Comic-Con 2009: Avatar

Been dying to see James Cameron’s “Avatar”? Well now you’ll be able to in a month.

James Cameron showed up in San Diego an hour ago to show off 24 minutes of footage from the film at the most anticipated presentation at the show amongst non-Twilight fans.

The collection of around five or so scenes from different sections of the film meant we only got a disjointed look at the story. What it mainly was doing was showing off the visuals which truly are breathtaking, groundbreaking but not earth-shattering.

Specifically the texture rendering and lighting is superb. The movements and skin texture of the all CG blue Na’vi aliens are detailed enough that it often looks like actors in makeup. Only the tiny waists and yellow cat-like eyes took away from the photo-realistic illusion but give the blue pastel zebra/horse/cat hybrid creations a very alien look.

The environment and non-Na’vi creatures were more notably CG, especially one scene with attacking alien beasties that seemed more George Lucas than James Cameron in tone. Plants and jungle recreations though were simply beautiful, especially a night scene where the characters traverse a bioluminescent forest utterly rich in biodiversity. The final scene involving harnessing and flying a winged creature was also pretty spectacular.

Some human scenes at the beginning were shown with Sam Worthington (looking hunky as hell) as the wheelchair-bound combat veteran who gets put into a tube with his mind inhabiting the blue creature which can be seen floating in a tub. Sigourney Weaver is also there as a scientist who inhabits one of the other creatures.

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. Can’t really recall one moment where someone throws or points something outward to deliberately show off that you’re watching 3D in action.

Is this the revolution of cinema that years of hype have been saying? No, simply because hype has already risen to ridiculous proportions. What it does look like is what the “Star Wars” prequels should’ve been – a rich sci-fi action/drama that truly transports you to another world.

Visually 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. The technology is not entirely there yet, but more often than not throughout the runtime the “Avatar” footage managed to make the illusion 100% real for me (and I’m a VERY tough judge on CG visual effects).

Cameron saved the best news for last though. Rather than a 2D Quicktime trailer launch, the first glimpse that audiences will get of “Avatar” will take place on August 21st. On that ‘Avatar Day’, fifteen minutes of footage from the film will be screened for free in IMAX 3D theaters around the world. At present Fox is apparently trying to secure as many theaters as possible for the event so keep an eye out the week before for where the footage will be shown.