SDCC: James Cameron touts IMAX and Avatar

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

If current expectations for Avatar weren't high enough, James Cameron himself offered some new information about the forthcoming fantasy film that is almost certain to drive prospective fans wild with anticipation. "Watching Avatar is like dreaming with your eyes wide open," Cameron said in a prerecorded introduction Wednesday during an IMAX presentation in conjunction with Comic-Con International in San Diego, Calif.

"I'm really stoked about what this film is going to look like in IMAX," Cameron told a group of reporters. "The 3-D is an immersive experience, but in IMAX Avatar is overwhelming, almost intoxicating. You'll be drawn through the screen into a fantasy that seems utterly real even as it defies description. In our troubled economic times, audiences around the world are going to need more than ever a place to escape into a fantasy world, and with Avatar in IMAX, they'll be able to live and breathe in that world, and they won't want to come back."

Footage of Cameron appeared alongside other filmmakers, such as Christopher Nolan and Michael Bay, who have also used IMAX technology to maximize the theatrical experience for their audiences. In a short video clip, Cameron apologized for his absence, but offered some specifics about Avatar's plot and characters. "I'm sorry I can't be there in person today, but we're working nonstop on the post-production of my new movie," he explained. "Avatar takes place in the future on an exotic alien world called Pandora, a lush rainforest planet with incredible life forms—trees a thousand feet tall, all manner of bizarre alien creatures, some beautiful, some quite terrifying—and we're creating all of this in full stereoscopic 3-D."

Describing the characters, Cameron said: "Our main character, Jake [Sam Worthington], is a marine who's torn between duty and honor when he finds himself caught between the military forces of Earth and a primitive but noble alien race who are threatened by the human invaders. In his avatar body, living in the rainforest with the native people, he falls in love with an alien girl—who by the way is the coolest female action character I've ever done," he added. "As their love blossoms, Jake must choose sides in the impending battle for the soul of this planet. It's an epic adventure and a world of great beauty and danger, and it's got plenty of white-knuckle action, but it's also a heart-wrenching emotional journey."

Cameron's never suffered a shortage of confidence about his talents as a filmmaker and showed few indications he expected anything less with Avatar than a truly worthy successor to Titanic, which was a critical and commercial smash. "The only thing I can say, even this far ahead of the release in December, is that you haven't seen anything like this before," he said. "Now, I know everybody says that, but with Avatar, we've created a whole new production methodology mixing performance capture with live action to create a fully-detailed reality, and it's all in 3-D. Avatar is more than a movie; it's a completely new cinematic experience."

Offering one final shout-out to IMAX, Cameron said in closing, "December 18th, audiences will be transported to Pandora, into the world of Avatar, thanks to the most advanced theater presentation in existence, IMAX. Mark your calendars. Now I just have to get the damn thing done."

Cameron will preview Avatar to Comic-Con today in person; watch for our full report.