Friday, August 21, 2009

Today is Avatar Day!!! Time to Celebrate!

MY AVATAR DAY FOOTAGE REACTION: Michael here. I just got back from Pandora again, and, just like the last time I visited, I was smiling with my mouth open throughout the entire trip.

Absolutely spectacular. Exhilarating. A game changer. The avatars and Na'vi are three steps beyond Davey Jones, and Pandora is something that has simply NEVER been accomplished in cinema.

Years of work by thousands of people has yielded an awe-inspiring result: a world so fully realized - from the smallest patch of glowing moss to the majestic floating mountains - that I felt that if I stood up out of my seat in the theater, I could walk around and explore it myself. My emotional reaction was similar to the one I had as a kid when I first saw that brachiosaurus rear up on its hind legs in Jurassic Park. But more so. Cameron has pushed cinematic spectacle further than even Spielberg did back in 1993.

The difference between watching the teaser trailer and seeing the Avatar Day footage in IMAX 3D is like comparing watching a travel show about a tropical island with the experience of actually visiting that island and being surrounded by the lush beauty of the flora and fauna while feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin and the breeze in your hair.

It's simply night and day. You MUST see Avatar in 3D, and IMAX 3D if possible. Cameron and Pace's masterful 3D shooting combined with the extra height of the IMAX screen actually places you IN Pandora, right alongside the characters. This was by far my best 3D experience to date.

The theater was packed. The crowd was mesmerized by the sheer wonder of the beautifully colored, intricately detailed, living, breathing ALIEN WORLD that James Cameron somehow traveled to in order to shoot this movie. And then there were the applause moments. There was a huge audience reaction when the screen faded to black at the end of the (incredibly well-shot) thanator chase and we are left with Jake about to become a snack. Likewise when Jake finally gains control of the Banshee after some very intense wrangling. Cameron is simply a master at eliciting emotions in an audience. Every scene has stakes, every moment we are feeling what the characters feel. And the audience tonight responded by becoming completely hooked on the tale Cameron is weaving.

The footage ends with a montage of shots from the trailer.

And then there are a handful of new shots. All go by very quickly, but we get a glimpse of a Na'vi/avatar being restrained/shackled, Ney'tiri falling from a great height towards some giant-leafed plants, what looks like Jake's avatar and a Na'vi preparing for a fight while a crowd of Na'vi encircle them, watching, and a really cool shot where shards of some large object are raining down on the jungle below (perhaps a falling floating mountain or the remnants of an exploding ship?)

The footage ends as the trailer does, with Jake and Ney'tiri embracing. Fade to the title. Raucous applause from the crowd.

Avatar is so mindblowing that I am finding it almost impossible to communicate the experience. I wasn't born when the first Star Wars came out, but I wonder whether audiences then felt even close to the same way I do now: utterly mind-boggled by this absolutely REAL but absolutely ALIEN world to the point where I feel that my brain has been hacked.

I have my ticket for the midnight showing at 12:01 am Thursday, December 18th, but I want to go back to Pandora right now.

SAME DAY UPDATE: Michael here. I have heard from someone currently at a screening in Pennsylvania that tickets for Dec. 17 will go on sale TONIGHT. Will confirm soon...[NEWER UPDATE: It seems like AMC IMAX theaters are selling tickets for the Dec. 18 midnight showing at the theaters themselves. The theater manager at my showing announced this before the footage started. Likewise, an AMC employee at an Avatar Day showing in Pennsylvania also announced that tickets would be available at the counter.]

Michael here. I won't be seeing the footage until tonight, but I know that many of you have, and the consensus is that watching these scenes in IMAX 3D is a truly amazing, awe-inspiring, and mystical experience.

Tell us about your Avatar Day experience below. How long were the lines, and how early did you arrive at the theater? What were your favorites parts of the footage? What was the crowd reaction?

Also, Ubisoft has released the trailer for the Avatar game. It's very well cut, and looks like it will be a blast to play - especially in 3D. Watch it here.

I'll be updating this post with my impressions later today.

In the meantime, this is a day to celebrate Avatar and James Cameron's return to feature films. I can feel the electricity in the air.

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Jim Dorey
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