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Director James Cameron cut ten full minutes from his latest film, “Avatar: The Way of Water” — which still clocks in at a lengthy three hours and 12 minutes — because he was afraid that scenes featuring guns would “fetishize” firearms.
Cameron made the comments during an interview published by Esquire: Middle East, saying that he had struggled to find the line between preserving the film’s necessary action sequences and adding scenes that were more gratuitous and included firearms.
“I actually cut about 10 minutes of the movie targeting gunplay action. I wanted to get rid of some of the ugliness, to find a balance between light and dark,” he said. “You have to have conflict, of course. Violence and action are the same thing, depending on how you look at it. This is the dilemma of every action filmmaker, and I’m known as an action filmmaker.”
Cameron went on to explain that other scenes were left in despite their brutality — like one in which hunters are taking enjoyment from the slow, deliberate stalking of one of the Tulkun. “There’s a moral crime,” he said.
He concluded the interview with an assessment of how the second film differed from the first — 2009’s “Avatar” — in the way that the final scenes played out.
“The first film has the good guys and the bad guys seemingly equally opposed, and then the good guys get crushed and defeated and many of the heroes die. Then there’s this almost ‘deus ex machina’ where Jake invokes the forces of nature—a ‘deus ex machina’ I think is earned by the way,” he explained. “The second film doesn’t work that way at all. The battle is not even a battle, it’s a rout. It’s the revenge of the Na’vi and the Tulkun. The real challenge, and the real defeat, and the thing that must be recovered from, happens after the battle.”
Cameron has reportedly gone all-in on the franchise, filming the third and fourth installments before the second was even released in an effort to ensure continuity, but his comments suggest a deliberate move away from more scenes featuring firearms — and he even went so far as to say he would reconsider making some of his more famous films for the same reason.
“I look back on some films that I’ve made, and I don’t know if I would want to make that film now. I don’t know if I would want to fetishize the gun, like I did on a couple of ‘Terminator’ movies 30+ years ago, in our current world,” Cameron explained. “What’s happening with guns in our society turns my stomach.”
The “True Lies” director went on to say that he was glad to be somewhat removed from the problem, primarily living outside the United States where gun laws were far more strict.
“I’m happy to be living in New Zealand where they just banned all assault rifles two weeks after that horrific mosque shooting a couple of years ago,” he said.