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James Cameron Deliberately Toned Down The Gun Violence In Avatar: The Way Of Water

James Cameron's "Avatar: The Way of Water" has ruled over the multiplex for a couple of weeks now, nearing the $1 billion mark in ticket sales (per Box Office Mojo). While the director's sequel to 2009's "Avatar" likely won't outpace its record-breaking predecessor at the box office, it continues to thrill audiences who wade into its warm, creature-centric waters (per RottenTomatoes).

There's a moving, tenderly observed family drama at the heart of "The Way of Water" — but it's safe to say that the film's action-packed spectacle and jaw-dropping world-building remain the stars of the show. That's hardly surprising, as Cameron has long been known as a cinematic stylist whose uncanny ability to stage eye-popping action sequences is second to none.

Over the years, many of those sequences have been noticeably heavy on gunplay, with the filmmaker taking no uncertain pleasure in fronting big guns and pyrotechnics. But compared to some of his earlier films, Cameron significantly toned down the gun violence for "The Way of Water." According to Cameron himself, that was a very deliberate decision.

Cameron wanted to strike a better tonal balance on the Avatar sequel

James Cameron talked about dialing back the gunplay for "Avatar: The Way of Water" during a recent interview with Esquire Middle East. In discussing the decision, Cameron claimed he'd significantly cut the runtime of his sci-fi epic in a targeted attempt to limit the presence of guns. "I actually cut about 10 minutes of the movie targeting gunplay action," Cameron said, adding, "I wanted to get rid of some of the ugliness, to find a balance between light and dark."

Cameron went on to pontificate on the dilemma that action and violence are essentially the same thing and how difficult it is to depict one without the other. In the course of the conversation, the filmmaker even admitted that he'd maybe indulged too heavily in on-screen gun violence himself over the years.

"I look back on some films that I've made, and I don't know if I would want to make that film now," Cameron said. He went on to specifically acknowledge the fetishization of guns in some of his past projects, noting that this doesn't feel right in today's society. "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."

There is, of course, still a fair amount of gunplay in "The Way of Water." But if nothing else, it's refreshing to hear that a filmmaker of James Cameron's esteem is at least trying to be conscious of how much he leans on it in his storytelling.