Avatar: The Way Of Water D23 Expo Footage Debuts 6 Scenes From James Cameron's Upcoming Blockbuster

Underwater shot from Avatar: The Way of Water
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

In case you haven't noticed, movie-goers really haven't seen all that much from James Cameron's upcoming Avatar: The Way Of Water. The debut footage premiered at CinemaCon 2022 all the way back in April, and while that first look eventually made its way to theaters and the internet, we haven't actually seen anything from the hotly anticipated film since then. As things stand, we actually have no idea when the next trailer for the feature will arrive... but today fans can get hyped, as the blockbuster sequel was previewed in a big way just this morning at D23 Expo 2022. 

Today's events at D23 Expo included the Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios & 20th Century Studios Presentation inside Hall D23 at the Anaheim Convention Center, and while the event featured excitement like a new clip from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and first look footage from Indiana Jones 5, the big showstopper at the end was Avatar: The Way Of Water. With James Cameron teleconferencing in from New Zealand where the movie is being finished, a total of six clips were shown from the blockbuster  – showing off the movie's 3D, some character dynamics, and a taste of action.

Na'vi Go For A Swim

The first clip from Avatar: The Way Of Water was clearly included as a showcase for the 3D that fans will get to experience with the blockbuster. Almost completely without dialogue, the scene features a group of Na'vi going for a swim in the clear blue waters of Pandora, and it's beautiful stuff. Not only does everything look remarkable and crisp thanks to the combination of high frame rate and the extra dimension, but the action provides both a terrific sense of depth and the illusion of things emerging from the screen. As the Na'vi play in the water, schools of fish go past that look fully tangible through a pair of 3D glasses, and it's definitely next level stuff compared to what we saw 13 years ago.

I don't know how well this kind of extended sequence will play in non-3D screenings of Avatar: The Way Of Water, as the sequence is definitely more about aesthetics than anything else, but in that sense, the preview most certainly made it clear how James Cameron wants audiences to watch his new movie.

Who Is Kiri's Father?

The second Avatar: The Way Of Water clip shifted the action away from the beauty of nature to a scene set in a laboratory with Kiri – the new young Na'vi character played by Sigourney Weaver. As Kiri looks at the avatar of Dr. Grace Augustine (Weaver's character in the first movie) in a tank and watches an old video of her in human form on a monitor, another unidentified kid Na'vi asks who knocked her up. The number one guess is Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore), though that's an idea that Kiri is clearly disgusted by. The debate clearly strikes a chord with Spider (Jack Champion), who suggests that sometimes it's better to not know who your father is. Why? Because it seems that Spider is the son of Miles Quaritch, the human villain played by Stephen Lang in the previous film.

Because none of the Avatar: The Way Of Water clips were set up with context that explained how the sequences fit into the full movie, the relationships between the different characters in the second clip weren't totally clear, but it did establish that there are some interesting questions that will be raised in the film in regards to Kiri and Spider's parents.

The Na'vi Set An Ambush

The third Avatar: The Way Of Water D23 Expo clip was clearly chosen because of the action featured. Based solely on context provided by the scene, it seems that there will be a part in the movie where the children of Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) get kidnapped, and the parents execute a rescue mission. In the middle of the forest in pouring rain, Na'vi heroes move silently and start an assault. One guy is taken down with an axe to the back of the head, while Neytiri positions herself in a tree to take aim with her bow and an arrow. 

She has to wait for her moment to get the right shot, but when it comes, she takes it, and she ends up shooting of the baddies right in the eye. After this happens, all hell breaks loose, guns start firing, and the kids try to fight back.  The leader of the group (who may nor may not be Quaritch as a Na'vi) sees the feathers on the arrow fired and calls out to "Mrs. Sully," saying that they have unfinished business, and mocks her "litter of half breeds." As this happens, one of the bad Na'vi takes aim at the sky with a gun, but the scene cut before the shot is fired.

As previewed, this was a fun scene to tease what is expected to be the central conflict in Avatar: The Way Of Water, but I also found it to be the scene where the 3D was a hindrance instead of a help. The action felt strangely jumpy instead of smooth like the previous scenes. I'm hoping that the reason is just because of the presentation of the footage, which didn't fully allow my eyes to adjust to the cinematography, 3D, and high frame rate, but it was disorienting in the moment.

Jake And Neytiri Fight About Protecting Their Family

The next Avatar 2 clip was seemingly set in the aftermath of the previous one –featuring Jake and Neytiri fighting with one another while their children surreptitiously watch them. Jake argues that the they are in danger as they are being hunted by Miles Quaritch and that they need to find a new home so that they can be safe. Neytiri, on the other hand, has always lived in the forest and made a promise to her dying father that she would always be around to help her people. Jake says that staying around is putting Neytiri's community in danger, and while he has no plan about what to do, protecting his family is what he can do. He explains that no matter where they go, "family is our fortress."

Without knowing more about the plot of the film, it definitely feels like this is a scene that takes place at a key juncture in Avatar: The Way Of Water. It sets up the protagonists with a need to figure out their priorities as the battle against Quaritch continues, and could be the moment that really sets the characters out on a new adventure.

A Fight Amongst Na'vi

Of the six clips shown, I have to admit that this one totally lost me due to the aforementioned fact that zero context was provided setting it up. In the scene, a family of Na'vi that doesn't look familiar debate about one of the characters "bonding with an outcast." The paternal figure in the group delivers a lecture about tribe history and how killing only leads to more killing, which is apparently why the outcast in question was kicked out of their community. One of the characters stands up to this paternal figure and fights against the tradition, saying, "I know what I know."

I'm sure that this scene will make sense come December when movie-goers actually go to see Avatar: The Way Of Water in its entirety, but I can't say that it was particularly clear being shown independently and without setup at D23 Expo.

Young Na'vi Learn How To Ride A Water Creature

The final Avatar 2 clip of the presentation brought the action back to the water and the Sully family. Apparently taking place after the clan has moved out of the forest and to a new home, the hero Na'vi are told that they must learn how to ride aquatic creatures that look like small and friendly Plesiosaurs if they wish to stay with a new tribe. Based on the evidence presented, it's not a particularly hard skill to acquire, as the young Na'vi bond with the creatures quickly before hoping on their backs and being taken deep into the water.

While not a particularly substantial scene, the sequence did provide even more beautiful underwater, 3D cinematography, and it does seem like the movie will be furthering the themes about the importance of having a relationship with nature.

In case it wasn't obvious, these clips probably won't be getting released online, but hopefully they have served to get you as excited for Avatar: The Way Of Water as the fans at D23 Expo. The blockbuster will be in theaters on December 16, and you can discover all of the other films that are coming out between now and then by scoping out our 2022 Movie Release Calendar.

For more information about the sequel, check out our Avatar 2 What We Know So Far guide. 

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.