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Avatar, the 3D mega-project from James Cameron, was the subject of a profile in Time Magazine which, among a variety of other things about 3D cinema and its potential as the future of moviemaking, noting that Avatar’s budget has now soared beyond the $300m mark, likely making it the most expensive movie ever made.

Avatar has been a pet project of Cameron for a long time but I’m still a little wary of this potentially being the biggest flop in movie history.

I’m not fully convinced about 3D yet, especially given the inability of the majority of filmmakers who utilise the medium to eschew the use of gimmicks and tricks to show off the technology, rather than just making a great story. It’s a similar dichotomy to the one which exists in the relationship between Pixar and DreamWorks CGI animation. That did eventually turn around with Kung Fu Panda managing to tell a simple, non-pop-culture-referencing story from the DreamWorks studio which, while only matching the lesser works of Pixar, was still a hoot.

I have no doubt that films like Coraline will help to bring 3D into a more sophisticated balance with the basics of traditional storytelling, and perhaps Avatar will manage to do this to an even greater degree. But surely the infrastructure is not quite there yet to provide Avatar with the kind of space to make back $300m. Not enough 3D cinemas exist and, as I have been told from the past year, seeing 3D films outside of specialist exhibition houses can prove a migraine-inducing chore. It’s also, lest we forget, a science fiction film, and a wildly ambitious one at that. Cinema-goers may well be able to remember that this man brought them Titanic, but I’m not sure Cameron has the kind of commercial juice he’s going to need to make this one a giant hit and get the average cinema-goer to put down their prejudices and misgivings over certain genres.

I suppose that raises a question of whether it needs to be a hit. Avatar will, if nothing else, drive forward the development of new technology in the exhibition of movies and could well be among the most startling visual experiences viewers will ever have. But that doesn’t always mean box-office dollars and studios will rarely finance movies of similar ambition and ilk if the money didn’t role in the first time round. If Avatar fails, it could be a disaster for the filmmakers of the world who are seeking to further push the boundaries.

If not though, and from the descriptions given in the Time piece, this may well be among the most incredible filmic experience any of us ever undertake.

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