James Cameron's Avatar

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Films and Television' started by The2ndQuest, Jan 8, 2007.

  1. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    Yeah, I was surprised that it won for Best Drama too- ignoring that it's not Cameron's best film , I thought the most it would get would be Best Director (since there are few beings on this planet who could have ever pulled off Avatar so successfully).

    I do get the vibe that it was at least partially a play to appeal to audiences of more popular fare (and I also agree that TDK was a more deserving candidate for that role), though I can somewhat see how the new cinematic experience angle could have also played a role.


    Anyways, the box office continues to be insane for the movie- 42.8 3-day weekend/54.6 4-day weekend estimates. It now stands at 505 million domestic, 1.62 billion worldwide.

    The related milestones include:

    -Biggst MLK opening weekend (topping Cloverfield)
    -Highest grossing 5th weekend
    -5th weekend at #1 (first film to do that in over 10 years, with the last being The Sixth Sense [and, as a sidenote- holy crap on a stick, is The Sixth Sense really over 10 years old? Geez!])
    -Fastest domestic film to cross $500 million (32 days vs 45 for TDK and 98 (50, adjusted for inflation) for Titanic)
  2. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6

    I'm coming to believe that backlash against Avatar is in part exactly that - backlash for the sake of backlash. I believe Avatar deserved the Golden Globe for Best Picture, and not simply for the accomplishment of the special effects.

    Avatar doesn't tell a particularly complex story. It doesn't tell a story where many characters have room to allow their actors to deliver Award-Bait performances. It doesn't tell a new or original story. What it does is tell its story very, very well. Whether a person likes the story or not - I personally still dislike the White Man's Burden/Guilt plot - the story is told with an extraordinary amount of skill. Not just in the effects. All the effects in world don't bring what will be over 2 billion dollars worth of business when all is said and done. If effects were everything, Transformers 2 would be past Titanic as well.

    Avatar isn't trying to tell a story with the complexity or depth of the Godfather, or a Clockwork Orange, or Chinatown, or the Departed, etc. It's trying to tell a simple, universal story. Titanic did the same thing. So did Star Wars. It tells its simple, universally understandable story very, very well. It has tragedy, comedy, wonder, action, triumph, romance, and a happy ending. The movie is essentially unassailable for its visual effects, so the plot and characters get more criticism than they deserve.

    As I said: if all the movie had was visual effects, it wouldn't be the box office monster it is.
  3. Jedimarine Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 13, 2001
    star 5
    Except for 3 things which all relate to it's box office, which seems to be your measure of merit:

    1. The reason for the inflated box office is not because of mass attendance, but because of higher ticket prices to view the film in IMAX 3-D. (Which is specifically an attraction for the special effects). Theaters have seen dramatic splits between shows with the IMAX and shows in conventional release. People are driving to higher cost theaters to see the film in the new format. The lure has nothing to do with a simple story...nor was Titanic.

    2. Much like Titanic, however, there is a very dedicated "fan" audience. Repeat viewer ship is extremely high. Repeat attendees often bring a few first time viewers with them...the "I saw it, it's awesome, let's go it see...I'll watch it again!" phenomena. But, where Titanic was teen girls, Avatar is proving to be a little more gender neutral, but still teen audience heavy.

    3. While Avatar has proven to be the box office giant, the competition at the theater has been generally weak. When Sixth Sense went on it's insane run years ago, I worked at a theater...it wasn't because the movie was doing so well...in fact we dumped it, only to get it back because the rest of the films were so terribly weak in that late summer/fall 1999. Similarly, before that, Titanic, though not always number 1, hung on in theaters for nearly 6 months, from Christmas 97 right into summer of 1998.

    Now, one could certainly argue that no one wants to go up against James Cameron's big budget monoliths...I certainly expected a dip in launch titles against it...people remember Titanic...and this movie was BIGGER...it makes sense.

