James Cameron's screening of never-before-seen footage from Avatar was perhaps the most highly-anticipated presentation at this year's Comic-Con. But once the fans had seen it, were they satisfied? I stood outside the packed Hall H and tried to find out as thousands of audience members streamed from the auditorium.
The consensus? Stunning. Phenomenal. Breathtaking. Of the dozens of viewers interviewed, none had a disparaging word, and many thought the film would literally change the way we thought about science fiction.
"That movie was game changing," said Wil. "It was unbelievable. ... From a science fiction perspective, he absolutely delivered. There's an amount of detail in there that is unprecedented. ... Until you see it, I cannot describe how amazing it is. As much as Star Wars changed science fiction, this will change science fiction again, and probably more. The effects are unbelievable. The 3-D is not 3-D done in a gimmicky fashion. It's 3-D done in an immersive fashion, where you can really feel as if you're in the environment with those characters."
According to Nick, "My friend said that this movie was James Cameron putting the daddy pants on and just showing people what sci-fi direction was about. I'm pretty much completely sold on that idea. This movie looks amazing. It's got this cool reality that doesn't quite look real. I've never seen more convincing CG in my entire life. It looks like it's actually telling a legitimate story that people are going to give a crap about."
"I thought it was amazingly beautiful, stunning, exciting, great adventure," said Chris. "The plot is amazing as well. Fascinating. A different world. I think Cameron did an awesome job. Probably the best 3-D I've seen, and I'm not just saying that. I've never been a fan of 3-D until I just saw that. I remember watching the clip, and we watched 25 minutes or something like that, and we could easily watch another hour and a half more. The glasses didn't bug me at all, and I really thought the scenes were just so beautiful. The colors were stunning, the graphic detail was amazing."
Even those who knew nothing about the film before they entered the screening were sold on the project. "We were actually there for Twilight, and stayed for Avatar," said Lai. "It's amazing. The special effects are really good. I didn't know anything about it, but watching those clips made me want to see it."
"I was surprised," said Victoria. "I knew almost nothing about it. I just knew it was supposed to be a big, big event here. They spent years doing it, and you could see it on the screen. They went all-out. They made good use of the 3-D. If you've seen Coraline, they doubled or tripled what they did with Coraline in making use of the 3-D aspect."
Those who went in already having heard of Avatar but expecting little were also bowled over.
"The 3-D experience was a lot better than I thought it was going to be," said Erik. "I was going in thinking, 'aw, 3-D, whatever, this is going to be lame.' But actually, it was pretty sweet. The world was pretty cool. I actually went into Avatar not knowing anything about the plot or why I was even going in there. But I'm definitely going to see that movie."
"I certainly want to see it," said Harrison. "It looks pretty great. It looks pretty damn good. It looks pretty effin' good. I went in expecting not to be as impressed as I was. You hear so much stuff about a movie, and you're kind of like, 'Eh, it might be kind of sh---y' ... and I absolutely want to see it."
One audience member, who said that he "absolutely loved it" but insisted on us not using his name before he'd speak to us, made a prediction: "I think it's going to be one of the two highest grossing films of all time. ... He'll have two of the highest grossing films back to back. It was astounding."
When I asked whether after making such a prediction, he'd reconsider sharing his name, he still passed, at the same time insisting: "But it will happen."