‘Avatar’ fans run through the jungle

Aug. 22, 2009 | 2:22 p.m.

Fans around the world were shown 16 minutes of “Avatar” footage Friday night in a unprecedented promotion that director James Cameron and 20th Century Fox hope will further stoke interest in the film, which doesn’t arrive in theaters until Dec. 18. Hero Complex correspondents Juliette Funes and Kate Stanhope covered it in two sites, and both were hard-pressed to find fans who didn’t like the footage. Their blended report is below; Stanhope shot video in South Gate and Funes wrote up the reactions of some fans at the Bridge cinema in Westchester. We want to hear you reaction too; please leave a message in the comment section. 

Well you can’t say James Cameron isn’t trying.

After screening 20 minutes of his coming sci-fi odyssey “Avatar” at this year’s Comic-Con International and unveiling the trailer for the film on Apple on Thursday, Cameron went above and beyond the call of duty Friday with a free 16-minute sneak peek featuring never-been-seen scenes from the first half of the film. Screening on Friday at 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on Imax screens across the country.

“Avatar Day” took place at 342 screens in 58 countries, with 102 3-D and 3-D Imax screens here in the States, including the Bridge in Westchester, which filled up all 320 seats in each of its four screenings. 
 
The film, starring Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, is like a cosmic “Dances With Wolves” on acid, in which a tribe of tall, blue indigenous humanoids, called Na’vi, clash with humans invading their strange and beautifully vibrant planet, Pandora.

At the Bridge there was relative calm outside but a lot of action inside, where hordes of moviegoers waited in line to get inside and grab the best seat in the house.
 
Eric Robbins, 22, sat in front of his computer for two hours trying to make reservations for the screening and, after he had the confirmation, searched online for “the best Imax theatres” to be able to watch the much-talked-about preview of the movie he’s been anticipating for a year.
 
“I am a huge James Cameron fan. There’s not one movie of his that I don’t like,” the USC film student said. “For me personally, I like seeing the technology being pushed to the boundaries and James Cameron does that … and effortlessly blends the technological aspect of storytelling with a really great story.”

Robbins persuaded his friends to join him at this year’s Comic-Con, where the footage made its public premiere, and then signed them up for the screening, including Erika Edgerlay, 24.   
 
“He’s really good with storytelling, and I can’t wait to see how good this story turns out to be,” Edgerlay, from Texas, said.
 
The two-minute online trailer has broken records, with more than 4 million downloads since its release, but some Friday night viewers had steered clear of watching it to preserve the big-screen surprise. Brady Beaubien, 30, was one of them and he was dazzled by what he saw.

“It’s sort of hard to take in,” the San Diego native said. “It was the first time I was watching a 3-D movie where I actually forgot I was watching a 3-D movie. It was totally immersive.”
 
Many were also impressed with how realistic the animation was.
 
“I really liked it. It was a lot cooler on a 3-D screen,” Edgerlay said. “It looks really realistic compared to other movies with CGI.” 
 
Ashley Maria of Los Angeles had a different take. “They made a blue man hot,” she said, referring to Worthington’s transformation into an Avatar. “If that’s a way of saying it’s good, then it’s good.”

The 23-year-old Maria had watched the online trailer and been left confused about the plot, but she said the visuals on the big screen were impressive. “It’s like you’re actually a part of the scenes and action, and when they’re running, you’re running with them,” Maria said. “Each five minutes of segments really developed the characters.”
 
And when the montage of scenes was flashing by, Maria said she and the group around her grew exasperated.
 
“We knew the end was coming and we were like, ‘No. We want more,’” she said. “It kind of got me mad that they showed the preview. Now I have to wait until it comes out.”

– Kate Stanhope and Juliette Funes

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