COMIC-CON '09: James Cameron Dubs August 21st "Avatar Day"

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Comic-Con attendees were treated to 25 minutes of Avatar footage Thursday when writer-director James Cameron unveiled the first ever public glimpse at footage from the elusive film. It was bold, meticulous, and utterly beautiful to look at.

At the end of the panel, Cameron made a special announcement about an unprecedented "social media experiment" that they're trying in order to give international audiences a slice of the Comic-Con experience. On August 21st this year, in what they are calling "Avatar Day," as many IMAX 3D theaters as possible all over the world will screen 15 minutes of Avatar for free to anybody who shows up. On the same day, they will announce information about Avatar games and toy lines.

The footage I saw was clearly worth the hype that has surrounded this movie since day one. The 3D is, in a word, impressive. It's never intrusive and it feels very much a natural part of the scene. Best of all, Cameron set many of the scenes in the jungle, so in almost every shot there are leaves and branches in the foreground, with dimensional weight, creating the effect of immersing us in the environment. This, by the way, was an impression I had by being in a large hall holding 6,000 people. I can only imagine how much better the effect would be in a smaller movie theater.

Throughout the 25 minutes, we follow Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paralyzed Marine stationed at Pandora who then has his brain transplanted into an Avatar: an artificial bio-mechanical body made to resemble Pandora's native people, the Na'Vi. In his Avatar state, Jake wanders the rain-forests of Pandora and becomes acquainted with the Na'Vi people, especially an English-speaking female named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). They are wild hunters, blue-skinned and ten feet tall. The Na'Vi's cartoonish design keeps the CG from looking realistic, but the blend between real humans and the CG characters is seamless. Furthermore, the motion capture is very well realized; you can still recognize Sam Worthington's expressions even through a blue creature face.

Much of its impressive beauty comes from the world that Cameron has created. With the final film rumored to be close to 3 hours long, these 25 minutes might just be the most visual parts, but from what I could see, it seems that Cameron very much focused on lingering on the beauty and visceral exploration of his fictional planet. There's a sublime scene where Jake stands still as little flying jellyfish-like creatures blanket him. It's such a tender moment, there only to showcase the creatures much like a nature show would. Cameron obviously drew a lot of inspiration from the marine life he investigated in all those underwater documentaries.

Cameron was joined on the panel by producer Jon Landau and stars Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang and Zoe Saldana. Sam Worthington, currently in the midst of filming Clash of the Titans, sent in a video message from the set. The cast spoke about how impressed they were with the comprehensive flora and fauna of Pandora that came out of James Cameron's head. Saldana, in particular, had to learn not only an entirely new alien language and accent, but also an entirely new behavioral pattern. "Nodding and shaking hands, those are the movements humans do," Saldana explained. "But the Na'Vi, they have their own." All of this are visible in her performance. Neytiri's body language is familiar and yet so foreign.

Avatar will be released both in 2D and IMAX 3D on December 18th.

Jul
23
2009
Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.

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