Avatar 2's runtime caused "tension" between James Cameron and the studio

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

James Cameron says there was a lot of stress between him and the studio over Avatar: The Way of Water's lengthy runtime.

"I think there was a lot of tension around length," Cameron told Entertainment Weekly. "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."

"The hardest thing when you're trying to shorten a film is to hold onto the things that don't advance the plot, that are beautiful or scary or suspenseful for their own sake," he continued. "Things came out, and then if I felt the pacing was off, we put things back in."

The film sits at 3 hours and 12 minutes long, around 30 minutes longer than the first Avatar. Cameron reportedly lost his temper with an executive who "begged" him for a shorter runtime on the original.

"I think this movie is going to make all the fucking money,'" he told the exec (via GQ). "'And when it does, it’s going to be too late for you to love the film.'"

Per Variety, the sequel opened to $134 million domestically with a global total of $435 million, and will need to become one of the highest-grossing movies of all time to break even.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters now.

For more, check our list of all the exciting upcoming movies in 2023 and beyond.

Lauren Milici
Senior Writer, Tv & Film

Lauren Milici is a Senior Entertainment Writer for GamesRadar+ currently based in the Midwest. She previously reported on breaking news for The Independent's Indy100 and created TV and film listicles for Ranker. Her work has been published in Fandom, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Vulture, PopSugar, Fangoria, and more.