James Cameron knows there are plenty of people who complain about the length of so-called “hangout” sequences in his “Avatar” movies. But for him, those people are missing the point.
“Let’s just be here, right? I mean that’s, I think, what the film is saying. You liking what you see? Let’s hang out,” Cameron told TheWrap as part of our “Avatar: The Way of Water” cover story. “Let’s just hang out, look around, smell the roses. Movies don’t do that.”
The Oscar-winning director said there were battles with 20th Century Fox on the first “Avatar” movie when executives wanted to cut some of the film’s flying sequences.
“We got into a big conflict with the studio brass at Fox on the first film because they kept saying stuff like, ‘Well you can cut out all that flying stuff, we don’t need all that. That doesn’t advance the plot.’ I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely correct, it doesn’t advance the plot. It’s doing something completely else. It’s allowing people to enjoy the moment.’”
Cameron continued, saying he’s happy to lean into earnestness in contrast to the prevalence of snark he sees in so many movies these days.
“People forget to put beauty into a film. There’s a lot of snark, there’s a lot of sarcasm, there’s a lot of cutesy jokes in movies. There’s a lot of people playing things off as if they’re super cool and therefore diluting the sense of stakes, the sense of jeopardy. I go straight at just being earnest. If there’s jeopardy, it’s real. People could die. And if you like what you see, let’s just hang out for a bit. Let’s not rush through this because of artificial concepts like ‘plot’ [laughs]. It sounds dumb but it works.”
And again, he’s fully aware there are some people who will complain about there being too many scenes of characters swimming in the ocean in “Avatar: The Way of Water,” but Cameron says he’s made a conscious decision to play to the audience who wants more of the experiential aspects of the film.
“It’s funny, the scenes they complain about being too long are the same scenes they love. It’s just not the same people that are complaining and loving it,” he said. “‘Too much swimming!’ Yeah, OK, for you, but not for all these other folks over here. So ultimately you have to kind of arbitrate between the conventional ruleset and the experiential ruleset.”
It looks as though Cameron’s arbitration is a winning formula twice over now. After “Avatar” became the highest-grossing film of all time, “The Way of Water” has now surpassed $1 billion at the worldwide box office in just 12 days.