Sorry for the delay. I've been really busy with work (though I still find time to bang my head reading lex's posts).
We were given IMAX 3D glasses at the door. Mind you, the theatre wasn't proper IMAX... "fake" imax is more like it (traditional screen with all the available space used instead of curtains covering up the sides). The presentation (I say presentation, the Loews folks read from a script and then pressed play) started with Jim Cameron introducing "select scenes" from the movie.
SPOILER ALERT (SCENE DETAILS - No major story giveaways but if you just want visual impressions then I'll get to that at the bottom)
The first scene introduces the main character (the australian actor who played Marcus in Terminator Salvation) as a paraplegic marine on board some alien planet. He rolls up to a briefing given by an older officer with a scar over his eye. He looks mean and he dishes out their "mission" on this planet.
The first thing I noticed was the quality of the 3D. I've seen a bunch of 3D flicks, most recently "Up", and I've always been unimpressed. The 3D has always hurt my eyes and I feel like it's cheap "3D-ification" of a 2D movie meaning its only a series of levels as though I'm looking into some diaorama. This felt like it was designed for 3D from the outset and it showed. Tables were jutting out individually, glass screens, etc. and later giant monsters, flora and fauna... it all looked believable, my eyes didn't hurt and I hardly blinked.
The next scene was of the main guy going into a lab where Sigourney Weaver lies him down on what looked like a tanning bed with some head rigging. Again, excellent 3D but I was underwhelmed by the set design as it came off as being an extremely generic "futuristic lab" setting. Also, Sigourney has aged which I wasn't pleased about
Next he gets plugged in and we cut to a wormhole. He's know inhabiting his "Avatar" in a lab one room over... a 10 ft tall blue humanoid "Navi" - the natives on the planet. He gets so excited he can walk that they try to sedate him and he runs right out of the lab.
Next we cut to what looks like a tropical forest at night. The main guy is in his avatar holding a spear taunting a giant "hammerhead" - a dinosaur that has a hammer head...rendered beautifully in pink and purple colours. The thing then chases him through the jungle... a gorgeous chase... very jurassic park like. I must say the jungle is just gorgeous to look at and with the 3D you feel like you're in it. The chase camera is looking straight at him so you feel like you're flying through the jungle with him with this giant dinosaur behind you.
Next we cut to some scantily clad blue Navi girl who shoots some arrows and kills the hammerhead and some other dog-like creatures that come attack.
Let me take a moment to say that the quality of the CG... the skin on the Navi and the way they emote (this is some new tech to capture the actor's performance - you really feel like you're looking at someone's face). We got to see Sigourney Weaver as one of these things and it looked
like Sigourney Weaver only in Alien form.
Next we cut to a gorgeous scene with all these luminous plants lighting up the jungle floor.The hot blue girl speaks in broken English and breaks out a terrible line "You have strong heart, but you are immature like child!" The main guy follows her in the hope he gets some alien tail (they have tails).
Next the main guy's crouching around a steep cliff face with a group of Navi. One of the Navi guys in particular looks so human it's crazy. They're dressed like Mayan characters from Apocalypto. He is undergoing some sort of initiation where he must enter a "lizard's den" to capture a dragon-like lizard thing (they look like teradactyls). He moves around the cliff face and we arrive on a huge group of beautiful teradactyls in blues, purples, greens... very lush computer colours. The transparency on their skin is incredible. To their right is the cliff face and it's so gorgeous it has to be fake (the drop goes on forever... into the clouds). The main guy has to make his way through to one of them and cause him to submit. He puts something into its ear to make it stop attacking then rides it off the cliff face to "bond" with it.... next up comes several awesome shots of him hanging on for dear life as he goes off this massive cliff face into the canyon below.
That was it. The whole fifteen minutes.
END SPOILER ALERT
Now for the important part - The movie is clearly going to be a huge deal. It's budget is already in excess of $230 million. The CG is unparalleled in its ability to portray lifelike characters, create heretofore unseen lush environments and... what it's all for... to make us all forget that and involve us in the story. That said, the dialogue was borderline Lucas-like in its cringeworthiness at times but at the end of the day it doesn't really matter. Seeing this in IMAX 3D won't just be a movie... it will be an experience. I'm excited to go back to that world.
I'm running out of time so here's what I wrote for my coworkers:
The Good: Iím trying to think about what impressed me most. I think it was the 3D. It was the first 3D movie since I went to Disneyworld where. I felt like I was in it. It was borderline ride-like and Iím really looking forward to the experience in December. The CG looked gorgeous but it didnít fool me completely. That said, whatever performance capture tech theyíre using itís doing a good job of carrying the actorís performance over to the CG character.
The Bad: The little dialogue we saw was cheesy Ė ďI see you have strong heartÖ but you are weak like child. RAWR!Ē The filmed human and the cg navi world didnít really blend all that well because one of the colour contrast (navi world was very lush whereas the human world was made up of more muted "real world" colours). The visuals, while gorgeous, aren't all that original and can be traced back to something, particularly in the human base area...so don't expect this to be the next Star Wars. The story also seems extremely predictable. Do I really care? No, not really. The real marvel here is how convincing the world is.
I wrote that like I was in 8th grade but that's how gorgeous hollywood blockbuster make you feel. This one will likely succeed at that. See it, take your kids.