Avatar, James Cameron's long-awaited visit to an alien 3-D world, got its first exposure today at San Diego Comic Con. We watched around 25 minutes of dragon-riding, monster fighting and alien first contact, including Zoe Saldana's sexy alien. Spoilers below...
Here's a description of the clips we got to watch:
The Pep Talk
A room of assembled newbie soldiers are sitting in a room in Pandora's Hell's Gate station while the grouchy, Na'Vi-hating Colonial Quaritch explains their new mission. "You're not in Kansas, anymore. You're in Pandora." Everything on Pandora he explains, is deadly. Every plant and animal out there "wants to kill you and eat your eyeballs. Worst of all are the Na'Vi, who are designed for survival, their bones reinforced with natually occurring carbon fiber.
"My job," he continues, "is to keep you alive. I won't succeed —" he waits a beat "— not for all of you."
In the meantime, Jake Sully, a paraplegic soldier, has rolled his wheelchair down the aisle. As the colonial continues listing precautions, Jake muses in voiceover, "Nothing like an old school safety briefing to put your mind at ease."
Meet the Avatars
Jake enters a room filled with medical technology with fellow Avatar-driver Norm Spellman. Avatars, we learn from Jake's voiceover, are bodies designed to look like the Na'Vi, grown in vats using a combination of human and Na'Vi DNA. Humans then "drive" the Avatar bodies as they explore Pandora. In the tank, we get our first look at the Na'Vi-shaped Avatar: it's an incredibly lanky, blue-skinned creature with zebra stripes and a long tail pointed into a diamond at the end. The facial features are leonine, with enormous golden eyes and large, pointed ears.
"It looks like you," Jake tells Spellman.
"No, it looks like you," he replies. "Meet your Avatar."
Getting Your Space Legs
Jake pulls himself into a medical capsule. Sigourney Weaver, as botanist and Pandora conservation advocate Dr. Grace Augustine, marvels that, in Sully's condition, he's decided to head to the most dangerous place in the universe. Cheekily, Jake responds, "Maybe I'm sick of doctors telling me what to do."
He lies down, and Augustine lowers the cover of the capsule. Jake is about to connect to his Avatar for the first time, and other team members monitor his readings on transparent panes. Looking at a chart of Jake's neural pathways, one doctor comments, "That's a nice brain," to which Augustine quips, "Go figure."
They look through a window in the next room, as Jake connects to his Avatar. Jake wakes up in the tank and see two other team members in hazmat suits. Soon he's out and lying on a table. Spellman is next to him, also in his Avatar. The one team member is slowly testing Spellman's motor skills. As soon as Jake gets on the table, he excitedly tries out his new feet, wiggling his toes. Delighted with the response, he leaps awkwardly to his feet. His body hasn't caught up with his excitement, and the team members and doctors start yelling at him to sit down. His long tail whips around, nearly hitting one of them.
"This is dangerous!" shouts a doctor.
Jake, though stumbling, is unfazed, "This is great!"
Monsters of Pandora
Jake, outfitted with a gun and fatigues, is in his Avatar walking through an Amazonian jungle. Spellman and Augustine are behind him in their Avatars, but Jake spots something in the distance and wanders off to investigate. He finds a small grove of tall, orangey beige plant made of single spirals of spines. Jake goes to touch a plant, but before he can, it whirls down and contracts into the ground. Intrigued, he tries it again and again until all the plants contract at once, revealing an enormous beast behind them. This is a massive, prehistoric-looking monster, resembling a vicious, mutant tortoise with a hammerhead-shaped snout over four narrow eyes. As it snarls at Jake, a fan of striking purple fronds flares on top of its head.
Spellman and Augustine enter the grove and Augustine warns Jake not to shoot the creature, as its armor is too tough for the gun to be of use, and it's making a territorial display. "Stand your ground," she says and Jake runs at the creature, making himself as big as he can. The tortoise creature runs off, and we can see a handful of similar creatures nearby.
Jakes whoops in victory. "That's right. Who's tough?" But behind him, we see a far more frightening beast crawling out from the trees. This one has a narrow head, with fearsome teeth at the very front, and black and red spines waving from its neck. The head looks almost like a moray eel's, but the dark body looks like a tiger's. It leaps out toward the other tortoise creatures, scattering them.
Jake turns to Augustine. "What about this one? Stay or run?"
Without hesitation, she screams, "Run!" and does. Fast. Jake runs too, but the eel-tiger-spiney beast chases him through the jungle. At one point, Jake dives into an opening of a tree to escape, but the beast shoves its slender head inside, cornering him. Jake starts shooting at it, which distracts it long enough for him to slip out, but he's forced to drop his gun in the process. The beast continues to chase him, snapping him up in his mouth by his backpack, but he manages to free himself from the pack and keeps running.
