There’s something very annoying about James Cameron’s self-righteous proclamation that he wouldn’t want to fetishize guns today. In an interview with Esquire, Middle East, Cameron said that “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.” Cameron went on to clarify that he “actually cut about 10 minutes of [Avatar: The Way of Water] targeting gunplay action.”
The irony of this statement is not lost on me. Jake Sully, a former marine, and one of the main characters of the Avatar franchise, is a character who notoriously loves a gun. When the rest of the Na’vi are reaching for bows and arrows, Jake’s hiking an AR onto his shoulder and aiming it at the nearest target. Early on in the film, the Na’vi raid one of the human trains specifically to steal a huge cache of their guns. Couldn’t they disrupt the shipment, destroy it, or even fuck up the transportation routes? Nope! They want those guns! Later, Jake even explains to the Metkayina people that human technology, aka guns, will wipe them out easily. (Which is probably why Jake almost exclusively uses a gun during the big whale battle, so he has a fighting chance.) If Cameron really wanted to avoid fetishizing guns, maybe they shouldn’t have been such a huge symbol of power.
On the other hand, Jake’s eldest son, Neteyami—who happens to be the only other member of the Sully family who can use a gun—dies of a gunshot wound. It’s a big price to pay for using the weapons, but the fact it was a gun that killed him and not any other weapon is not part of the text. The morality of gun use is rarely interrogated because so much of the film is about Cameron’s fantasy of war, and guns are simply the easiest, most understandable way to tell the story while keeping people interested in the action.
Also, this movie is 192 minutes. Did you really cut 10 minutes of it because they had guns in them? Or was it just too long and you needed to sneak in another screening at the Regal Cinemas? If Cameron really wants us to believe that he wouldn’t make a movie with a gun fetish maybe he should stop giving all his characters gun fetishes.
Avatar: The Way of Water is currently in theaters.
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