James Cameron explains why Avatar: The Way of Water has such a long runtime

Avatar: The Way of Water
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios/Lightstorm)

James Cameron does not do things by halves. Now that the long-awaited sequel to Avatar is heading to cinemas, the director wants to make sure audiences are getting their money's worth, with Avatar: The Way of Water clocking in at over three hours in length. That runtime, however, isn't arbitrary; the sequel has been designed to address any perceived imbalance when it comes to character and storytelling versus sheer spectacle – an accusation previously levied at the original movie.

"The goal is to tell an extremely compelling story on an emotional basis," Cameron tells Total Film in the new issue of the magazine, featuring Avatar on the cover. "I would say the emphasis in the new film is more on character, more on story, more on relationships, more on emotion. We didn’t spend as much time on relationship and emotion in the first film as we do in the second film, and it’s a longer film, because there’s more characters to service. There’s more story to service."

Above all, however, The Way Of Water is a family story. This is because, 14 years after falling in love, Jake and Neytiri are now the proud parents of five children. "People say, 'Oh my God, a family story from Disney? Just what we want...' This isn’t that kind of family story," Cameron clarifies. "This is a family story like how The Sopranos is a family story." 

Though still the same fearless warriors who led the charge against a technologically superior force, as parents Jake and Neytiri are now "compromised on a much deeper level", according to Zoe Saldaña, who returns behind the performance-capture polka dots as Neytiri. "When you have children and you care for their welfare, different emotions creep in." Sam Worthington, who plays Jake, puts it a little more bluntly: "They’re the parents from hell if you have a go at their kids!"

Jake and Neytiri’s relationship is naturally strained by the burgeoning disobedience of their adolescent brood ("Even though this is all life and death, they’re still arguing about who cleans up the house," Worthington quips), and is challenged even further by the return of the RDA – the human organization from the first movie – to Pandora, back to exploit the planet’s oceans.

That's just a snippet of our huge interview with Cameron and his cast, featured in the new issue of Total Film, which hits stands (and digital devices) this Thursday, November 10. Meanwhile, Avatar: The Way of Water opens in cinemas around the world on December 16. 

Total Film's Avatar: The Way of Water covers

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios/Total Film)

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(Image credit: Total Film/20th Century Studios/EarFun)
Jordan Farley

I'm the News Editor at Total Film magazine, running the opening pages of every issue where you can read exclusive interviews and see first-look images from the biggest films. I was previously the Community Editor at sci-fi, fantasy and horror movie bible SFX. You'll find my name on news, reviews, and interviews covering every type of movie, from the latest French arthouse release to the biggest Hollywood blockbuster. My work has also featured in Official PlayStation Magazine and Edge. Outside of my day job, I'm a FromSoft fanatic (proudest achievement: beating Malenia solo) and a TV connoisseur (translation: I'll watch anything).

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