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Jul 23, 2009

SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON 2009 - THURSDAY, PANEL 4 - The Glorious AVATAR

With the TWILIGHT panel over, and the screaming girls appeased, it was time for Comic-con to get back to fanboy business, this time in the form of 20th Century Fox’s AVATAR. This movie is easily one of the most anticipated of the year, if not the last 2 decades.

Back in the 1990s, James Cameron envisioned a film the centered around a completely CGI character. That film was to be AVATAR, but the technology wasn’t there to do it right, and it was shelved. Now it is 2009, and James Cameron has been in deep production on this movie, keeping it a tightly guarded secret. Little has been known about it, there has been no footage shown, and only a few production shots – not revealing at all – have made their way into ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and onto the Internet. So imagine the joy of all in Hall H – and mine for that matter – when the man himself, James Cameron (introduced by the head of the studio Tom Rothman) announced that we would be seeing the first ever screened footage from the movie AVATAR. Not only that, there was going to be 25 minutes of it and in full 3-D. 25 minutes. I expected a trailer, maybe a scene, but this was better than I and everyone else could have possibly imagined!

The footage did not disappoint at all, in fact it exceeded expectations tenfold. It was composed of 7 significant scenes, all highlighting different aspects of the movie.

The first was a military briefing outlining the main crux of the movie that the Humans wanted to tap into the resources on the planet Pandora, but a race of beings impedes that plan. So a group of scientists led by Sigourney Weaver have engineered Avatars, to be operated via the subconscious of specific individuals, the main one being Sam Worthington, which leads me to scene 2 which consisted of him seeing his Avatar for the first time.

Scene 3 had his subconscious being linked to that Avatar, and upsetting the scientists by trying to do too much with it right off the bat. Scene 4 had the Avatars on the planet seeing the indigenous life – dinosaur-like, only more alien – for the first time, some of it friendly, others not so much.

Scene 5, Sam’s Avatar is in the crosshairs of Zoe Saldana’s crossbow (she is one of the race the military wants to get rid of). It looks like she’s going to shoot when a strange creature like a jellyfish lands on the arrow and she changes her mind.

This leads to scene 6 where that same character is introduced to Sam when she saves him from being killed by one of the aforementioned unfriendly creatures, and the 2 begin to bond via instant bickering.

The final scene had Sam now part of Zoe’s tribe, and learning their ways. He is to confront a winged creature, looking kind of like a pterodactyl, subdue it as it tries to kill him and wrangle it like it was a wild horse.

There is absolutely no way I can do this footage justice through words. This is a movie that must be seen – no felt – as vibrant colors leapt off the screen (even if it wasn’t in 3-D), the CGI the best I have ever seen and with the feeling and intensity of a Pixar movie - no wait, better - rather than some of the more cold offerings out of Hollywood, and not to mention, it’s original. There has been nothing like AVATAR in the history of motion pictures. Expect this movie to be a game changer.

The panel discussion included James Cameron, producer Jon Landau, Sigourney Weaver (who look absolutely fantastic), Stephen Lang and Zoe Saldana. Sam Worthington is on location shooting CLASH OF THE TITANS, but recorded a brief message for the Hall H crowd. As if his stock wasn’t high enough thanks to stealing TERMINATOR SALVATION from Christian Bale, but now he has this and word is his work on CLASH OF THE TITANS is also outstanding.

The only way that I can think of to end this post is to quote the first attendee who posed a question to the panel. He began with the statement “Mr. Cameron. Thank you for making something so exciting and original, and that isn’t a remake or a sequel.” Amen!