D23Expo: New Footage from ‘Avatar’ Panel Shows Us the Way of Cameron

What was anticipated to be a gigantic, epic day of announcements at the D23 Expo ended on an unexpectedly more quiet note, as audiences took in footage from what many consider to be the year’s most anticipated film, Avatar: The Way of Water.

The long gestating sequel to the highest grossing film of all time sees audiences return to the planet Pandora, catching up with Sam Worthington’s Jake Sulley and Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri. And to promote the film, director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau converted a convention hall into a 3D movieplex. How is that even possible? Well, that’s just Cameron.

Calling in from New Zealand, Cameron was not able to make it in person to the conference, but deferred to his producing partner, Jon Landau to handle all of the in-person requirements. Landau mused on his history working with Cameron before calling in the cast to join him on stage. Present were Worthington and Saldana, Stephen Lang, newcomers to Pandora, Jamie Flatters, Jack Champion, Trinity Bliss, Bailey Bass, and the legendary Sigourney Weaver.

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Jon Landau speak onstage during D23 Expo 2022 at Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on September 10, 2022. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Landau spent the first few minutes asking the returning cast members how their characters have changed since the last time they were seen on screen. Worthington and Saldana emphasized the importance of family being a major theme in the film. Lang was asked about how it’s possible for him to come back after his death in the first film. And naturally, given the secretive nature of the project, not all of these questions were answered.

However, Cameron did have a surprise for the audience. He was going to pass out 3D goggles and have the audience see the first few clips from Avatar: The Way of Water. As soon as everyone had their glasses, the footage rolled. And it was honestly gorgeous. Cameron’s visuals are cutting edge and the smoothness of the 3D genuinely brought Pandora to life right in front of us. It was an impressive feat to say the least.

However, admittedly, the scenes they showed weren’t enough to fully showcase what the story is, and surprisingly, the scenes chosen weren’t action spectacles. Here’s a breakdown of what was shown:

  • Scene 1: Was an extended swimming scene featuring several Na’vi interacting with the aquatic wildlife of Pandora. Again gorgeous to look at, but utterly pointless and a bit over-long.
  • Scene 2: Featured a group of adolescent Na’vi kids debating about how it was possible for Weaver’s character to have gotten pregnant. Again nothing that really warrants 3D technology.
  • Scene 3: The sole action scene among the scenes previewed today. This scene saw a hostage situation led by Stephen Lang’s Miles Quaritch. Neytiri is waiting in the shadows for the perfect moment, and fires a storm of arrows at them to help the children escape. Perfectly solid action beat among more character driven moments shared.
  • Scene 4: Jake and Neytiri argue about whether or not to stay or leave their home given the attack on their children.
  • Scene 5: Another extended swimming sequence, but showing Na’vi residents riding on the back of giant sea dragons.
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 10: (L-R) Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana speak onstage during D23 Expo 2022 at Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on September 10, 2022. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Admittedly, as gorgeous as the footage all looked, it really wasn’t much of the showstopper that was originally anticipated. And that boils down to the selection of scenes Cameron was willing to show. Several dialogue heavy scenes didn’t need to be in 3D. And the sole action shots they showcased were not very exciting. Still though, if Cameron wanted to hype up people about why a Dolby 3D surcharge is worth it for this film, I would have gone with scenes that would keep folks on the edge of their seats, as opposed to slower, dialogue heavy moments.

All in all, the response after the panel was fairly lukewarm. Could it be that the mainstream public is now officially over Pandora and Avatar? Or is it solely the choices made in scene selection that underwhelmed attendees? Whatever the case, history has always proven that one should not bet against James Cameron. We’ll see what happens when Avatar The Way of Water hits theaters this Christmas!