    But there also has been a serious delay on many projects in production or post, due to the economic climate. Movies like Toy Story 3 and Harry Potter originally tracked to be out this Christmas, but Toy Story ran into post production slow downs (consequently lost it's release date to the pathetically under-performing "Princess and the Frog"...and Harry Potter got split up to milk the cow twice).

    ----

    Moneymaking = Quality aside...

    I wasn't decrying Avatar as trash...it's not a Transformer movie (which is good, because major releases in the Holiday season tend to be a touch better about being more general audience friendly then some the more obvious offerings of the summer season.)

    What I was pointing out was how movies like "Crazy Heart", "The Blind Side" and "Precious" took the performance awards away, and the film awards were given to projects where, as you said, characters didn't have roles to "award-bait".

    My thoughts are just as focused on "The Hangover" winning as "Avatar" and I thought that movie was hysterical.

    Just because you do one thing really REALLY well, doesn't mean it's the best thing out there. The Hangover hit it's audience square on...I was quoting that movie most of the summer.

    But does that make it the best film?

    It's the same problem with the movies the Globes usually pick...the pretentious films that probably do one thing REALLY well, that the voters see, and it leaves most people scratching their heads...only this time, they picked films that had "buzz"...that had some viewership...but it seems like that's the "one thing" they did well they are using.

    I was actually shocked...I had seen 4 of the 5 nominees for drama this year (only 1, "The Hangover", in comedy)...it's unusual...VERY unusual...unheard of, unusual that so many films on their nominee list even make it to wide release, let alone be a broad enough appeal for me to check them out (I like to think I'm open-minded about movies, but I know I'm not as much as I'd like to think).

    I thought "The Hurt Locker" had the visceral impact that usually wins these things, along with some surprising performances from actors usually absent from "serious role" contemplation. Not my choice, but my expectation.

    I would've gone with "Up in the Air"...but I think there is "Clooney-proofing" to avoid his stage rambles, which hurts everyone else involved.

    ---

    In the end, I smell a very similar
  4. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    The IMAX situation versus widepanel TVs isn't that big an issue- 99% of the IMAX screens out there are of the smaller "liemax" size, which are still widescreen (compared to true IMAX, which is more square).

    Besides, Cameron is used to shooting that way- he shot Titanic on Super 35, which benefited pan and scan VHS releases with more info on the top and bottom of the screen and less lost on the sides that traditional pan and scan efforts.\


    Also, I don't think the 3D ticket prices are as big a factor at this point. Most theaters charge $3-4 extra for 3D films, or about %30 more. A 2 billion dollar film still makes 1.4 billion when you factor out that.

    And the competition hasn't been that weak- it had to take on Sherlock Holmes, which has also continued to do well, as well as Daybreakers, which did ok, and now, The Book of Eli and The Lovely Bones, both of which had a very good opening. Not to mention the Chipmunks being major competition for the family and kid demographics and It's Complicated hitting older audiences decently.

    I mean, even factoring out a couple of those, and Avatar has had at the very least decent competition for this time of year each week it's been out following it's opening weekend.
  5. Jedimarine Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 13, 2001
    star 5
    Yes, and you can also look to the economy...every article on the industry right now is talking about a resurgent "golden age" because people are flocking back to the theaters (although they are quick to point out without the success of Avatar and New Moon, it would've been a down year).

    Why, in a world where the home theater has become practically a staple of home need, have people rushed back to the house of sticky floors...confuses me. But I'm wandering here.

    There are plenty of reasons for the success of Avatar...you can't deny the numbers.

    But.

    That has never been the measure by which these awards have been earned...on the contrary, past records would insinuate a bias to avoid even nominating a movie the masses embraced.

    And while Avatar was cool...it's not overly artistic beyond it's technical merits...it's acting, as has been said, is VERY reminiscent of other Cameron movies...usually not the stuff of triumphant theater craft. The film has reached people as a spectacle...perhaps the most successful ever...but it is a spectacle...it is style over substance...as a buddy told me...you could watch it with the dialog omitted and get the whole thing.

