James Cameron’s blockbustepic Avatar is now officially the highest grossing film ever released in Australia. Late last week the spectacular box office behemoth overtook the previous local record of $57.6 million, obtained by Titanic — another Cameron movie — 12 years ago. Globally Avatar has now gobbled up about $1.14 billion, which on a worldwide scale makes it the second highest grossing feature of all time. The first is — you guessed it — Titanic, with $1.84 billion.

Not bad Jim, not bad. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say he must be feeling pretty happy with himself.

I imagine Cameron spent the past few weeks eating food too delicious for mere mortals such as me to pronounce while intermittently checking his Blackberry for the latest box office stats.

But the most expensive feature film ever made has, like virtually every blockbuster, a vocal band of critics campaigning against it.

The particular critics I’m speaking of are not the ones (such as me) who might moan about Avatar’s thinly developed characters, cheesy story or the deficiencies of its narrative, blah blah blah.  I was alerted to the existence of these critics at a barbecue on Saturday when an incensed friend of mine, a graphic designer, grabbed my arm and vented his outrage. He wasn’t miffed about the characters, the storyline or the narrative, blah blah blah. No. He was miffed about — wait for it — Cameron’s use of the papyrus font.

For those not in the know, it…

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and it’s available on just about every PC on the planet via Microsoft Word. It’s also used in Avatar for its title, closing credits and subtitles. My friend was incensed that Cameron couldn’t afford — well, afford is the wrong word given the film cost about $400 million — to design a new typeface. Didn’t see the need would probably be closer to the truth.

“If any movie shoulda shelled out some cash to develop a decent font, you’d think it would be the most expensive movie ever made,” he said.

And, you know, he’s kinda got a point.

A quick search on the net revealed that plenty of other font aficionados feel the same way, to an alarmingly nitpickish degree.

“He (James Cameron) might as well have used Comic Sans,” one blogger recently scoffed. “Seriously dude, you’re like, a bajillionare, you can afford a suite of fonts. Maybe he’s editing it in iMovie. I don’t know.”

I found an open letter to Cameron written from, bizarrely, the perspective of the font itself. And then there’s the website papyruswatch.com, which monitors its apparently ubiquitous life. In addition to Avatar, recent papyrus sightings include The David Letterman Show and a new program from comedian Dave Chapelle.

I wonder if Cameron is aware of this storm-in-a-typeface-teacup and what his thoughts are on the subject. Like I pointed out to my friend, it could’ve been worse. He could have used Times New Roman.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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