Avatar’s James Cameron Shares Why He Cut ‘10 Minutes’ Of Gun Violence From The Way Of Water

Quaritch in Avatar 2.
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Most filmmakers evolve and change as they grow older. The things that they found exciting or inspirational in their younger days don’t move them the same way. And sometimes, they look back on their films – even some that are considered to be the best action movies ever made – and want to make changes. Steven Spielberg, as an example, changed the guns in the hands of special agents in his family feature E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial into walkie talkies. It may seem odd, but it’s his prerogative. Similar emotions went into changes that James Cameron made to Avatar: The Way of Water, as he is now explaining since the movie is in theaters.   

James Cameron’s sci-fi blockbuster sequel is doing exceptionally well at the global box office, and is expected to cross the $1 billion mark soon. And now Cameron is opening up about his filmmaking process on the movie. He spoke to CinemaBlend about the next chapter of his Avatar saga, and the movies he saw in a post-Avatar world that he thought lived up to their use of 3D. And in a recent interview with Esquire Middle East, Cameron revealed that he removed scenes of gun violence in his sequel, because he doesn’t want to fetishize the use of weapons. As Cameron explained:

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. 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.

Needless to say, we are in a very different culture with regards to gun violence. So it’s interesting to see a proven action director like James Cameron reversing course, and even going so far as to say he probably wouldn’t make two of the movies that launched his career and made him one of the most famous directors of our time. Sure, any list of James Cameron movies ranked would have to include Titanic and Aliens. They are classics of their genre. But the Terminator franchise made Cameron who he is, and he went on to tell Esquire Middle East:

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. What’s happening with guns in our society turns my stomach.

It would be unusual if a storyteller like James Cameron didn’t evolve in his thought process, and kept making the same movie over and over, regardless of the climate. There were 13 years between Avatar and its new sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, and the world has changed. The audience, too, has changed. Cameron can talk about the technical changes he now has at his fingertips that would improve on older movies like The Abyss. But he, as a storyteller, also has different messages that he wants to convey to his crowds. And in Cameron’s case, he’s choosing to de-emphasize the use of guns.

Audiences are responding. Avatar: The Way of Water enjoys a 92% Fresh score with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, and as mentioned, is crushing at the box office. Hitting $2 billion might be tough. But the movie’s already well received, and Avatar 3 seems like a slam dunk after the reaction to this new sequel.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.