    And to this, the often snobby foreign press, the guilds, the academy...will toss their laurels of integrity?

    I wonder myself if this isn't a reward for Cameron by an industry desperate for more success like this. As I said, even though revenues are up...most of that positive is wrapped up in the biggest blockbusters of 2009...average film revenues aren't hot. They need more Camerons...more (I'm gonna be sick) Michael Bays...even more Neill Blomkamps (he did "District 9").

    A very positive note from this...I believe...is that sci-fi is coming back in a BIG way real soon...escapism is "in" again.

    But if these supposedly "aware" blocks of "insiders" are going to crown films, just for the potential of drawing viewership for their award ceremonies (and the Globes were up 14% this year)...it's just as lost as when they toasted indy projects that screened in 5 theaters and was the talk of this film festival or that one...they missed the point again.
  6. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    Oh, I wouldn't defend the film's awards based on box office alone (as you point out, it's rare that success is a reflection of quality), just that at this point the 3D surcharge isn't really a valid factor for "it's not the success you think it is" type arguments.

    Communal experience to enhance the emotional impact and enjoyment of the film, environment free of major distractions (dog, other tasks, phones, neighbors, etc) leaving only some annoying-but-usually-ignorable-ones (the occasional jackass who won't shut up, the rare cellphone some idiot didn't turn off), lacking ability to pause a presentation and interrupt the emotional momentum of a scene/story, etc. It makes even the most casual viewer, who might otherwise fall asleep or be distracted, pay attention.

    I'd disagree there- Cameron is usually quite good at forcing-er...getting a good performance out an actor. Aliens, The Abyss, T2 and Titanic all had some very good performances in them. Yes, you have the occasional Billy Zane character, but you can't deny the Signourney Weavers, Ed Harris's, etc.
  7. anakin2lordvader Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 13, 2003
    I was so excited after seeing Avatar that I wanted to write a short article about it. After much deliberation I thought Id write about how it is connected to my favorite movie, Star Wars!
    Heres a small excerpt:
    "The main story, of course, is usually criticized for being unoriginal. A spy is sent to infiltrate the enemy. The spy falls in love with their culture and usually a female, too. He then switches sides. (Ex: Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai )
    Some people had problems with a messiah scenario, but this is in fact it?s strongest connection to Star Wars. A savior is what is at the very heart of the Star Wars saga. Anakin bringing balance to the force through his ultimate redemption. Neo from The Matrix trilogy is another messianic figure that helps to bring harmony between two opposing forces. Of course, Avatar does have many other similarities to Star Wars."

    here is a link to the whole article : http://www.thebrotherscain.com/Entertainment/Entries/2010/1/17_Day_of_longboarding.html


    if your a Star Wars fan u might enjoy it! =)
  8. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that the All-Time Box Office records actually do say something very important about the quality of a film. They say that a film has an appeal that some combination occurs of a) the movie transends normal market niches, b) the movie is good enough for many people to see multiple times in theatres, c) generate enough positive word of mouth that it creates a self-reinforcing cycle of bringing people in. In order to do those things, a movie has to be good. It doesn't have to be able to appeal to all people equally. It might not even appear as very many peoples' #1 film if they were to list the best movies ever in their opinion. But the vast majority of people asked would say its very, very good.

    Take a look at the all-time domestic box office, adjusted for inflation.

