The Thunderbolts, Indiana Jones, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Avatar: The Way of Water Shine at D23 Expo

Day 2 of the event also unveiled new trailers for Star Wars series The Mandalorian season 3 and Andor season 1, Marvel series Secret Invasion and special Werewolf By Night, and Lucasfilm fantasy sequel series Willow.

by | September 10, 2022 | Comments


Pedro Pascal and Grogu in Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN

(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)

As the Walt Disney Studio is a vast collection of studios, their presentation was split into two days at D23 Expo 2022. The first day encompassed Disney-branded live action, Pixar, and Walt Disney Animation. The second day focused on upcoming offerings from Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd, and 20th Century Studios — an eclectic mix of material considering it spans from a galaxy far, far away to the wilds of Pandora, and, of course, the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse. As with yesterday’s presentation, it was a lot of ground to cover, but a worthwhile experience as The Thunderbolts lineup was unveiled, Lucasfilm unleashed a teaser trailer for The Mandalorian season 3, and James Cameron offered those in attendance a 3D glimpse of his latest project, Avatar: The Way of Water. So, let’s take a look at the announcements, a few of the jokes, and what the next few years have in store for Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Avatar.

The Thunderbolts Lineup Revealed and Other Tales of the MCU

Sebastian Stan

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

While the much-rumored Fantastic Four cast still remains an elusive Marvel Studios secret, president Kevin Feige did reveal a different cast: the lineup for 2024’s The Thunderbolts. The film closes out Phase 5 of the Cinematic universe and sees Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) teaming up with Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis Dreyfus), Red Guardian (David Harbour), Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), U.S. Agent (Wyatt Russell), Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko), and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

“These are my kinds of people,” Stan said of the team. “They look like a good, troubled bunch.”

Feige added, “It tells you something when the Winter Soldier is the most stable [of the team].”

The film, to be directed by Jake Schreier, begins shooting next year.

Captain America: New World Order cast at D23

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

The emergence of the Thunderbolts speaks to another problem hanging over the MCU since Phase 4 began — the Avengers are no longer an active group (despite certain jokes to the contrary). According to Feige, it is a problem that will be addressed in Captain America: New World Order. Anthony Mackie returns as Sam Wilson, the new Captain America, as he deals with the lack of a team and the return of Tim Blake Nelson’s Samuel Sterns — aka The Leader — a character last seen in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Feige quipped, “Fourteen short years later … promises fulfilled!”

“I’m delighted,” Nelson said. “It’s an absolute honor and thank you for sticking with the Leader.”

The film will also feature Danny Ramirez (as the new Falcon) and Carl Lumbly — last seen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Directed by Julius Onah, the film set for release on May 3, 2024.

Anthony Ramos Martinez, Ryan Coogler, and Kevin Feige

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Meanwhile, over in the Disney+ part of the MCU, Feige provided previews for the upcoming series Echo, Secret Invasion, Armor Wars, and Ironheart. The latter features Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), who will make her debut in November’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The director of that film, Ryan Coogler, is also producing Ironheart and presented a brief teaser for the series, which sees Williams working on her “better” suit of armor even as The Hood (Anthony Ramos Martinez) makes plans of his own. The occasion served as confirmation that Ramos will indeed appear as The Hood and when asked if he is good or bad, Ramos said the character is “complex.”

“[He] is almost a misfit and he wants to take in other misfits and show the world they’re going to end up on top. It’s a deep dive into a dark place he goes into, unfortunately, but he believes he is doing good,” the actor continued. “He has a love for his crew and his people. And he kicks ass.”

As it happens, The Hood’s powers are based in the Dark Arts while Riri is a “technologist.” The two disciplines have never been in direct conflict in any MCU project so far and Ironheart will feature the first time it they clash. The series debuts in 2023.

Echo cast at D23

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Echo continues the title character’s story following the events of Hawkeye. Alaqua Cox returns to the role as Maya seeks out her origins.

“What a journey this has been,” Cox signed. “It’s only the second role I’ve ever had — now I’m a lead! I had all these great co-stars to help me along the way. It’s great!”

In a brief teaser, Maya faces up to some of her history even as Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) attempts to emphasize his important to her past. “To bring Fisk and Maya back together again was an absolute thrill,” the actor said. “I really had no idea …  the extent of [Alaqua’s] talent and we have some crazy scenes.”

D’Onofrio remained on stage after the Echo cast departed to discuss, briefly, Daredevil: Born Again. Charlie Cox joined the pair. And although they have not begun shooting, the actor said, “it’s really emotional to have been doing this for a while and yet start again.” In lieu of any other footage from the revived series, Feige offered the audience a clip of Daredevil’s appearance on She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. In the scene, it soon becomes clear that Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) knows Matt Murdoch’s identity and that she is becoming more eager to be a superhero.

