Action movie director James Cameron doesn't want to "fetishize" gun violence

Virginia Mayo

James Cameron has made some of the best action movies ever. Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens. Even True Lies was pretty good. I thought Titanic sucked, and Avatar was a snooze, but Cameron has a few greats to be proud of.


But he isn’t proud of them. In fact, without naming these movies he implies he wished he never made them. They “fetishize” gun violence, and he is done with that. Guns make him sick to his stomach now.

He is so done with gun violence, in fact, that he has made a war movie (Avatar 2 is indeed a kind of war movie, in which the human beings are bad and the purple aliens are good natives in touch with Purple Gaia) in which he has cut 10 minutes of gun violence from the film.

James Cameron made some conscious editing decisions while making Avatar: The Way of Water, which included pulling footage from the film’s more than three-hour run time to avoid fetishizing gun violence on screen.

“I actually cut about 10 minutes of the movie targeting gunplay action,” the director shared in an interview with Esquire Middle East. “I wanted to get rid of some of the ugliness, to find a balance between light and dark.”

As somebody who has decided to skip the movie because it promises to be a yet more boring version of the execrable Avatar, I can’t judge whether the film needed that extra bit of action to keep the viewer’s interest. To me it seems like Cameron has been nailing the special effects while destroying the characters and stories in his movies for years. The decision to cut action out of his action movie can’t make it much worse in any case.


The removed scenes proved to be largely unnecessary, with Cameron reflecting on the purpose of the use of guns in comparison to films he’s made in the past, like Terminator, and how his perspective has changed in the years since. Now, he says he’s more interested in presenting the actions of a “moral crime.”

“I look back on some films that I’ve made, and I don’t know if I would want to make that film now,” he said. “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.”

Given that the Terminator movies are iconic both in their use of special effects and in their relatively sophisticated stories that pit good versus evil, we can all be glad that they were made in the years before Cameron went woke. Ironically, his ability to indulge his idiosyncratic vision today is entirely built upon his success in these prior movies.

It was Aliens and Terminator 2 which really put him on the map, and both of these movies were both exceptionally violent and engrossing. The violence was an important part of the story, not gratuitous or “fetishizing” guns. Rather guns were tools in the hands of the good guys who couldn’t have battled evil without them.

That is the nature of evil–you can’t reason with it, only kill it. Imagine Ripley negotiating with the Alien queen or Linda Hamilton having tea with the T-1000. Come, let us reason together.


Woke and good entertainment simply cannot go together, and I think that is why I hated Avatar so much. The portrayal of humans in the movie mirrored the woke Narrative of evil White males despoiling a peaceful native culture was 2 dimensional, and Cameron seems determined to slim down the moral complexity even more as time goes on.

Such stories are vapid and boring, holding attention in the way that TV screensavers at Costco do. Bright, shiny, colorful, and lacking any stories. 3 hours of that is a bit much. That was my experience of the first Avatar, and Cameron’s flogging for a kinder, gentler Avatar confirms my fears about the 2nd.

Sad to say, real life is violent. There are predators and prey. Even the Smurf-like aliens in Avatar have weapons, suggesting that even in their Eden violence is hardly unknown. Yet Cameron now believes that testosterone is a poison that we must be rid of. We can have an Eden, perhaps without even needing spears.

Good stories require conflict, and great stories moral ambiguities. Audiences thrill to John Wick not just because of the violence, but also because Wick is both a vile killer and something of a hero. He is redeemed by his love for his wife and his dog, and by the nature of his victims. He may not be terribly complex, but he is a hero of a sort.

Woke culture requires the worship of things that aren’t real and never can be: the saintly victims portrayed in woke ideology are as real as the Na’vi; they are cartoon characters. Ironically the oppressors called into being by the woke have at least two dimensions–their internal self-image and their evil exterior character; the saintly victims have only one–perfection. The woke hero is as blank a slate as can be–done to, not doers.


Cameron might find the real world of necessary violence against evil turns his stomach, but telling good stories means connecting with reality in some way. Cameron implicitly realizes this by telling a story with conflict–a war movie, in fact–but can’t seem to come to grips with the fact that such stories are among the most compelling ever told.

Without the conflict, Avatar would be one of those screensavers on 4K TVs. Beauty in motion, mesmerizing for a minute or two, but unable to hold our attention because it has nothing to say.


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David Strom 6:40 PM | February 29, 2024