The Power of Hype

Jonathan Last is trying to make me even more excited to see Avatar. What a cruel, cruel man. He reports:

A friend sent me a 63-page “scriptment” for James Cameron’s forthcoming Avatar. I’d heard about the project beforehand but had no idea what the story was actually about. Turns out, it’s Last of the Mohicans meets Apocalypto meets the Battle of Endor, meets an Earth Liberation Front Recruiting video. With dashes of Jurassic Park and The Matrix thrown in for spice. Crazy, crazy stuff.

Kind of awesome, too.

I wish I were immune to hype. Really I do. It would be easier to be jaded, to not look forward to things, to clear my mind of hope for the possibility that something with promise might actually be just as memorable and amazing as I imagine it to be. It’s true that certain types of hype certainly exert a weaker pull on my tender fanboy longings than they used to (no amount of exclamation points and references to hallowed works of geekery can get me excited about a Harry Knowles review, for example). But real hype — the kind that’s just plausible enough to be believable, the kind that’s confirmed by a handful of probably reliable independent sources, the kind that seems like, given what you know, just might be true — I buy it almost every time.

And Avatar‘s tantalizing hype is making a sucker of me with just about everything I read about it. Not only is James Cameron one of maybe two filmmakers (along with Spielberg) whom I might actually believe capable of revolutionizing filmmaking (again!), the word on Avatar and the 3D process Cameron is using to make it just hasn’t ceased to be anything but amazing. The one report we have from someone who’s seen a lengthy 3D clip reads like a missive from inside a dream.

…I couldn’t tell what was real and what was animated—even knowing that the 9-ft.-tall blue, dappled dude couldn’t possibly be real. The scenes were so startling and absorbing that the following morning, I had the peculiar sensation of wanting to return there, as if Pandora were real.

Cameron wasn’t surprised. One theory, he says, is that 3-D viewing “is so close to a real experience that it actually triggers memory creation in a way that 2-D viewing doesn’t.” His own theory is that stereoscopic viewing uses more neurons.

I wish I could tell you that I read stuff like that at a remove, with a skeptical Spock-eyebrow raised and my arms crossed and tiny snicker of disbelief at the end of every one of those gushing, too-good-to-be-true sentences. But try as I might, even knowing, as I do, that I only really like perhaps 30% of the movies I see, I still can’t manage to fend off giddy hope. No, rather than read it and sneer, I read it and think, Please, James Cameron, take my neurons. All of them, if you can! Take them and confuse them! Lie to them! Make them believe in your dreamy blue impossibles! Odds are he won’t. But that’s probably why I hope so much he will.