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Comic-Con 2009 Highlights: Thursday

July 24th, 2009 by Matt Sugarman Trailers Guy

Here are some highlights from the 1st full day of Comic-Con 2009, brought to you by our own intrepid Hulu reporters, Matt and Jason.

James Cameron invited 6,500 of his closest friends (and left a few thousand who, after a four-hour wait, didn’t make it into the panel sitting on the lawn pouting that they did not get in) to Hall H to reveal the beautiful world of Pandora, the mysterious alien planet that is a star in its own right in Avatar, coming to screens near you on December 18. Cameron had some old friends, like Sigourney Weaver, who plays Dr. Grace Augustine, on stage with him to share his unbridled enthusiasm for the film and the world they spent years meticulously creating.

Before he kicked off the 20-plus minutes of content from the movie, all in stunning Dolby 3D, he asked the crowd two questions: “How many of you have ever wanted to go to another planet?” and “Who wants to see Pandora?” The crowd roared, and the lights went down.

Many folks had not heard much about or seen much from the film, as it has been under development under a very tight lid for years. The movie tells the story of Pandora, an alien planet discovered in the not-too-distant future, that is rich in super-valuable minerals. These precious materials are then strip-mined by humans, and the native people, the Na’vi, are greatly impacted by this occupation. We’re introduced to a wheelchair-bound Marine, Jake (Sam Worthington), who, through the help of Dr. Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), is connected via neural connections to his avatar, a hybrid Na’vi/human DNA mixed shell body. For those that are not fluent in nerd, imagine connecting to the Matrix, but instead of being yourself in a new world, you inhabit a 10-foot, eerily lithe blue alien body.

Jake, via his avatar, regains control of legs that he had been unable to use for years as a human, and gets after it on this new, dangerous planet. Make no doubt, when you see this planet that Cameron has meticulously created (along with a language developed by the head of the USC linguistics department), your jaw will drop. He meets Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, who senses something great in Jake but makes it all too clear that Jake plays fast and loose, and on this planet, that will get you killed. There are some amazing chase scenes, fight scenes and training scenes, all of which highlight the beautiful characters, surroundings and fully made use of the 3D technology. This is the height of what Hollywood has done with 3D to date, and it may be the standard for a long time to come. I didn’t even get motion sickness with the glasses on, something that has plagued many 3D movie goers since the technology has grown in the past few years.

The crowd oooooohed and aaaaaaahed, and everyone walked out knowing they had seen scenes from this winter’s biggest blockbuster. It may not have been the absolute game-changer that some were expecting, but this film promises to raise the bar for CGI, Motion Capture and 3D very, very, very high.

Legend of the Seeker

A hit in syndication and a fan favorite on Hulu, Legend of the Seeker hosted a panel that gave a Season 1 recap for the uninitiated, and gave a tantalizing look at Season 2, which kicks off on November 7.

While Craig Horner, who plays Richard Cypher (the seeker), and Bridget Regan, who plays Kahlan Amnell (the confessor), were off filming the second season in New Zealand, they sent the eager crowd a video message that was met with rousing applause. The panel featured Terry Goodkind, creator of the book series that the TV series is based on; Bruce Spence, who plays Zedd, the magician mentor to Richard and Kahlan; and Ken Biller and Ned Nalle, executive producers on the series.

The crew regaled us with stories about the beautiful places they get to work every day (New Zealand), the amazing team that works on the show (a tireless writing staff, the Emmy-nominated composer Joe LoDuca), and the growing fan base worldwide (the show is going to be syndicated around the world, with some European markets set to see the start of the series at the end of the summer).

The crowd was revved up to hear some secrets about Season 2, which just wrapped its first episode:

  • There is a new regular coming to the show: Tabrett Bethell will play the mysterious and beautiful Cara, who will join them on their quest.

  • A fan favorite, Charisma Carpenter (who you may remember from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), will play Triana, who guest stars in the first episode and promises to stir things up.

  • The second season will start with a tear in the veil between the underworld and the world of the Seeker, a rift caused by actions from the first season. This tear allows the screelings (mean, mean suckers) to wreak havoc, and could allow the keeper of the underworld to destroy life as they know it. The only thing that can heal the tear is the “stone of tears,” which is a small stone lost for generations that could be anywhere in the world — a needle in a very, very big haystack.

Fans left the panel knowing that the second season is shaping up to be a worthy successor to the first, and with CGI that makes the CGI from early in Season 1 seem Jurassic, as Ned Nalle so gently put it. — Matt, Hulu’s Trailer Guy and Jason, Hulu’s Jack of all Trades

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