This past Friday was a pretty new and exciting day for the cinema, as most dubbed it “Avatar Day” because 20th Century Fox ran free screenings of select clips from James Cameron’s highly anticipated film in 3D IMAX theaters across the country. There were roughly six clips totaling about 15 minutes. Cameron made an appearance at the beginning of the clips (in 3D, of course) and introduced the scenes.
Not much was known about the film, let alone the premise, leading up to “Avatar Day,” so it was nice to get an idea of the story. From what was gathered, the film takes place in the 21st century, when mankind is at war with the alien race known as the Na’vi. They enlist people to fight on the warring planet, but before they are dropped off, they go through a process which places them in an alien body, or their “avatar”.
From there, the main character Jake Sully (played by Terminator: Salvation‘s Sam Worthington) embarks on a journey of this new and beautiful world, and discovers that he may be fighting for the wrong side. The story is pretty old-hat, which most people could remember as the main plot from 2003’s The Last Samurai.
The first scene sets up the climate of the war, introducing Jake as an inexperienced soldier with paralysis from the waist down. In the scene, the general explains how Pandora, the planet they will be dropped on, is “worse than hell”. Even in a scene as talky as this one, the 3D is still impressive, and makes for an exciting scene to watch.
The second scene introduces Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine, one of the doctors who helps in the Avatar process. Jake is being put in the machine, and states that while he has zero combat training, he’s going through the process because he’s “tired of being told what he can’t do”. The 3D in this scene felt a bit gimmicky, using the Sliders-esque render to show Jake’s mind being put into the giant, blue, Avatar’s. Once he is finally transformed, he is so baffled by the fact that he can walk for the first time in his life, that he breaks out of the facility and goes AWOL.
In the third scene, Jake and Augustine, both in their Avatar bodies, are on the alien planet. Everything at this point is computer-generated. The group of soldiers is confronted by a large, hammerhead-rhinosaurous creature, who is standing to attack Worthington. This is by far the most impressive scene for 3D. The use of leaves falling in the foreground against the beautifully vivid background makes for an impressive sight. Between the setting and the innovative design of the creatures, this is the scene that got the audience most excited for the film.
The next two scenes show a little more of the plot tension, as Worthington is introduced to his opposite lead, the female Na’vi Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldaña). The character is a strong warrior-type, and dons only a few shreds of animal clothing. This was surprising, given the amount of body parts that are shown for a sci-fi film. There are a few clear moments where Neytiri’s breasts are visible, which could prove a conflict for getting the family audience.
The final scene is by far the most action packed, in which Jake and Neytiri venture onto a nest of pterodactyl-birds, so that Jake may bond with one and make it his own. The scene is full of tension and beautiful scenery shots, as it takes place atop a steep cliff.
Overall, the film is certainly as remarkable as people are expecting–visually. Though, with the story, don’t expect something along the lines of Star Trek or District 9. The 3D and fact that half of the film is entirely computer generated will certainly make this film memorable, and possibly quite good, which is more than likely exactly what Cameron was going for.
Avatar hits theaters on December 18th.