SDCC: James Cameron Immerses Attendees in Avatar Footage


By now we would expect that if you’re a savvy lover of movies who browses through the halls of the interwebs, you’ve seen that James Cameron showed up in San Diego a little while ago to treat Comic-Con attendees to 24-minutes of footage from his upcoming opus Avatar, a film that brings with it the promise of taking 3D cinema to the next level. And while we didn’t have anyone in Hall H at the time due to some unforeseen circumstances, we did want to bring you some additional details and reactions from our friends and neighbors around the movie blogosphere.

To kick things off, here are some facts that we’ve gleaned from the various reports around the web:

  • Cameron showed off 24-minutes of footage, 6 scenes in all.
  • The story revolves around a precious resource that exists on the planet Pandora, which cannot be mined by humans due to the native inhabitants (the Na’vi) and dangerous landscape of the planet.
  • The audience got looks at the Na’vi, as well as human-created Na’vi that are piloted by soldiers in an attempt to infiltrate the Na’vi civilization.
  • The audience also got a few immersive looks at the world of Pandora, which has a luminescent quality to it, the dense jungle actually lighting up the planet.
  • Audiences around the world will be treated to 15-minutes of footage on August 21st in IMAX theaters, for free.

And now on to some of the reactions. First of all, it seems clear that James Cameron’s film is heavy on aesthetic innovations, with many attending journos citing the brilliant look of Pandora and the 3D. According to Garth Franklin at Dark Horizons, it “looks like one of the most ambitious projects ever made, and certainly in terms of CG photo realism no other film comes close thus far.” He also went on to say what this writer was specifically looking to hear, that Cameron’s use of CG is more than just a gimmick. “The 3D itself is utilized EXACTLY what the technology should be – never drawing attention to itself, immersing you in the world rather than distracting you with gimmicks,” he explains. “Can’t really recall one moment where someone throws or points something outward to deliberately show off that you’re watching 3D in action.

Avatar-MarketStreetV3But ambitious as the project may seem, there are still a few skeptics out there. Devin Faraci from CHUD applauded the advanced look of the film, but also shows some hesitation in calling it anything close to ‘revolutionary’. Faraci calls it an “evolutionary jump, not a revolutionary one.” He also noted the very-CGI look of Pandora, which sounds like it is in contrast to the detail seen in the faces of the Na’vi. “Avatar looks like a very advanced CGI toon,” he writes. “When CGI Navi are interacting with CGI monsters in CGI landscapes, it all looks very CGI. This is, frankly, not photoreal.”

Others are more hyperbolic, including Total Film’s commentary that calls Avatar “Too real to be animation, never exactly docu-style, Cameron’s film is unquestionably something entirely new.”

And new seems to be the key phrase when it comes to the reaction that has been bestowed upon James Cameron’s next. Many of the reports cite the film’s very original, very unique look and feel. But even though the scenes with the Na’vi sound very unique, it does not appear as if anyone is ready to call this movie what fans hoped it would be, a revolutionary film. In his epic write-up, our good friend Quint at Ain’t It Cool News urges fans to temper their excitement just a tad. “I will say lower those expectations,” he says. “The footage was good, layered, incredibly detailed and full of imagination and incredible imagery, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the next quantum leap forward in filmmaking. However there’s no doubt Cameron’s pushing the limits. Just don’t expect to have your head blown out your asshole or eyeballs raped…”

For the best full descriptions of the scenes shown, I would urge you to check out Quint’s seven billion word write-up over at AICN or the more concise description over at the Empire Blog by James Dyer. And if you’re lazy and don’t like to read, check out Peter Sciretta’s video blog about the whole she-bang over at /Film.

Overall, my reaction is that I’m a bit sad that I am stuck here at Reject HQ writing while our editorial honchos rot in a Nevada jail and our anger-loving columnist Robert Fure immerses himself in a pitcher of beer in some seedy San Diego dive bar. Even though I’m the intern around here, I would’ve loved to make the trip to San Diego and to Hall H to cover Avatar. Having spent the last hour and a half reading through the reactions from around the web, my expectations are tempered a bit. I’ve always been a fan of James Cameron’s, but the whole 3D craze seems a bit too much. 3D is not a gimmick people, and it sounds like James Cameron isn’t using it as one. The only concern that I see is in a potentially thin story — but we’re not going to get any of that from six scenes. I say we wait anxiously until November and see what happens.

Bottom line: if you’re excited about Avatar, you’re not alone. And based on the reports we’re seeing from San Diego, it sounds like we all have every reason to be excited.

For good measure, here’s the official synopsis that was just released by Fox. Avatar is in theaters December 18, 2009. You can find more out if you check out the newly launched official site


In the epic action adventure fantasy AVATAR, James Cameron, the director of Titanic, takes us to a spectacular new world beyond our imagination. On the distant moon Pandora, a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption, discovery and unexpected love — as he leads a heroic battle to save a civilization.

The story’s protagonist, Jake Sully, is an ex-Marine who was wounded and paralyzed from the waist down in combat on Earth. In order to participate in the Avatar program, which will give him a healthy body, Jake agrees to travel to Pandora, a lush rainforest environment filled with incredible life forms – some beautiful, many terrifying. Pandora is also the home to the Na’vi, a humanoid race that lives at what we consider to be a primate level, but they are actually much more evolved than humans. Ten feet tall and blue skinned, the Na’vi live harmoniously within their unspoiled world. But as humans encroach on Pandora in search of valuable minerals, the Na’vi’s very existence is threatened – and their warrior abilities unleashed.

Jake has unwittingly been recruited to become part of this encroachment. Since humans are unable to breathe the air on Pandora, they have created genetically-bred human-Na’vi hybrids known as Avatars. The Avatars are living, breathing bodies in the real world, controlled by a human driver through a technology that links the driver’s mind to the Avatar body. On Pandora, through his Avatar body, Jake can be whole once again. Moreover, he falls in love with a young Na’vi woman, Neytiri, whose beauty is matched by her ferocity in battle.

As Jake slides deeper into becoming one of her clan, he finds himself caught between the military-industrial forces of Earth, and the Na’vi – forcing him to choose sides in an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire world.

Conceived 14 years ago and over four years in the making, AVATAR breaks new ground in delivering a fully immersive, emotional story and reinvents the moviegoing experience.

Scott the Intern is not allowed to have a "bio," as we don't recognize him as a human. For all we know, he's a figment of our twisted imagination.

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