Jake is alone now, no shirt, no pack, only a pointed stick for protection. As he wanders through the jungle, we see Na'Vi woman Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) watching him from a tree. She pulls up a bow and cocks an arrow, preparing to finish the job the beast started. But while she holds the arrow, an ethereal white creature that resembles a comb jellyfish without the jelly pulses down from above and gently lands on her bow. She silently takes this as a sign and relaxes the arrow.
You're Like a Baby
Jake is being attacked by yet another set of beasties, these like scrawny furless dogs. Neytiri shoots a dog thing wrestling with Jake — then, leaping through the air, she fends off the others. As the last few scatter, she bares her teeth and hisses, feral. The dog thing she shot is still alive, and she prays over it in Na'Vi — a soft, Native American-sounding language — then slits its throat.
Jake retrieves his stick from a pool of water and suddenly notices the bioluminescent beauty of Pandora. I cannot overstate how incredible this looks — the plants are a spectacle of greens, blues, pinks, and purples without being the slightest bit gaudy. Some of the plants look like jungle flowers, others like hanging butterfly wings. Whenever Jake touches anything, the glowing vegetation ripples and pulses. Even his freckles glow green.
He interrupts Neytiri's praying to thank her. "I would have been screwed without you."
Neytiri stops, indignant. "Don't thank," she says in thickly accented English. "You don't thank for this. This is sad. This is your fault. They don't need to die." She furiously waves him off. "You're like a baby, making noise."
He responds, "If you care so much about your forest friends, why save me."
"Why save you? You have a strong heart, no fear. But you're like a child." She walks away from him across a thick tree branch glowing with moss.
Jake follows her, hopping along to keep up. "If I'm like a child, then teach me." He tries to engage her, "Where did you learn English?"
She ignores the question. "You're like a baby."
He catches up with her. "Take me with you."
She shakes her head sharply. "Go back." She starts to turn away, but then something catches her attention. The comb jellyfish creatures are back and are floating around them en masse. Jake starts to flick them away, but Neytiri grabs his hand and commands him to stop. She lets go and they settle on his body, covering his outstretched arms and head.
"They are the seeds of the Sacred Tree," she explains, awed, "very pure spirits."
When they disperse, Jake is calmed but confused. "What was that all about?"
Neytiri waves him to follow her. "Come! Come!"
Jake lopes behind her. "Where are we going?" She doesn't respond, so Jake admires more of the glowing fauna around him. He taps a green anemone-like plant like a drum and smiles with delight as the color ripples. Similarly, the deep purple path beneath them glows with more intensity with each footfall.
Jake is now among the Na'Vi in a cave behind a waterfall. The other Na'Vi are male, but Neytiri is there as well. The alpha Na'Vi walks up to Jake and calls him something that sounds like "Shakes-a-Leaf" and says with a smirk that he will go first.
Jake edges along a ledge behind the waterfall. Where the waterfall ends, he sees a bevy of dragons fluttering and grumbling on a rocky cliff. The dragons have iguana-shaped heads with two long, lilly-shaped tubes sweeping back from the crown. Their wings bend down into claws and then bend up to end in three dragonfly wings on either side.
Neytiri is on the ledge behind him, instructing him on how to obtain a dragon mount. "If he chooses you, you will know. You will have one chance."
"How will I know?"
"He will try to kill you."
Jake makes an of course he will face but presses on through the throng of lizards. Quickly, one starts grumbling at him. "Let's do this," Jake says, swinging a whip-like rope.
The men laugh in Na'Vi, "This moron's going to die."
He swings the rope at the dragon, binding its snout closed and, holding onto the end of the rope, scrambles onto the dragon. The men are still laughing, but Neytiri calls out, "Make the bond!" But before he can, the dragon throws him. He falls over the edge of the cliff, but manages to hang on and pull himself up. He holds down the dragon's head and forcibly inserts his braid into the lily shaped tube, forging the bond."That's right," Jake grunts into the dragon's ear. "You're mine now."
They're not done, though. Neytiri calls out that "First flight seals the bond," and before Jake can consider that, she shoves both rider and dragon off the cliff.
They plummet and fumble and tumble and manage a few seconds of clumsy flight before Jake finally says in exasperation to the shrieking dragon, "Shut up and fly straight."
Miraculously, it does, and they begin to glide along smoothly. Surprised and satisfied, Jake instructs it to "Bank right."