 Tom Hiddleston for Loki season 2 at D23

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

The year 2024 will also see the debut of Marvel Studio’s first second season as Loki returns to Disney+. In a teaser screened during the session, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is still trying to make good on what transpired in the first season. He warns people like Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) that “a war is coming.” No one may yet be heeding his warning, but it is nice to see that he cares and is invested in the future of the multiverse. Indeed, Hiddleston said as much when he and other members of the cast took to the stage. Although, the ever-watchful Feige kept him from elaborating.

Instead, the group, which included Wilson and Sophi Di Martino, welcomed Ke Huy Quan to the team. “Is this not the Indiana Jones panel?” he joked in response?

Don Cheadle stepped on stage to support both Secret Invasion and Armor Wars. The former comes to Disney+ next year and pays good on the various Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) teases over the years. The latter, expected to shoot next year, takes its cues from a famous Marvel Comics story in which Tony Stark’s armor falls into the wrong hands.

“It’s great to have Nick Fury get to be the tour de force that he is and take on his own storyline, Cheadle said. “I think it’s incredibly exciting.” Unfortunately, he was more tight-lipped about the long-in-development Armor Wars. Although, he revealed the series will run six episodes.

A little closer to release, though, is Marvel Studios’ first Disney+ special: Werewolf By Night. Directed by Michael Giacchino, it stars Gabriel Garcia Bernal as the titular Marvel hero.

“It’s a little darker,” Fiege said.

“But it’s fun scary. Just the right level of scares,” Giacchino added. He mentioned asking the cast, which also includes The Nevers Laura Donnelly, what makes them scared in movies and said “that’s what we want to do to other people.”

“I’ve been wanted to make this for you since I was 10 years old,” he continued. “[Composing film] music took over my life, but it’s incredible to come back to it.”

Based on the teaser, a black-and-white preview inspired by cheesy monster films, his return to directing should prove to be something different for the Marvel endeavor.

Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta, Winston Duke, Letitia Wright, Ryan Coogler, and Kevin Feige for Wakanda Forever

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Back on the film side, Feige and Coogler revealed a clip from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and a new trailer. While the latter offered more of Coogler’s vision for post T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) Wakanda, the clip revealed something equally interesting: the Dora Milaje defending a piece of vibranium from a French strike force even as Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) revealed to world leaders that Wakanda is still capable of defending itself even without its king.

Although, as Bassett said, “Our heart, Chadwick, was with us every step of the way.”

“I am excited for everyone to see Wakanda after Endgame and everything that’s happened so far,” added Winston Duke, who returns as M’Baku. “Everything is new. The tech is like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

Paul Rudd and Letitia Wright

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

The film closes out Phase 4, but Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, due out February 17, 2023, starts Phase 5 in a big way. Indeed, that change of scope for an Ant-Man film loomed large on star Paul Rudd’s mind. “This thing is bananas,” he said. “And while it seems like an oxymoron for something so small to do something so huge, its different for us.” Pointing to Jonathan Majors, who debuts as Kang in the film, Rudd added, “He’s incredible and throws thing into new territory.”

A new teaser for the film added a little more understand of the plot. Cassie [actress] sends a signal to the Quantum Realm. Soon, she, Scott, and the Pym-Van Dyne family, are shrunk down to that realm’s level. There, Kang press-gangs Scott into stealing something back from him. But as this is Kang, he is also unclear if he has killed Scott before in some other reality.

The Marvels cast and director

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Reality swapping will be the least of The Marvels‘ concerns when they debut next July. The film united Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) with WandaVision‘s Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani). From the footage screened, the trio are in for a hyper-colored adventure as their powers become entangled — forcing them to bodyswap at inopportune times, like Rambeau going EVA outside one of Fury’s S.A.B.E.R. space station.

And even in Hall D23, the biggest issue turned out to be Vellani’s first on-stage moment at a fan convention.

“I’m having trouble breathing today,” she said. “It’s great.”

Feige quipped, “She’s a bigger fan than any of you … and we only sometimes regret it.”

The studio chief also made one reference to Phase 6’s opening film, Fantastic Four, by introducing director Matt Shakman (of WandaVision fame), but offered no casting news. Instead, he mentioned Shakman will talk about the film at the next D23 Expo.

Lucasfilm Highlights Indiana Jones and Star Wars on Disney+

(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd)

Although Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, director James Mangold, and star Harrison Ford did not reveal the title of the fifth Indiana Jones film, Ford did suggest it will be his final film in the title role.

“This is it!” he said. “I will not fall down for you again!”

Nevertheless, the brief tease prepared for the audience in attendance revealed Ford is still capable of “falling down” as Professor Henry Jones Jr. Sometime has passed since his last outing, but his weathered fedora and good pal Sala (John Rhys-Davies) are back. This time, though, he faces a new foil in Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who may or may not be another relative of the famous archeologist.

Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

“I had the time of my life making this movie and working with [these] legends. Keeping up with this guy is exhausting,” Waller-Bridge said. “James brought back everything we love and this sparkle that is uniquely [his].”

