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Avatar: the film history forgot


This morning I woke up, straight, drenched in sweat from a nameless, unhinged nightmare.

This morning, I remembered that the movie Avatar existed.

“Avatar,” I whispered to myself. “Do you remember Avatar?” The movie about the… blue stuff?

Unobtanium…floating mountains…Sam Worthington to headline Hollywood…

Hair sex.

Wait, hair sex?

My long-rooted memories were dislodged, most likely, by the news that the long-in-the-making sequel to Avatar finally has a name: Avatar: The Way of the Water.

As part of this announcement, a remastered re-release of the original Avatar was also announced. A planned reissue, I suspect, on the counter of the collective Avatar brain wipe. To remind people that Avatar was a thing that existed.

Because Avatar is the history of cinema forgotten.

Do you remember Avatar?

If a wayward volcano decided to violently erupt – Pompeii-style – blanketing my entire suburb in lava, future historians, I bet, would be able to piece together 21st century culture almost perfectly using the things lying around my house. .


Do you remember when Sam Worthington was a protagonist in Hollywood?


An Indiana Jones toy whip. When you hold down a button, it plays John Williams’ iconic score. When you do a whipping motion, it generates an amazing whipping sound. The best toy ever.

An Iron Man suit. Not one real Costume Iron Man, as a disguise, for children. I should know, I tried (and failed) to wear the thing multiple times.

Star Wars stuff. So much Star Wars stuff: books, Lego, Blu-ray, posters, toys.

But historians, after spending months digging through the dust and the DVDs I refused to throw away, will find nothing in my house to confirm that Avatar existed, or had any cultural impact on this strange race. bi-pedal that was collecting pogs for some reason.

It’s crazy. How does a movie that so many people paid to watch have such a small imprint on our collective culture?

Scrolling through the list of top performers at the box office, even the most casual movie fan can make connections. Think Titanic, think of Celine and hot sex in a car. Star Wars is star wars. Avengers is the New Star Wars.

Adjust for inflation and the connections are even stronger. carried away by the wind » and « frankly my darling I don’t give a fuck ». HEY, The sound of music. These films reverberate through history in ways we can never eliminate.

In such a powerful list, Avatar looks like a drunken one-night stand.

Was Avatar a bad movie? I do not think so. Avatar was a strange post-colonial Pocahontas you could accuse of being mildly racist – but that was almost too dumb to be racist in a really damaging sense. It was a cinematic experience elevated by a heroic commitment to world-building and aesthetics, but brought down to earth with clunky dialogue and a wooden performance by Sam Worthington.

But none of that stopped Star Wars from inspiring a broad sense of wonder and possibility in an entire generation of children (and adults). My kids dress up as Avengers every fucking day. My eldest still swings around a toy lightsaber. The idea that one of my children could dress up as a blue Avatar (what do you call them…Na’vi?) is insane.

Why did Avatar scoop up all that dough, but retain no cultural cachet?

It may be because somehow sucked. Mediocre movies can make money… Aquaman banked nearly $1.2 billion — but the average movie rarely hits that $2 billion mark without word of mouth and repeat viewings. A film almost has to become a cultural event to reap that kind of bread.

And that’s almost certainly the key here, the reason Avatar made so much money but lurks in the shadows like some weird uncle crouching in the attic of our subconscious is that Avatar wasn’t a cultural event, it was technology event.

Unlike most box office top 10 films, Avatar was not a sweeping epic entry to a story we’re invested in. It’s not an epic conclusion to a brilliantly executed cinematic universe.

Avatar was about attaching a pair of 3D glasses to your face to see what it was. The film was almost secondary. It wasn’t meant to be forgettable, but it was forgettable nonetheless.

3D. Do you remember 3D? You may not remember Avatar, but you definitely remember 3D.

Don’t forget to pay extra to put on dark glasses and remove the vomit on the films that had 3D, but of course they weren’t designed from the ground up to work in 3D. Remember those TVs that came with a pair of glasses so you could watch the World Cup in 3D, but your friends couldn’t?

Do you remember the 3DS?

Do you remember the 3D Blu-rays that nobody bought?

What a strange time.

The Trojan horse

It’s funny, in an article on Avatar, it took me 700 words to quote its director.

James Cameron is undoubtedly one of the most successful directors in Hollywood history. Terminator 2 and aliens are two of the greatest action movies ever made, Titanic was a smash hit. But Cameron’s movies tend to be inseparable from the technology he pioneered to make them possible. No one has used cinema to push the boundaries of technology quite like James Cameron.

But none of Cameron’s films are tied to their technology like Avatar.

3D. It has completely disappeared from television and is a walking envelope in cinemas. An interesting gadget in its day, now universally hated, when you think of Avatar you think of 3D glasses and try something because it was weird and worth doing once – like a roller coaster ride or virtual reality.

This is why we forget Avatar. We remember 3D, the Trojan horse on which she arrived.

Now, when news of Avatar and its potential sequels hit the internet, I rub my eyes in weary disbelief. Does this film… exist? It happened?

Now Avatar is like a Furby or a Tamagotchi. It is a warning. A permanent reminder that humanity, as a species, has the potential to go completely and collectively insane.