It’s noteworthy and then some how quickly things have changed for Avatar in the space of 24 hours. Yesterday morning before the online trailer hit, James Cameron‘s upcoming film was (a) the most keenly awaited scifi/fantasy of the year, and (b) about to have its profile bumped up big-time with a nationwide IMAX 3D quickie preview that would surely whet the public’s appetite for the full-length version that’ll open on 12.18. Huge event, crackling excitement.

But in the wake of yesterday’s trashing of the trailer by the elite cineaste/fanboy community and the negative ripple effect this has surely created to some extent, tonight’s IMAX 3D showings have gone from being seen as a bold genius marketing move to a do-or-die, prove-it-or-lose-it attempt to quell the bad buzz (Delgo, video-game graphics, “JarJar Avatar”, “$400 million furry cartoon”, etc.). I actually don’t mean quell as much as turn it around, spin it upwards, change people’s minds, etc.

I don’t mean to sound like a Monday Night Football commentator, but if I had that job in a movie realm I would be standing in front of Leows Lincoln Square six hours from now with a suite and tie and an old-fashioned 1990s hand mike, and saying the following to the camera:

“It didn’t start out this way but tonight’s Avatar preview has suddenly become a kind of Hollywood cliffhanger — a do-or-die chance for James Cameron and 20th Century Fox to turn the buzz around on Avatar among the cutting-edge types who always generate the first buzz-wave about any major film.

“Tonight, Avatar has to prove to the negheads that those who saw a slightly longer 3D reel at ComicCon last month and who’ve since called the film a new synthesis and a step-beyond in terms of big-budget fantasy presentation were on the money, and that Avatar is way, way beyond the realm of Delgo or Ferngully or the Rings trilogy or any other film in the CG-fantasy vein.

“And it has to prove more particularly that the trailer everyone has seen online isn’t really what Avatar is — and that there are many layers and delights and echoes contained in the film that will make Avatar absolutely required viewing when it opens just before Xmas, or four months from now.

“Will Cameron and Fox pull it off? Will yesterday’s neghead naysayers come out of tonight’s preview showings with a different attitude? Can they be turned? Or will they emerge with the same snarky, derisive and dismissive views? We’ll all find out tonight when Avatar faces the music, or more precisely the elite online seers and fanboy prognosticators and dug-in dweebs who live — let’s be honest — to take certain movies down. Whatever happens, we’ll be here reporting tonight starting at 6 pm.”