‘Avatar’ Previewed – Does It Hold Up to the Hype?

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Photo:20th Century Fox

Despite the fangirl excitement for Twilight: New Moon, the most anticipated film preview of this year’s Comic Con was undoubtedly James Cameron’s Avatar. Expectations had gone through the roof and all that was left was to see the preview and weigh in with what I thought.

Like many around the web I wanted to give my opinion immediately and I even wrote on my Twitter page, “Avatar is impressive visually and shows plenty of potential. Still have to wait and see the final project before making any real judgment.” I hold to the idea of not making any real judgments because while seeing 25 minutes of this film it wasn’t 25 minutes continuous, it was seven scenes that really set up what we can expect to see and a little about the path the story is going to take, but the narrative is left up to assumptions… some good, some bad, but like I said, you can’t really judge.

As I am writing this it has been about seven hours since I walked out of the San Diego Convention Center’s Hall H at the end of the Avatar panel and the footage has still stuck with me. It has stuck with me for one reason alone, it’s the most unique bit of footage I have seen in a long time, and you could tell Cameron was excited about debuting the scenes as the Oscar-winner gave in to his excitement asking the crowd, “How many of you have ever wanted to go to another planet?” The question was met with a rousing applause and he followed it up with, “Are you ready to go to Pandora?” And that’s exactly what Avatar seems to be.

It looks as if James Cameron has spent the last 14 years coming up with a completely other world. A world were the flora and fauna glows with each step. A world where something akin to a hammerhead-rhinoceros exists and a dragon-like pterodactyl can be tamed, and the lush foliage comes to life in 3-D as seeds of an ancient and sacred tree resembling floating jellyfish with soft white tendrils float before your eyes. It’s as real as you could ask it to be, considering it’s 100% CGI, but the fact the footage shown didn’t have a natural narrative flow it wasn’t immediately approachable.

Yup, despite lavish descriptions and some truly awe-inspiring moments of footage there are some mild downsides, but most come as a result of seeing the footage out of order, in an inferior setting with sound that just didn’t cut it and the lack of a set-up, slowly preparing us for a world we aren’t quite ready for. Luckily, these are all problems instantly solved with a finished feature film in your city’s best cinema, which is where you are going to want to see this film.

Avatar is set on the alien planet Pandora where we follow Jake Sully (Terminator Salvation‘s Sam Worthington), an ex-Marine who is paralyzed from the waist down. Jake has signed on to participate in the human-run Avatar program which allows the mind of a human to be placed into the mind of a genetically engineered alien body of the indigenous tribe of Pandora known as the Na’vi.

The process is accomplished by laying down in a bed like the one you see to the right and their consciousness is transferred inside the mind of the Na’vi avatar allowing them to go out and explore this strange unique world.

The scenes that were shown of human interaction did very little for the presentation in terms of getting a grasp on the performances we will get out of any of the human characters, including Dr. Grace Augustine played by Sigourney Weaver, a character I assume will have a far larger role than the short turn we saw of her hear as a botanist and chief of the Avatar Program.

Scenes that followed turned to action as Jake and two other avatars (Augustine was one of them and Joel Moore playing Norm Spellman was the other) found themselves in the way of a deadly creature that gives chase. After that we are soon introduced to an actual Pandora native named Neytiri played by Zoe Saldana (Uhura in Star Trek).

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