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Avatar 3 Reportedly Has A Tulkun-Sized Runtime Of Nine Hours Ahead Of James Cameron's Cuts

Moviegoers are now returning to the world of Pandora more than a decade after it was introduced in "Avatar." The 2009 film garnered three wins and nine nominations at the Academy Awards in 2010. And now, fans can experience its highly anticipated sequel, "Avatar: The Way of Water." The first film introduced Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a Marine who joins an operation that's infiltrating Pandora because it's the home to a valuable mineral known as unobtainium. As part of the mission, Jake and his teammates take on the likeness of the Na'vi, the inhabitants of Pandora. While learning about the culture, Jake becomes smitten with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and the two ultimately help take down the operation that's threatening the Na'vi's home. 

Fast-forward to "Avatar: Way of Water" and Jake and Neytiri now have their own family. But danger is lurking, and it causes the family to move to another part of Pandora that is inhabited by the Metkayina, who are Na'vi that have a close relationship with the water. While fans take in this new section of Pandora and all of the glorious creatures it has to offer, they are also taking in three hours and 12 minutes worth of storytelling — a runtime that has been criticized by some as unjustified. And according to reports, director James Cameron may have an even bigger story to tell in "Avatar 3."

A huge amount of work is allegedly ahead for the post-production team of Avatar 3

"Avatar: The Way of Water" is not the first time that James Cameron has gone over the three-hour mark. His other highly-acclaimed epic "Titanic" clocks in at three hours and 14 minutes. Meanwhile, the original "Avatar" is just shy of the three-hour mark, coming in at two hours and 42 minutes. Sitting in a movie theater for over three hours sounds like a big commitment, and Cameron is looking to up the ante.

During "The Hot Mic" podcast, insider Jeff Sneider revealed from a source that a cut of "Avatar 3"' is allegedly nine hours long. The cut was reportedly handed in by Cameron earlier this month. "And apparently, he's insisting on doing the VFX for this cut...and then he'll cut it down," Sneider reported. Cameron has not yet commented on these reports, and they could easily be an exaggeration — but we certainly wouldn't put it past the indulgent director. While fans try to figure out how much popcorn they will need for "Avatar 3," it is known that they won't have to wait too long for the next installment of the franchise. "Avatar 3," which was filmed concurrently with "Avatar: The Way of Water," is set to sail onto the big screen on December 20, 2024 (via The Wrap).

Cameron said he faced challenges with the runtime for Avatar: The Way of Water

While speculation swirls around the length of "Avatar 3," James Cameron told Entertainment Weekly that he ran into some challenges with the runtime of "Avatar: The Way of Water." "I think there was a lot of tension around length. And because it's a complicated linear narrative, which is the worst scenario for trying to shorten, you've got a complex story servicing a lot of characters, and it's like dominos falling: This has to happen for that to happen. You're not following a bunch of parallel plot lines in a way that you could take a lot out," he said.

With its intricate world-building, vast amount of characters, and its own language, "Avatar" could be compared to "The Lord of the Rings" movies. The franchise is well-known for long runtimes, with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" being the longest in the original trilogy, clocking in at three hours and 21 minutes.

Despite the long runtime, "Avatar: The Way of Water" seems to be doing well at the box office. According to Variety, "Avatar: The Way of Water" took in $53 million domestically between Thursday's previews and opening day, a much larger chunk of change compared to "Avatar" which took in $26.7 million on its opening day.