    1) Gone with the Wind
    2) Star Wars
    3) The Sound of Music
    4) E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
    5) The Ten Commandments
    6) Titanic
    7) Jaws
    8) Doctor Zhivago
    9) The Exorcist
    10) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
    11) 101 Dalmatians
    12) The Empire Strikes Back
    13) Ben-Hur
    14) Return of the Jedi
    15) The Sting
    16) Raiders of the Lost Ark
    17) Jurassic Park
    18) The Graduate
    19) Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
    20) Fantasia
    21) The Godfather
    22) Forrest Gump
    23) Mary Poppins
    24) The Lion King
    25) Grease
    26) Thunderball
    27) The Dark Knight
    28) The Jungle Book
    29) Sleeping Beauty
    30) Avatar

    Point out the bad films on that list. TPM, probably. I think that that film is underrated and unfairly mauled by critics, but I think that it still ended up making more money off of the Star Wars name than on its own merits. Thunderball isn't even the best James Bond film, and its freakishly high. The others? While the specific merits can be argued, many of those also appear on AFI's list of the best movies ever - and other can make good arguments. None of the movies on the list is a Transformers 2 or 2012.

    In the long term and on average, people have good taste. Bad movies don't make as much money as good movies, no matter how great the effects are and no matter how well advertised. Avatar has done a better job of entertaining people than the vast majority of movies ever made.
  9. Sniper_Wolf Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 26, 2002
    star 4
    Raven, there is not an international consortium sitting around a table plotting new and ingenious ways to desecrate James Cameron's legacy. You and the super-majority insist the film is excellent; a small minority and I insist the film's conclusion was inane. That said, I am not losing any sleep over it.

    The entire belief that there is a deliberate and focused smear campaign is nonsense. People need to take their cake and move on. Besides, Cameron does not give a damn what a few posters on a board are pontificating about.
  10. ezekiel22x Force Ghost

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    Aug 9, 2002
    star 4
    Yeah, to me Avatar was on the same level as Pitch Black or Alien Resurrection: something I was able to watch and enjoy with a few reservations, but overall not something that I'd rank as a premiere example of SF/F film.
  11. Raven Administrator Emeritus

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    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    Where in Gods name are you coming from? What's wrong with arguing for the quality of a film? Take off your tinfoil hat, please. o_O
  12. DBrennan3333 Jedi Youngling

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    Nov 5, 2004
    star 4
    Regarding Avatar's box office, I just wanted to quickly say that the "adjusted for inflation" list - while useful - is hardly sacrosanct in its own right. First off, before VHS, most popular movies were routinely re-released every few years. For instance, Star Wars has had at least three releases (I think more than that, actually). And the 1997 re-releases (which, it could be argued, was a different movie, as it had substantially new visuals and scenes) added a whopping $130m to its gross. And yet, on the adjusted for inflation lists, those $8 1997 tickets are actually counted as $4 1977 tickets.

    I've always thought that the most honest way to judge a movie's popularity via box office (which is not definitive in and of itself, as movies like The Shawshank Redemption, Office Space, Braveheart, etc. prove) is the same way that serious baseball statisticians compare baseball players: you compare them to their contemporaries who were operating in the same market conditions.

    For instance, you can't compare Albert Pujols (a contemporary hitter) to Andre Dawson (1980's) raw statistics (home run totals, for example) because their environments are totally different: ballparks are now different sizes, the strike zone has changed, there is now more competition from immigrant players, etc., etc., etc. Therefore, the best statisticians find ways of determining how many runs and/or wins a player was worth to his team in any given year. (Examples include "Win Shares" and "VORP".)

    A simple (but hardly definitive) way to apply this idea to box office totals would be, for instance, to see where a movie compared to all the movies released within five years of when it came out - two years before and two years after. You can then take that number to determine its market dominance, and then compare the market dominance to movies from other generations.

    Anyway! The point is is that box office - whether adjusting for inflation, adjusting for 3D ticket prices, etc. - is rarely as simple as the mainstream media reports.

    But let me say this: both Avatar and Titanic weren't just the #1 movies of their time....they were/are the #1 movies by massive margins. They utterly and completely annihilated the movies that were closest to them. Avatar could easily end up with $800m+ here in the U.S. and $3b globally. People can nitpick and criticize, but that is just a jaw-dropping achievement....blowing past their contemporaries by margins that are probably unprecedented in movie history.
  13. DRush76 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2008
    star 4
    It's nothing short of the greatest sci-fil/fantasy film of all time. The rumors are true. It's better than Star Wars.


