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 other-worldly plants and animals where humans embody avatars just to brave the landscape.
On Thursday, he presented world-premiere footage of his progress to more than 6,000 fans at Comic-Con. 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. Sigourney Weaver also stars in the film, playing botanist Grace Augustine.
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.
"The technology could be made [for it] to happen, but also [it] was just wanting to do something, I don't want to say important," he told fans. "But something that has this spoonful of sugar of all the action and the adventure and all that, which thrills me anyway as a fan, but also wanting to do something that has a conscience, that maybe in the enjoying of it makes you think a little bit about the way you interact with nature and your fellow man."
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.