Avatar 2 Footage Reaction: James Cameron Shows Us 'The Way Of Water' [CinemaCon 2022]

It's finally happening: "Avatar 2" is on the way, and the first footage has premiered at CinemaCon 2022 — along with the news that the official title is "Avatar: The Way of Water." The James Cameron film — which originally was slated to premiere in 2014 — has been through the wringer. Since it was put into production following the 2009 smash box office hit, it has changed release dates endlessly. But now, we are inching ever closer to seeing it in theaters, and Cameron has finally given us another glimpse of Pandora and the next chapter of the Na'vi story. Here's what we saw at CinemaCon. 

Avatar 2 at CinemaCon

As we've previously heard, "Avatar 2" focuses on the avatar Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his Na'vi wife, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who are forced to take their children, leave their home, and explore the regions of Pandora when an ancient threat resurfaces and pushes Jake into a war against humans. So what does the CinemaCon footage of "Avatar 2" entail?

Producer Jon Landau took the stage to introduce the film and reminisced about his experiences as a kid, loving seeing images feel the big screen. He stated that's the feeling they're trying to give audiences — "One of the strengths of Jim Cameron's scripts are the universal and relatable themes he weaves in." Landau added that the theme here is family. Each story in each of the upcoming sequels will come to its own conclusion and deliver fulfilling emotional resolutions, meaning each "Avatar" sequel can stand on its own. Though there will be a larger emotional experience watching the whole thing, it's expressed.

James Cameron appeared via a video message to say, "With the new 'Avatar' films, we're pushing the limits even farther with 3D, high dynamic range." But it's not just technical he assured the crowd, as Cameron cited the actors, the big names, and the new teens. "Every shot was designed for the biggest screen, the highest resolution, and the most immersive 3D available," he added. Then we got to the meat on these bones: the teaser trailer.

The footage moved quickly, featuring Na'vi jumping across vines on the surface of Pandora, as well as flying on the backs of Banshees. This was followed by a shot of a Na'vi blowing a horn. One of the big takeaways was seeing some of the underwater footage that has been boasted about with the sequel, and it looks almost motion smoothed. This may have to do with the high frame rate Cameron was boasting about and it is a bit unsettling. That said, the effects do look incredible.

The teaser featured lots of shots of the young family, as well as one shot of someone riding a dragon creature under the water. Hence, the movie's subtitle: "The Way of the Water." There was also a quick shot of two Na'vi scrambling through a human-made tunnel that's filling with water, almost like something out of another one of Cameron's hits, "Titanic." As the teaser continued, it showed a bunch of Na'vi floating on objects in the water, almost like an army waiting for the signal to be called into action. Of note, there was very little human footage in this preview. Though it does look like we got a glimpse of Jake Sully in clothes that looked like tribal garb. We also got a glimpse at Na'vi jumping into some sort of water chamber.

Overall takeaways from the footage are that Pandora looked amazing, as did the Na'vi themselves, but the high frame rate threw things off at first glance. The 3D looked good, but the frame rate being used is drastically different from what we're used to seeing that it was hard to get past. We'll see how that ultimately comes to impact the finished product, and whether or not general audiences can get on board with the visual innovation.

Cameron, who wrote and directed 2009's "Avatar," co-wrote "Avatar 2 with "Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicles" writer Josh Friedman. Cameron's longtime producing partner, Jon Landau, co-produced the film, while "Titanic" and "Ant-Man" cinematographer Russell Carpenter served as director of photography.

"Avatar 2" is slated to premiere in theaters on December 16, 2022