Probably still the most revered man in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg‘s opinions on films typically become big talking points. Already this year we’ve heard about his reaction to Paranormal Activity and Transformers 2, both of which he got rather excited about, and now he’s given his opinion on Avatar.
But before we get to that… let’s consider why we should even care.
One argument would be that Spielberg is a tremendously knowledgeable filmmaker who can make some incredibly informed and sophisticated assessments of movies based upon their craftsmanship, representations and context. Another one – and the one I’m going to put forward – is that Spielberg is somehow an incredible barometer of widespread public taste.
There’s a famous story about Star Wars that you may not have heard. George Lucas screened an early cut of the film for some of his fellow movie Brats, including Brian DePalma and Spielberg. When it was done, Lucas’ own wife apparently burst into tears and damned the film with “It’s the At Long Last Love of science-fiction. It’s awful”, though why she hadn’t realised this when editing the film I do not know. DePalma also leapt in and criticised the film heavily though was apparently more constructive and is reputed to have helped Lucas fix some elements up, including the now classic scroll of opening text. But only Spielberg claimed that Star Wars had the stuff. Indeed, he saw a smash hit. “That movie is going to make $100 million” he said.
And that’s why he’s running a studio these days.
So, did Spielberg have a similar reaction to Avatar?
Nikki Finke has published a new story on the box office prospects of Cameron’s epic, and included an aside about Spielberg’s soundbite review of the film after catching a screening.
The last time I came out of a movie feeling that way it was the first time I saw Star Wars.
And here’s another quote, worded differently and offered up by The Hollywood Reporter:
The most evocative and amazing science-fiction movie since Star Wars.
So he likes it, and he still likes Star Wars. I wonder what Marcia Lucas will make of Avatar?
There’s a similar naivety to Lucas’ film and Cameron’s, and a similar success in delivering big, broad-appeal ingredients cooked up with cutting edge razzmatazz. I think Avatar is the better film, when all is said and done, but at the same know it can’t have the same effect on the industry, not now that huge shift towards FX-powered fairy tales has already happened.