>Since everyone else is talking about James Cameron’s forthcoming film, I don’t see why I shouldn’t. Along with the rest of the wired world, I watched the HD teaser trailer for Avatar yesterday. Judging by this morning’s reports, it’s enjoyed a mixed reception. Astonishing how a simple movie trailer can generate so much heated debate. Time to remember John Brosnan’s old Starburst column and tell ourselves, ‘It’s only a movie.’
But it isn’t, is it? It’s a Cameron movie. It’s a Cameron science-fiction movie. Which does make it rather special. I’ll nail up my colours right away and tell you I’m a huge Cameron fan. It was the window display in Tower Records that started it.
Picture the scene. I’m a scruffy art student schlepping through London’s West End. My favourite film is Ridley Scott’s Alien. I know someone’s made a sequel, and Scott’s not involved. The guy who’s made it has got something to do with Rambo. The new movie’s all about big guns and explosions. No way am I going to see it. As I pass the front of Tower Records on Piccadilly Circus, I stop in my tracks. There’s a big model of a spaceship in the window. It’s called the Sulaco. It looks pretty cool. There’s a big gun. Actually, that looks pretty cool too. And there’s something else. A gigantic alien … thing. Sort of like the head of the alien from Scott’s movie, but … pumped up. Really pumped up. It’s what my daughter would call mahoosive. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d just got my first view of Cameron’s queen.
So I go to see the movie. I’m still sceptical. It kicks off okay, but then the marines start doing their macho thing and I start to worry. Oh dear, I think – here comes Rambo. Then the movie turns. It turns on one shot: the one where Hudson informs everyone they’re on an express elevator to hell and the dropship leaves the Sulaco and plummets towards the planet. You know the shot. After that I’m hooked. Not because the movie looks cool – which it does – or Sigourney looks great – which she does – but because the story and characters take over. And that’s Cameron’s real gift. He delivers spectacle and coolness and eye candy, sure, but first and foremost he’s a storyteller. A damn fine one.
So does Avatar cut the mustard? How do I know? I only saw a two-minute tease. But I do think the story sounds clean and engaging and the trailer does what all good trailers should: it makes me hungry to see the movie. And I just love the art direction. Some folk are carping about blue aliens and fairy lights, but what I see is a world that reminds me of all the science fiction book covers I grew up with. Dazzling art by Peter Jones and Chris Foss and Frank Frazetta. I blogged recently about A Princess of Mars, and it strikes me there’s something of Edgar Rice Burroughs here. A truly alien world that starts off jolting you with its strangeness and ends up drawing you in. That’s something I trust Cameron to do: draw me in.
I see Avatar’s got big guns and explosions too. But I’ve mellowed over the years so, Jim, if you’re reading this, leave them in. Just for me.