James Camerons Avatar, in theaters December 18th

Last night I had the privilege of attending one of a few extended preview’s in IMAX 3D for James Cameron’s upcoming film (his first in 12 years) “Avatar”.

Now I’m going to go into some detail about what I saw yesterday; before the preview began James Cameron came on screen to introduce it and state that all the footage was from the first half of the film so there were no major spoilers. However, if you are one of those people who really freaks out about even the smallest of spoilers I recommend you do not read on.

I’ll start out by saying it was beautiful, which is not really what I expected. The trailer shows a few shots of the beauty found on the planet known as ‘Pandora’ however watching a few scenes from the 16 minute preview we were really able to get a taste of just how lush, rich and beautiful the landscape on this planet, which was created with computers from the ground up, really is.

The first scene was almost completely live action, I’m not sure if there was, CG at all. It was basically in introduction to the planet ‘Pandora’ a crusty, battle scared head of security informs a group of incoming marines that his job is to protect them from the hostile world outside the perimeter fence. He says that, at least for some of the marines he will unfortunately fail in his duties. This is when Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) rolls down the isle in a wheel chair.

The computer animation is really top notch, there were moments in the jungles of Pandora where I found myself wondering if James Cameron had not just taken his revolutionary stereoscopic camera system into a real jungle.

The CG was amazing, however, I felt it took some getting used to. In the second scene they showed the paraplegic vet Jake Sully is first taking on his na’vi body (This is where the title ‘Avatar’ comes from, basically his brain is transfered into the body of Pandora’s indigenous species), I was not too impressed. This may have been because I had never seen a picture of the Na’vi before so perhaps I was expecting something different. I felt the CG Na’vi mixed with the live action humans was just a tad fake looking however this initial feeling may pass after watching even more of the film (December 18th!).

The next scene was high adrenaline chase which began as Jake squares off against a strange creature indigenous to the jungles of Pandora, the creature is frightened away by an even larger and scarier beast which Jake runs from. Although the chase was impressive the two creatures struck me as kind of plastic looking, and my disappointment began to mount, until…

The Next Scene, Jake is rescued from a pack of scavenging beasts by a Na’vi woman my mind really began to think that all this CG was real! The best was yet to come.

The Pandora jungle by day, as I said, looks pretty much like a jungle here on Earth, however, come night fall the Jungle plants are illuminated with a beautiful and mysterious phosphorescent glow. My expectations for this film were gone, it was something I had never imagined. I no longer wanted to see James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’, no, I wanted to take a space ship to Pandora and actually walk around in this beautiful jungle (despite the beasts which rip you to shreds and hostile native peoples).

The final scene shows Jake along with some other members of the local Na’vi tribe trying to tame some kind of flying creature that resides high in the cliffs on the outskirts of the jungle. The Na’vi tell Jake that the beast will choose him, and he’ll know because it will try to kill him. Once again I found my self blown away during this action packed scene by how real the animation looked.

After the final scene, we were treated to about thirty seconds of epic battles, flying machines, military gunfire, explosions and all the makings of a great trailer. Today I watched the actual trailer for the first time thinking that it would be mostly a collection of clips from what we had seen in the preview. While there were certainly a lot of repeat clips, the trailer actually contained a lot of material not in the 16 minute preview.

“Avatar” looks amazing and well worth the wait, however as I said the whole experience takes a bit of getting used to, I worry that a 2 minute and 30-second trailer just won’t be enough to get people thirsty for more. Which is part of the reason I think Twentieth-Century Fox and James Cameron decided to have an event like “Avatar Day” to generate positive word of mouth?

“Avatar” hits theaters on December 18th and also stars Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Zoe Saldana, and Giovanni Ribisi

Be sure to check out the trailer

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