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We'll Never See A Director's Cut Of Avatar: The Way Of Water, And That's A Good Thing

"Avatar: The Way of Water" marks the epic return of legendary filmmaker James Cameron to the director's chair, with it being his very first movie since 2009 when the original "Avatar" came out. At 192 minutes long, the cinematic behemoth was reportedly a massive undertaking for both Cameron and the crew, and many people believe — or at least wish — that a director's cut will be released in the future to show off all their hard work, especially since "The Way of Water" runtime was one of Cameron's biggest battles during post-production. 

"I think there was a lot of tension around length," James Cameron told Entertainment Weekly in a December 2022 interview. "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."

Back in December 2021, Cameron sat down with fellow Hollywood heavyweight Denis Villeneuve for Variety, where the two discussed some of their goals for the future of filmmaking. For Cameron, this included "an expanded form of cinema." He told Villeneuve, "I want to do a movie that's six hours long and two and a half hours long at the same time. Same movie. You can stream it for six hours, or you can go and have a more condensed, roller coaster, immersive version of that experience in a movie theater. Same movie. Just, one's the novel, and one's the movie. Why not?" 

Despite Cameron's comments, producer Jon Landau says that when it comes to "The Way of Water," or even "Avatar 3," the option for a director's cut just isn't on the table right now — and honestly, we will all be better off because of it.

'We don't have the amount of content to do that'

Speaking to Polygon, Jon Landau said that moviegoers will be viewing "the definitive version" of the "Avatar" sequel, rather than a watered-down and sliced-up studio cut. He admitted to the website, "We don't have the amount of content to do that," in regards to making an extended film. 

As of right now, the idea of making two different versions of an "Avatar" film may sound awesome, but it's ultimately something that's completely out of reach for "Avatar: The Way of Water" and Cameron's crew at the moment, per Landau. But that doesn't mean the director won't pull it off at some point in the future. 

Reports emerged on December 18, 2022, saying "Avatar 3" was a whopping nine hours long, with one Hollywood source telling "The Hot Mic" podcast host Jeff Sneider that Cameron wanted to do the VFX for all nine hours of the film before cutting or editing anything. And while this would be a perfect opportunity for the "Avatar" crew to pull off such a feat, it's a completely different story for "The Way of Water."

A director's cut for Avatar: The Way of Water would be shoddy and way too long

At the end of the day, if James Cameron and the "Avatar: The Way of Water" crew were to actually come out with a director's cut, the film would wind up being way too long and poorly made, since everything's already been edited and sliced in a way to maximize the story as best they could.

"Considering Avatar: The Way of Water is such an effects-driven movie, it's no surprise that there aren't a ton of superfluous scenes that add to the movie," explained Polygon's Austen Goslin. "And anything additional that hasn't already been worked on by the film's CGI team would ... take a lot of time and money to produce." 

According to Jon Landau, just because the "Avatar" team won't be releasing a director's cut, however, doesn't mean that Cameron has abandoned the idea completely. "I think Jim is seizing on opportunities for other stories with two different cuts," the producer said. "The idea would be that you build a larger, epic narrative that can last six hours, and you pull a two-and-a-half-hour movie out of it." 

As of right now, "Avatar 3" is set to be the last pre-made "Avatar" sequel in Cameron's cinematic arsenal (via IGN). The director has previously said that "Avatar 4" and "Avatar 5" will not be shot unless the first two follow-ups are financial successes and don't end up flopping at the box-office.