‘Avatar’ Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need To Know

From pioneering the special-effects technology to talk of a possible sequel, we prep you on what to expect from James Cameron's new sci-fi flick.

So “Avatar,” huh? James Cameron’s little film about big blue aliens. We hear it could be kinda big.

But big as in the highest-grossing movie of the year? Big as in all future CGI films must bow down to its technical splendor, its shimmering beauty, its utter — for a lack of a better word — Cameron-ness? All these questions have been the stuff of blogger bloviating for months, but now the public has a chance to weigh in. Will this 3-D motion-captured tale of the Na’vi aliens of Pandora and the human colonizers who arrive on their pristine planet to mine a precious mineral blow you out of your seat? Will you leave feeling underwhelmed?

The only way you’ll truly know is to head to the theater this opening weekend. Before making the trip, do yourself a favor and check out MTV News’ voluminous coverage of the film, everything from never-before-seen sneak peeks at the film to exclusive interviews with the cast. Throw on your 3-D glasses as you take in our “Avatar” cheat sheet.

This Hasn’t Been Done Before
Cameron wrote the treatment for “Avatar” in 1995, sketching an outline for what would become the story of ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who frolics among the Na’vi via his mind-controlled avatar and ends up falling for Princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). It took years to revolutionize the technology necessary to capture the director’s vision: digital 3-D and e-motion capture (small cameras attached to an actor’s head that mimic his facial movements).

“The technology that he’s using is something that hasn’t been done before, the way that he’s doing it,” star Laz Alonso told us in 2007 .

Comic-Con 2009 and the First Flights to Pandora
By the time the den of geek glory opened in San Diego this July, the fanboy community was experiencing some Richter scale-level excitement about “Avatar.” MTV got looks at a massive mech warrior and spoke with Cameron about how his film would deliver “kickass action.” From there, images and the first teaser trailer began to stream out.

MTV’s Exclusive “Avatar” Show
Months later another trailer dropped, this one with a much fuller exploration of the story — and a much deeper look at its computer-generated world.

All these early looks led up to the most in-depth conversation made available to the public yet, when MTV streamed a live conversation with Cameron, Worthington and Saldana on the Web. During the chat, we also debuted an exclusive clip from the film, a fast-paced fight scene between Sully and a nasty Pandoran beast.

Getting Close to the Launch
With early rave reviews coming in , MTV News aired an “Avatar”-centric episode of “Behind the Screen” in which Cameron led us through the creation of an action scene. We then exclusively debuted that scene for the public.

The Future
Cameron has always envisioned “Avatar” as an enduring sci-fi franchise. Without a blockbuster opening weekend behind the movie, it’s a little early to kick-start production on a sequel, but that’s certainly Cameron’s plan.

“If the movie makes money, then all things are possible ,” said the director. “And if it doesn’t, we’ll just pretend it didn’t happen.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Avatar.”

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