    I don't think so. AVATAR is beautiful to look at. But it has a solid story that also struck me as very unoriginal. The story almost seemed like a blatant rip-off of DANCES WITH WOLVES. Now, I realize that many science-fiction and fantasy sagas tend to borrow from others. But Cameron has managed to achieve great heights when it comes to borrowing plots from other sources. He tends to be more thorough in his plagerism than any other movie maker I have ever come across. Not only did AVATAR struck me as a blatant rip-off of another movie, I believe that TITANIC and TERMINATOR are guilty of the same. Even the fate of his hero, Jake Sully (or whatever his last name is), strongly reminded me of the fate of one of the BABYLON 5 heroes, Jeffrey Sinclair.

    Yes, it's one of the better movies of 2009. But I've seen better and more original movies. At least story wise.


    Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that the All-Time Box Office records actually do say something very important about the quality of a film.

    I don't. I believe that an opinion on the quality of a film is subjective. I don't care if 99.9% of the world's population thought a certain movie was superb. It all depends upon my opinion. At least to me. If I don't agree with the prevailing view, then I don't. One could say the same about the opinion of just about every individual on the planet. It's simply subjective.


    I'd disagree there- Cameron is usually quite good at forcing-er...getting a good performance out an actor. Aliens, The Abyss, T2 and Titanic all had some very good performances in them. Yes, you have the occasional Billy Zane character, but you can't deny the Signourney Weavers, Ed Harris's, etc.

    I suspect that it depends upon the actor/actress and not the director. At least in Cameron's case.
  14. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    Apparently Cameron seriously considered casting Michael Biehn as the colonel in Avatar and having him scarred and unnamed implying that he's actually Corporal Hicks from Aliens and Alien 3 never happened (a lot of the technology etc in Avatar is reminiscent of the Colonial Marines in Aliens whilst Michelle Rodrigeuz's character is a dead ringer for Vasquez). In the end he decided against it because him and Sigourney in the same movie would be too much for most people to buy. Shame!
  15. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

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    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    Biehn as the colonel in Avatar? Would have been awesome.

    Turning the heroic Hicks into the villainous colonel? Hell no.

    Now, what would have been awesome is if they'd made Giovanni Ribisi's character the same character Paul Reiser played in Aliens, retroactively making Avatar an Aliens prequel. They're already the exact same in everything but name, anyway.
  16. ezekiel22x Force Ghost

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    Aug 9, 2002
    star 4
    Yeah, Hicks was a well-conceived and executed character, while the Avatar Colonial was a caricature. Glad that didn't happen if it's true Cameron actually considered inserting Hicks into Avatar.

    Besides, in my mind Alien and Blade Runner take place in the same universe, so Avatar needs to find another film to spiritually link up with.
  17. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    I think if the colonel had been Hicks he would have been written a lot more sympathetically (and survive) whilst the company man would have been a lot more villainous
  18. DRush76 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2008
    star 4
    Apparently Cameron seriously considered casting Michael Biehn as the colonel in Avatar and having him scarred and unnamed implying that he's actually Corporal Hicks from Aliens and Alien 3 never happened (a lot of the technology etc in Avatar is reminiscent of the Colonial Marines in Aliens whilst Michelle Rodrigeuz's character is a dead ringer for Vasquez). In the end he decided against it because him and Sigourney in the same movie would be too much for most people to buy. Shame!


    Thank God that didn't happen. I would have found it unecessary. Granted, Stephen Lang's character could have been more complex; I don't think it was necessary for Michael Biehn to rehash his "ALIENS" character in order to make that particular role "complex". Cameron simply could have written Lang's character in a more ambiguous manner. But he didn't.
  19. LawJedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 11, 2009
    star 4
    People are forgeting that Biehn played a very unsympathetic military goon in Abyss.

