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Comic-Con 09: Live Blog from Avatar Panel

by nathanbloch   July 23, 2009 at 6:24PM  |  Views: 208

After a long introduction from a Fox representative, James Cameron is taking the stage to talk a bit about his most recent magnum opus, Avatar. "I'm honored to have the opportunity to share this with the world first at Comic-Con," he said. This is definitely the biggest thing Comic-Con has to offer this year, so needless to say everyone is excited to get a first look at some 3-D footage from Avatar.

"This film is made for that fourteen-year-old boy very much alive in the back of my mind," he said. "How many of you have wanted to go to another planet?" he asked, and then, "Are you ready to go to Pandora?" The audience cheered, and the footage began.

What followed was truly a sight to behold. The audience was graced with about 25 minutes of footage, all of which was pretty incredible. It has been said this film will revolutionize filmmaking. This remains to be seen. Most of the scenes, while exciting and a sight to behold, still retain the look of CG effects for many of the sequences. Watching these scenes in 3-D enhances the immersiveness of the scenes, but for the most part the characters are not photorealistic, even if the world they inhabit by and large is.

The "avatars" are cloned bodies of the Navi race: blue humanoids about twice as big (and tall) as humans, with cat-like faces and tails. We see Sam Worthington's character, an ex-army officer in a wheelchair, go through a procedure that places his conscious into the fabricated body of a Navi. He is then set loose in Pandora to help colonize these technologically primitive, if spiritually advanced, people.

He gets into all kinds of trouble. Huge creatures with heads like Hammerhead sharks stand off against him and back down, only for a saber-tooth-looking predator to give chase. The character nearly eats him alive. This scene, like all the scenes shown, is awesome.

Another great scene is when Worthington's avatar, now living with a tribe of Navi that have tentatively taken him in as one of their own, must approach a swarm of dragon-like creatures that dwell on the edge of a steep cliff. He must find a dragon that will not flee at his approach and wrestle it to the ground. He does this, with difficulty, and wraps a whip around its snout, then putting some kind of slithery creature into its ear that tames it. This dragon is now Worthington's personal transportation service, though his first flight nearly kills him as they plummet off the side of the cliff. This scene was incredible.

It can't be denied that Cameron has achieved great things with Avatar, both in terms of CG and 3-D. But whether this film will amaze without both elements in place is doubtful. At the end of the day, this was simply very good CG -- but it was still CG. Rarely did the images attain a realism that had the appearance of live-action taking place before our eyes.

Zoe Saldana commented that her training was rigorous for the "Navi" character she played, the race of intelligent species that live on Pando. She said she and Sam Worthington would sometimes show up for a 7am training at 5:30am, and that they would train up to six or seven days a week.

As to whether or not Arnold Schwarzenegger would return to acting, Cameron said that Arnold and he had discussed it. But whether or not this will actually happen he said, "Arnold loves a press conference as much as anyone, and I'll let him handle that."

"Something that has a spoonful of the action and adventure and all of that, but something that has a conscience," Cameron said of why he wanted to make Avatar. "The Navi represent something that is our higher selves or aspirational selves, something we realize we're losing." He continued, "So it's really two aspects of ourselves that we're exploring in this film."

"We have a kind of big announcement today," Cameron said. "We're going to take over as many IMAX and 3-D theaters on August 21st as we can get our hands on and let a global audience get a look at 15 minutes of Avatar for free."

The audience cheered.

Source: John Shearer/Getty Images