Mangold, for his part, credits Raiders of the Lost Ark with inspiring a passion for filmmaking. ” Yesterday, I was sitting with John [Williams] yesterday [talking] about the score … I found myself living out a kind of fantasy I had in high school in making one of these movies.” He thanks Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas for entrusting him with Indy’s latest – and may maybe last? – ride.

Jon Favreau, Christopher Ford, Jude Law, Jon Watts, Dave Filoni, and Kathleen Kennedy at D23 Skeleton Crew presentation

(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Another Ford also took the stage: Chris Ford, writer of the upcoming Star Wars series Star Wars: Skeleton Crew. As executive producer Jon Favreau explained, the program came about while chatting with director Jon Watts on the set of Spider-Man: No Way Home. He suggested Watts might want to direct an episode of The Mandalorian, but instead heard a “fully formed idea of what he wanted to do.”

According to Ford that idea revolves around a group of kids who “get lost in the galaxy.” Their only guide – or so it seems – is Jude Law. Inviting the actor on stage, the trio unveiled the first photo from the series, but nothing else. Law’s character is still a total mystery and even the kids seemingly in his charge were obscured in the photo. Watts said they have been shooting for a couple weeks in the same facility as Ahsoka, but it was still too soon to offer up any more details. Skeleton Crew is expected to debut sometime next year.


(Photo by Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Ahsoka co-creator Dave Filoni briefly mentioned the upcoming series, starring Rosario Dawson in the title role, but focused more on Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi. The animated program, launching October 26th, consists of five short films focusing on Ahsoka, Count Dooku and other Jedi. But in terms of Ahsoka as a series, the shorts centering the character will detail events in her Padawan life that may impact her live action adventure.

Favreau said Filoni has been his “sherpa in all things Star Wars” as the pair spoke about The Mandalorian. As revealed in a teaser screened during the panel, the characters make their way to Mandalore, which means Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff) is also back. Sackhoff, along with actors Emily Swallow (the Armorer), Amy Sedaris (Peli Motto), Giancarlo Esposito (Moff Gideon), and Pedro Pascal (Dinn Djarin) joined the producers on stage.

It immediately led to a hugging session as Pascal made his way to Favreau.

“It’s been such a long time [since I’ve seen him],” he said.

The program will debut in 2023, as will Star Wars: The Bad Batch’s second season (which premieres on January 24). Previously meant to debut this fall, it will now join The Mandalorian, Skeleton Crew, and Ahoska as part of next year’s Star Wars shows.

But this year still has one last trip to the Star Wars galaxy. On September 21, Andor debuts its first 12-episode season. Set five years before the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) takes his first steps into the Rebellion.

“You won’t believe he is capable of what he did in Rogue One [at this point in his life].” Luna explained. “It’s about finding a purpose.”

The program also features Kyle Soller as “someone you love to hate” – according to Kennedy anyway. Soller said he’s “really complex and nuanced,” but as Star Wars is filled with lovable villains, “it’s nice to be part of the groove.”

The group introduced one last trailer for the series.

Also due out later this year is a series based on Lucasfilm’s Willow. Sharing its name with that film, it stars Warwick Davis as Willow Ufgood, a sorcerer called back into service when a new threat faces the realm. This time, though, he’s joined by three young women. According to Ruby Cruz, who plays warrior woman Kit, the series is as much “a journey of learning about ourselves” as it is another grand fantasy. Although, as the first trailer for the series revealed, it is still very much a fantastic quest in the Willow vein. It even has Brownies!

The series also features the return of Joanne Whalley, who was thrilled to come back to her character, and Christian Slater as a “friend” of the absent Madmartigan. It is set to debut November 30.

20th Century Studios Reveals The Way of Water

The final presentation of the day centered on December’s Avatar: The Way of Water. But instead of just talking about the long-awaited Avatar sequel, director James Cameron shared several scenes with the audience in 3D. After distributing glasses to the 6,000 or so people in attendance, a reel of scenes unfurled highlighting Sully’s (Sam Worthington) family and their apparent flight from the jungle of Pandora to its ocean.

Worthington and Zoe Saldana return, as do Sigourney Weaver and Steven Lang — although the latter two play new characters. As revealed in the selected scenes, Weaver is now the daughter of her character from the first film — her lineage is the subject of one of the scenes screened, in fact. Lang, meanwhile —

“You can’t keep a good marine down,” the actor joked. “He regrouped in Hell.”

Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington

(Photo by Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington)

“The whole movie deals with protecting family and the family you choose,” Worthington said. “That currency of love is paramount to what life is and it’s worth fighting for. We put that into the movie.”

Saldana added, “It’s beautiful to see what Jim did for this relationship between Jake Sully and Neytiri.”

The footage revealed the beauty of Pandora via 4K photography at 48 frames per second. The presentation proved Cameron is still devoted to pushing film in a different direction, even if it means abandoning its most essential elements. The result is undeniably beautiful even as elements return to Pandora to rob it of its wonder. Or, at least, we assume that’s an element of the plot.

Avatar: The Way of Water debuts in theaters on December 17.

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