    I think Ripley yelling at Hicks would have been way too distracting.
  20. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    Aug 28, 2009
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    Actually my problem with The Abyss was that I preferred the Seals to the rig crew whom I thought were an unlikeable lot aside from Bud and Lindsey
  21. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    Most of the rig crew were likable enough- though Cameron was obviously leveraging his pre-film background with their trucker personalities. The SEALs were fine by themselves, except they were handicapped by having to do what Coffey told them to do, and he was a confrontational, paranoid individual suffering from pressure sickness. Once he was dead they were fine.
  22. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    They often spoke of the crew in Alien as 'truckers in space' but they didn't come across like that, Sigourney, John Hurt etc far too classy. The crew in The Abyss did come across like that and weren't too appealing.

    Coffey's not a bad guy, he has a mission, a different agenda and is suffering from pressure sickness. His gag with the sellotape and Lindsey was hilarious, made you realise he's not an out and out bad guy. I think the scene between him and Lindsey as he slips into the Abyss was to show his humanity

  23. DBrennan3333 Jedi Youngling

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    Nov 5, 2004
    star 4
    I guess this is just more evidence that opinions about movies are just, ya know....opinions. Because I (a) loved the characters from The Abyss - when I was a teen, I wanted to be Bud Brigman. I thought that I was going to grow up and lead a bunch of good working-class folk on a challenging endeavor, too. (Didn't work out that way, but whatever.) (B) I thought that the Navy SEAL's were, ya know, evil scumbags (with the exception of Monk, obviously). It's funny, 'cause there is absolutely no....way....whatsoever that The Abyss would be allowed to be made today with its (now) completely politically incorrect portrayal of the military. Watching it a few months ago, it felt so quaint, like watching Disney's Peter Pan (and its portrayal of Native Americans), and you just think, "People used to be allowed to say this stuff? Really?" (C) That movie engendered in me the quasi-religious ethereal sense that previous generations explain getting from Close Encounters, Star Wars, and E.T. For me, The Abyss was a movie that just created a uniquely science fiction sense of wonder, so, to the extent that you can "love" a movie, I'll always love The Abyss.
  24. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    I think The Abyss's portrayal of the military could still be done today- so long as the film was still set during the cold war, which is the key element to the views and characters presented (as well as the ending of the SE). Without a superpower "them" for Coffey to fear/hate, the paralall to the NTI's is lost, and given the setting, it's not really that applicable to the closest current socio-political analogs (we're not worried about Iranian subs or deep-sea Al-Queda ;) ).
  25. DBrennan3333 Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Nov 5, 2004
    star 4
    Hey, Americans believed that the vaunted North Vietnamese "navy" attacked a Naval aircraft carrier, so I'm sure that most Americans would believe that some goat herder in Afghanistan is swimming down and stealing MIRV warheads from submarine silos. I think it's pretty clear that, when it comes to Arabs, Americans will believe just about anything the government orders them to.

    But I disagree with you entirely that that portrayal of the military would be allowed. It's been well documented that the Department of Homeland Security, DEA, FBI, etc., etc., etc. have pretty powerful offices in Hollywood. That's why Transfomers 2 was subsidized by $30m in taxpayer dollars to make it pro-war and pro-military, and that's why EVERY show that I see on television shows cops, prosecutors, and the military as morosely masculine heroes. I mean....every military guy in the movies now are these tragic, stoic heroes. At worst, they're misunderstood anti-heroes. That's just the way it goes. They're the most sacred of sacred cows, far surpassing politically correct portrayals of blacks or Indians or whatever. (And, for the record, Cameron dramatically had to temper the portrayal of the military in Avatar to appease people - DRAMATICALLY temper it. 'Course, people still complained. But nobody complained about The Abyss in '89.)

    However, we'd obviously have to go into an alternate universe to know this for sure. So, ultimately, this is kind of speculative. But, no, I don't think anybody can convince me that The Abyss could be made today. There's just no way.