By Larisha Paul
James Cameron made some conscious editing decisions while making Avatar: The Way of Water, which included pulling footage from the film’s more than three-hour run time to avoid fetishizing gun violence on screen.
“I actually cut about 10 minutes of the movie targeting gunplay action,” the director shared in an interview with Esquire Middle East. “I wanted to get rid of some of the ugliness, to find a balance between light and dark.”
The removed scenes proved to be largely unnecessary, with Cameron reflecting on the purpose of the use of guns in comparison to films he’s made in the past, like Terminator, and how his perspective has changed in the years since. Now, he says he’s more interested in presenting the actions of a “moral crime.”
“I look back on some films that I’ve made, and I don’t know if I would want to make that film now,” he said. “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. What’s happening with guns in our society turns my stomach.”
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Thinking about the off-screen reality of gun violence, the director thought about the decision to ban certain guns in New Zealand following a 2019 mass shooting that left dozens dead. “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.
With Avatar: The Way of Water, Cameron aimed to minimize any excessive violence without deflating the high-action narrative, particularly in the final battle scene. “You have to have conflict, of course,” he explained. “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.”
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