The Great Unobtainium Robbery

From an L.A. Times report on the Avatar phenomenon:

There have been breathless reports that “Avatar” is so vivid and so powerful that moviegoers walk out feeling let down by the gray world here on boring old Terra. “Movie-goers feel depressed and even suicidal at not being able to visit utopian alien planet” may sound like a headline from The Onion but, nope, there it was in the Daily Mail of London and, a day earlier, on CNN, which quoted a forum post by someone named Mike who glumly said that the majesty of the movie has left him feeling, um, blue. “I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in ‘Avatar.’”

Audiences overreacting — and a high degree of realism — to a groundbreaking new movie technology? Where have I heard this before? Oh wait:

Besides the breakthrough story-telling feature, another reason audiences liked “The Great Train Robbery” was because of the shooting scene at the end of the film. In this last scene, actor George Barnes plays a bandit who takes his gun, points it directly at the camera and shoots it. This movie scene has now become famous.

When people in the audience saw Barnes point his gun directly at them, they ducked and screamed. They had never seen anything like this before and their natural reaction was to duck.

I didn’t think much of Avatar as a movie — Cameron could’ve told the same story with ten times the kick if he’d actually developed the conflict into something more than a cartoon rivalry — but I was deeply impressed by the film’s 3D technology. Something tells me, though, that a few decades from now, we’ll look back on Avatar‘s CGI gimmicry and react roughly the same as we now do to this: