure they make a balanced bunch of movies. Do the bigger budget blockbusters to rake in the dough so you can make a few of the less profitable movies that will garner awards. Because awards are important to be able to attract the talent that will make money for the studio.

It’s not a perfect correlation, of course. But for every Titanic or Lord of the Rings you’ve got a bunch of CODA or Moonlight or Spotlight or The Hurt Locker. Yes, those movies made money, too. But combined, they made maybe $50 - 75 million for their studios. Avatar 2 made that much or more for the studio in its first weekend.

https://www.the-numbers.com/movies/comparisons/Best-Picture-Oscar-Winners

–Peter

1 Like

It could be more a matter of seeking big,Big,BIG numbers, to fuel media hype, to fuel more ticket sales.

“The Man Who Invented Christmas” is fascinating. I find no mention of budget. It grossed $8.1M

“Moneyball”, fascinating look at the start of “analytics” invading sports. Budget $50M, gross $110.2M

“Million Dollar Arm” (Disney), I enjoyed it. Budget $25M, gross 40.2M

“Saving Mr Banks” (Disney). I enjoyed it. Budget $35M, gross $117.9M

The budget for Avatar 2 is more than 10 times what the two live action Disney films cost, but it puts up a bigBigBIG gross, which feeds media hype.

What happens when a studio drops half a Billion on a film, looking for bigBigBIG hype-fueling numbers, and gets another “Heaven’s Gate” (budget $44M, gross $3.5M) or “Ishtar” (budget $51M, gross $14.4M), with proportionally bigBigBIG losses, ruined careers, and a bankruptcy here and there?

Steve

There’s another $350m in promotion and marketing, and the distributor gets a cut before the studio and undoubtedly Cameron has points, which also shaves a few percent. Cameron said, and Disney officials privately confirmed that at $2B in box office the movie will be at break-even, so they’re there. The original Avatar grossed $2.9B, and the sequel is still rolling so it looks good for the mouse house.

I would note that ticket sales (generally) are off 30% from pre-pandemic, a combination of people not wanting to go to crowded theaters, bigger screen TVs, and the shortening of release windows to streaming and other home video. AMC is teetering (saved only by last year’s meme stock phenomenon), and Regal Cinemas is in bankruptcy; both are closing houses. They need more, a lot more Avatar’s to prop up the business and sell popcorn.

I think that the marketplace will agree with my opinion.

Of course it will, it already does. So what? McDonald’s sells the most burgers. Does that make them the best burgers? Or even good burgers?

I’m happy the movie is a success, I like supporting the local theaters while they exist but that doesn’t make the film any good. Mrs. Goofy agrees with me, but almost nobody else does. That’s OK. I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em. This movie is crap. Successful crap, I’ll admit.

2 Likes

Somehow, not being allowed to type the actual, long-accepted anthropological terminology makes “homoe erectus” sound very dirty.

Pete

Ha!

From today’s Washington Post, commenting about the inclusion of 4 “popular” movies in the list of Oscar nominees:

Avatar: The Way of Water,” which [just crossed the $2 billion mark at the box office], is a visual wonder made possible by [director James Cameron’s restless dedication to technological innovation. It’s not on the list for its dialogue or its performances

[emphasis added]

Glad to see the academy recognize that “popular” movies can also be good art, of course, too many good ones have been ignored. That “oh-so-sophisticated nose” syndrome, I guess.

Or, like everything else in Shiny-land, it all comes down to money.

Steve

1 Like

I’m disappointed that James Cameron wasn’t nominated for a Best Director Oscar, but “Avatar 2” was nominated for Best Picture, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design and Best Sound. Four Oscar nominations isn’t bad.

And, as The New York Times notes, hopefully Cameron will be pleased with the gross which isn’t too shabby considering that the movie was only released a little over a month ago. So far, “Avatar 2” has grossed over $2 billion. Disney spent a reported $460 million to create and promote the movie. Cameron is the only director in history to have three movies gross over $2 billion.

I guess you can put me into the pretty large group of people who enjoy Cameron’s movies. Maybe my taste is less sophisticated than yours. I love the old myths and the movies based on them. Guess I’m still a kid at heart.

Wendy

3 Likes

I will stipulate it will become the highest grossing in history, based on how I see the local theaters not moving it down the line to smaller rooms as quickly as usual. (It could be that there’s just nothing else in the pipeline, I suppose.)

It needed to hit $2B to be successful, so it’s there.

You keep saying this, as though I’m some kind of art snob. Not true, I just see an old story not well told or acted, but spectacularly special effected into submission.

RottenTomatoes critics give it a 77, quite low by blockbuster standards. And even many of the “ripe” (positive) reviews say this, or variants:

  • If you’re already a fan of the first Avatar, you will welcome a return to the realm of Pandora. Those who were lukewarm or hostile to the original won’t find anything new enough to merit consideration. - Wesley Lovell, Cinema Site

  • Second time around, it feels as though Cameron was way too happy to simply rehash a number of story points ripped straight from the first Avatar, with minor cosmetic changes slapping on a fresh coat of paint that quickly turns stagnant - Scott Campbell, We Got This Covered

  • I’m not sure anyone cares about Jake Sully and his family as much as James Cameron thinks they do. - Brian Gill, Mad About Movies

And those are from the good reviews. (There are others, of course, truly rapturous.) I’m willing to say the effects are wonderous, and you can see the production dollars on the screen. That doesn’t excuse the flat acting or cliche’ storyline, and luckily for me, i don’t have to.

1 Like

It was a similar story with the original “Terminator.” I know what I like and so do a lot of other people.

Chacun a son gout.
Wendy

2 Likes

All I know is that the Terminator came back to kill Sarah Conor from 2029. So if we want the story to come true, we need to get working on Skynet NOW!

2 Likes

Rotten Tomatoes did not exist when it came out, however its rating today is 100%. FWIW, Roger Ebert gave it a thumbs up in 1984.

One of the things I find interesting is that with two such incredibly successful pictures at the box office there seems to be precious little residual or memory from them.

When Star Wars exploded off the screen everybody knew Hans Solo, Darth Vader, Princess Lea. With Frozen you couldn’t walk through a hardware store without seeing Elsa merchandise even after just one film. Titanic produced who? Right, Jack and Rose. I think most people would be hard pressed to name the hero - or the villain - or anyone by role name in either of the Avatar films. While I’m sure there is Avatar merchandising and toy figures, I have yet to see a single one, which is weird. George Lucas made his reputation with the movie but made his fortune with the Star Wars merchandising, yet I see almost nothing comparable from Avatar. As I say, that should be worth billions, no?

1 Like

Isn’t that was Musk is working on?

Steve

1 Like

I’m sure they will think of a way…but I don’t think the costumes will be making style statements in the real world since they are a rather scanty collection of fishnets and feathers. :wink:

Wendy

4 Likes