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Comic-Con: Cameron Wows with Avatar

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 24, 2009 at 3:11AM

Twentieth Century Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman came down to San Diego to intro James Cameron, who in turn presented 24 minutes of footage from Avatar. The studio has backed Cameron's R & D for the dozen years since Titanic. After earning credibility with the deep sea documentary world with a series of 3D docs, Cameron finally opted to chase the promise of advanced 3-D motion-capture with an original story that had been sitting in his drawer for 14 years. But no matter how fabulous this movie looks--and it wowed Hall H, the perfect target audience for a sci-fi adventure--Fox has to market this movie without major stars, branding and the kind of wide release a blockbuster usually commands. That's why they're showing 15 minutes of footage, free, on Avatar Day on August 21 on 35 IMAX theaters around the world.
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Twentieth Century Fox co-chairman Tom Rothman came down to San Diego to intro James Cameron, who in turn presented 24 minutes of footage from Avatar. The studio has backed Cameron's R & D for the dozen years since Titanic. After earning credibility with the deep sea documentary world with a series of 3D docs, Cameron finally opted to chase the promise of advanced 3-D motion-capture with an original story that had been sitting in his drawer for 14 years. But no matter how fabulous this movie looks--and it wowed Hall H, the perfect target audience for a sci-fi adventure--Fox has to market this movie without major stars, branding and the kind of wide release a blockbuster usually commands. That's why they're showing 15 minutes of footage, free, on Avatar Day on August 21 on 35 IMAX theaters around the world.

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The footage shows us a space station, where we meet a tight-necked colonel (Stephen Lang) warning new recruits about the dangers of Planet Pandora, home to an indigenous alien race, the Nav'i. Sam Worthington arrives in a wheelchair. He's a paraplegic whose twin brother has died; he's going to inherit his 10-foot blue, long-tailed avatar, a half-human, half-alien creature that humans can link to and send to explore the inhospitable planet. Cameron vet Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) plays a scientist on a mission to save the planet from degradation and

DSCN8977exploitation.

The footage shows us a space station, where we meet a tight-necked colonel (Stephen Lang) warning new recruits about the dangers of Planet Pandora, home to an indigenous alien race, the Nav'i. Sam Worthington arrives in a wheelchair. He's a paraplegic whose twin brother has died; he's going to inherit his 10-foot blue, long-tailed avatar, a half-human, half-alien creature that humans can link to and send to explore the inhospitable planet. Cameron vet Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) plays a scientist on a mission to save the planet from degradation and

DSCN8977exploitation.

The story is immediately exotic and compelling. But the magic comes from the 3D immersion into the exotic fauna and flora of the Pandora jungle where our hero is saved from certain death by a lovely native girl (Zoe Saldana). She tells him he's like a stupid child stumbling and destroying things. But when he attracts white wood sprites that look like deep sea creatures, she wonders if he might have some spiritual potential and takes him to her people. As night falls the rich jungle becomes as luminescent and brightly colored as a coral reef.

In another stunning sequence, the native warriors challenge Nav'i's new boyfriend to tame a flying pterodactyl-like banshee. He wrestles the creature into submission and flies him into a huge canyon.

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The audience roared with support for Avatar, as Cameron, Weaver, Lang and Saldana talked to the crowd, and later, the backstage media. (Worthington appeared via video from the European set of Clash of the Titans.) But the movie is clearly ahead of the curve, which could make it a must-see event. But it's also likely to play best for fans of sci-fi adventure, which could limit it to a degree. Wisely, Cameron says he has no interest in competing with his own boxoffice. He's a filmmaker who wants to pursue the edge of technology and reach millions of people around the world. Avatar will be a must-see when it opens on December 18.


This article is related to: Directors, Festivals, Franchises, Genres, James Cameron, Comic-Con, Avatar, Sci-fi


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