Tim Walker: 'Studios hope that Avatar will herald a new age of 3D cinema. I'm not so sure'

The Couch Surfer

Why would 500 people pile into a cinema at 10 in the morning to watch 15 minutes of a film that won't actually be released for another four months? Because that film is Avatar, James Cameron's long-awaited return from non-fiction filmmaking to Hollywood. And because this was "Avatar Day", obviously. Duh.

A week ago, film lovers (including this one) flocked to hundreds of cinemas worldwide to see footage from Cameron's new sci-fi extravaganza, which was filmed using 3D technology developed by the director himself, and will – if its makers are to be believed – alter the way we see movies forever.

In 3D, at the vast BFI IMAX cinema, the footage certainly looked more spectacular than the flat, two-minute trailer that's online now. Some of the visuals are breathtaking, and I dare say Avatar is less likely to disappoint fans than The Phantom Menace, for example. That said, the plot looks more Titanic than Terminator. In fact, it looks like Aliens-meets-Born on the Fourth of July-meets-Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.

Jake Sully, a wheelchair-bound former marine played by Sam Worthington, travels to Pandora – an untouched tropical planet being colonised by Earthlings, who've found a way to control the bodies of the native "Na'vi" humanoids with their minds. Jake, in control of one of these avatars' lanky blue frames, falls in with the locals and joins their resistance against the planet's human occupation.

The studios hope that Avatar's release will herald a new age of 3D cinema. For animation, or for spectacle-laden blockbusters, maybe. And in Cameron's film, 3D seems to have a narrative, as well as a visual, function: Avatar seeks to introduce us to a whole new world, and to immerse us in it – just as Jake finds himself enveloped in the body of his Na'vi host.

But 3D is a revolution that the film industry has wrongly predicted before. I can't see it improving other genres, like romcoms or ensemble dramas. I can, on the other hand, see it becoming another way for Hollywood to polish turd-like scripts. It won't stop people staying home to download pirated films; and asking audiences to pay extra for the loan of a pair of plastic glasses isn't entirely on.

Newspapers have published reviews and star ratings for the 15 minutes of Cameron's footage we saw, as they would for any full-length film, so essentially pointless events like "Avatar Day" are an effective new weapon in the armoury of the studio marketeer. In this, at least, the film has broken new ground. But will Avatar really change the movies – or just the way they're hyped?

I recently came into possession of a brand new Sony Reader, the Japanese brand's electronic book-reading device. I'm very fond of paper, as you might imagine, but I expect I shall grow to love the thing, despite the dispiriting selection of e-books currently available – and the utterly labyrinthine process of buying a book in digital format, let alone getting it on to your computer, and from there to the Reader device itself.

The new Sony Reader Touch edition is slim and black and about the same weight as a 200-page paperback. While I'd still rather read a regular book in the bath, it'll be great for travelling; I plan to store my holiday reading on it when I go away, freeing up space in my suitcase for extra towels. It sure beats scrolling through Shakespeare on an iPhone. On the other hand, the Amazon Kindle e-reader is expected to launch here in time for Christmas, and there's a distinct possibility it'll crush Sony when it does. With the weight of Amazon's website behind it, the Kindle is as dominant in the US e-book market as Apple's iPod is in digital music.

What really concerns me, though, is not which e-reader I've chosen, but that I'll no longer be able to show off my impeccable taste to pretty girls on public transport. If all I'm reading is a metal box, how will they know that I'm sensitive and hip and engrossed in a US import copy of the new Dave Eggers?

When they start selling 3G-equipped devices in the UK, may I suggest that Sony and/or Amazon develop some sort of Wi-Fi software application that seeks out fellow readers in the vicinity and alerts people who have matching tastes. Oh, and it should also allow us sensitive hipsters to instant message one another, rather than having to make actual eye contact: "Hey, I like Dave Eggers, too! Wanna go get some FairTrade coffee?" Foolproof, no?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions