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Published: 7/25/2009

'Avatar' gets closer

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN DIEGO James Cameron originally wrote Avatar as a way to challenge the special-effects firm Digital Domain, where he served as chief executive. But it took technology 14 years to catch up with his vision of a faraway planet populated by otherwordly plants and animals where humans embody avatars just to brave the landscape.

In the same way that I wrote Terminator just to get a directing gig, I decided to write a story that was full of creatures and characters that would push the art of CG for that company, he said. But after artists there said it couldn t be done, Cameron shelved the idea.

Ten years later, when he realized technology had caught up with his cinematic visions, he dusted off the concept and helped develop technology to make it work. On Thursday, he presented world-premiere footage of his progress to more than 6,000 fans at Comic Con, which runs through tomorrow.

The Titanic director showed more than 20 minutes of footage from the film.

Avatar introduces viewers to the planet of Pandora, where the lithe, blue, indigenous Navi people inhabit a lush and wondrous place dense with green forests, fluorescent pink flowers, bizarre hammerhead dinosaurs, and flying dragons. Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, a soldier on duty there, and Zoe Saldana plays Neytiri, the Navi princess who befriends him.

Saldana learned the fictional Navi language and studied with a dialect coach to perfect a Navi accent on her English.

I m from Queens, the actress said.

Sigourney Weaver, who plays botanist Grace Augustine, studied the fictional flora and fauna of Pandora to prepare for her role.

Every single plant and creature has come out of this crazy person s head, she said, pointing to Cameron.

A longtime sci-fi fan who likens himself to the average Comic Con conventioneer, Cameron said Avatar is more than just a fantastic tale 14 years in the making.

It may seem like a simple story about nasty humans fighting with those beautifully, spiritually evolved Navi, he said. But it s really not, because we make science fiction as human beings for human consumption.

It means the Navi represent something that is our higher selves, or our aspirational selves, what we would like to think we are or maybe what we realize we re losing, he said. And the humans in the film, even though there are some good ones salted in, represent what we know to be the parts of ourselves that are trashing our world and maybe condemning ourselves to a grim future.

He announced that fans worldwide could see 15 minutes of the film for free on Avatar Day, Aug. 21. The film is set to open Dec. 18.

Seth Rogen arrived at Comic Con with a sweet ride.

The Funny People actor stopped by the convention s show floor Wednesday to unveil the Black Beauty, a modified 1965 Chrysler Crown Imperial he ll drive in The Green Hornet. Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote the script to the upcoming big-screen relaunch of the comic book and TV show about a masked crime-fighter.

The vehicle is a homage to the Black Beauty driven by Van Williams in the original series. Rogen said the car s weapons which include rockets, mini-guns and a big flame-thrower were upgraded for the film to make them more powerful. The original Black Beauty from the 1960s TV show was equipped with explosive charges, gas nozzles, and a scanner.

Jeff Bridges promises the new TRON is just as groundbreaking as the 27-year-old original.

The 59-year-old actor and star of the original film came to Comic Con Thursday to help present early footage from TRON: Legacy, due in 2010.

Bridges noted that when TRON was released in 1982, the Internet and personal computers didn t exist. The futuristic tale took viewers to a digitized virtual world, a concept that was decades ahead of its time.

Despite modern moviegoers everyday interaction with technology, Bridges says he can guarantee you re going to get the same kind of pop with this one. Everything s going to be super-ized.

Filmmakers showed some concept sketches and a brief, never-before-seen clip.



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