Why James Cameron Deserves a New Medium

Jan 6, 2023

Avatar: The Way of Water was quite a long film. Clocking in at 3 hours and 12 minutes, James Cameron tells a phenomenal story and tells the audience to plan their bathroom breaks carefully. There are even rumors that the first version of Avatar 3 is nine hours long.

Cameron doesn’t make excuses when he’s trying to create a film. He is famous for pushing the limits of the very technology it takes to make movies. Some may think this uncompromising attitude might not make the director worth the cost. But when you see results from Cameron, you can’t argue with his methods.

Cameron has already changed the way movies are filmed, creating at least six new cinematic technologies in order to film Avatar: The Way of Water. But the directors’ demand for excellence comes from a passion for telling stories, and Cameron’s technique may be growing beyond his medium. Movies in theaters have a strict, unspoken limit at the 3-hour mark, but the story Cameron is trying to tell might have grown beyond that time limit. It might be time for us to consider watching a James Cameron Saga in a new way.

James Cameron Is Dedicated to Quality

20th Century Studios

James Cameron’s movies are long, but they’re also very good. So good, in fact, that no one seems to complain about how long they are. It might be time to reconsider how we watch movies, so Cameron could make his stories longer. There are plenty of three-hour movies out there that have delighted but also annoyed audiences in the past. That’s why it’s so interesting that Cameron’s most lauded works are also his longer ones. When he spends time filming an Avatar movie, just how much does he cut from his original block of footage? And would any of those scenes make his story better?

Related: Avatar: The Way of Water: Kiri’s Role in Avatar 3

Editing is an essential part of the storytelling process. It forces the storyteller to take a hard objective look at their own work and to ask themselves if it truly is worthy of being shown to the public. It’s the most difficult part of being a filmmaker. And probably the portion of creating something that requires the most skill. But when Cameron creates something that is nine hours long, one might get curious about what’s happening in the other six hours of footage. Perhaps if you were counting every single second of footage a director had, then you’d include all those drone shots of landscapes and the second takes for safety, but the rumor was that Cameron’s first cut of the film was nine hours.

The rumor insisting on nine hours of film is probably a bit unreasonable, but it’s not out of the question to think that Cameron has an exorbitant amount of extra footage. The question then becomes: would this footage make his movies better?

It’s easy to say no. After all, editing is the most skillful part of filmmaking. But it would be more important to consider that, sticking to the rumor, a nine-hour film would play much differently than a three-hour film. We wouldn’t just be watching the extended version of Avatar 3 but some other story entirely. A theatrical release being restricted to three hours imposes limits on films like this, ones that are sagas instead of stories. Harry Potter can be taken book by book, and Marvel movies by small collections of comics. But the story Avatar is trying to tell is bigger than a movie. It’s time to consider that it deserves a different way of being told.

A Different Way of Watching Avatar

20th Century Fox

To say that all of Cameron’s footage is viable for a movie is ridiculous. No filmmaker is perfect, and no director makes a movie without expecting to lose some of it in editing. But if Cameron continues his method of filming, an entire extra movie could end up on the cutting room floor. There should be another way of watching something designed to be a movie but in the form of a visual novel. Most video games have at least eight hours of story. Cameron deserves to have a medium to reach audiences that allows his level of artistic quality to flourish without time constraints.

Related: Avatar: The Way of Water: Where The Third Film Could Go

The difficulty here is exactly the level of quality that Cameron demands. You couldn’t release an Avatar sequel, with all its hours of extended footage on a streaming platform, and still expect audiences to have the same experience as seeing it in theaters. One would have to rent out a movie theater for the whole day, and craft the story such that the audience could take carefully placed intermissions.

Another answer might be to bring back the drive-in movie craze. There could be a space outside the movie lot with restrooms and more substantial concessions, but each viewer could enjoy the movie in their own space, taking breaks at their own time, while still having a theatrical experience. The demand for longer, more immersive stories is rampant throughout the world, and artists shouldn’t have to compromise in order to tell a bigger story. The scope of James Cameron’s Avatar might be even larger than the movies it’s in.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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