James Cameron's Avatar took back the title of "highest-grossing movie ever" when the film was re-released in theaters in early 2021, pulling slightly ahead of Marvel Studios' Avengers: Endgame with more than $2.8 billion. The two have gone against each other in that regard for most of Endgame's time in the spotlight, although Cameron is now set to finally come back with a sequel in this year's Avatar: The Way of Water.
Part of what made both movies such a big part of discussions amongst fans was their extended runtimes, which were both on the higher end of present-day blockbusters. Avatar clocked in at 160 minutes while Avengers: Endgame came in at a whopping 181 minutes, and even to this day, the unofficial culmination of the Infinity Saga stands as the longest MCU movie ever made.
Avatar 2 kickstarted its promotional tour recently with its first trailer releasing ahead of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and fans have already started talking about how long it could be and how much money it could make in theaters. Now, Cameron has not only teased what that runtime will be, but he also took an early shot at what some critics may have to say about his answer.
Avatar 2 Coming with Extended Runtime
Warning - This section contains NSFW language in the quotes.
In the latest issue of Empire Magazine, Avatar: The Way of Water director James Cameron commented on criticisms that he's heard about the original Avatar movie.
Using some colorful language regarding trolls that believe nobody cares about the original film or remembers what happened in it, Cameron noted just how often fans like this see his movie regardless of those complaints:
“The trolls will have it that nobody gives a shit and they can’t remember the characters’ names or one damn thing that happened in the movie. Then they see the movie again and go, ‘Oh, okay, excuse me, let me just shut the fuck up right now.’ So I’m not worried about that.”
Cameron then compared watching long movies like Avatar and Avatar 2 to fans binge-watching TV shows for hours on end, feeling exhausted already from the criticism he expects for the runtime of Avatar 2. He commented on the "big social paradigm shift" that he feels needs to happen, noting how filmmakers shouldn't be worried about extended runtimes when they have a chance to break box office records:
“I don’t want anybody whining about length when they sit and binge-watch [television] for eight hours. I can almost write this part of the review. ‘The agonisingly long three-hour movie…’ It’s like, give me a fucking break. I’ve watched my kids sit and do five one-hour episodes in a row. Here’s the big social paradigm shift that has to happen: it’s okay to get up and go pee.” Who’s going to argue against a filmmaker with this much form in turning three-hour epics into record-breaking box office behemoths?"
These comments indicate that Avatar 2 could possibly be even longer than Avengers: Endgame as he refers to the sequel as a three-hour movie, while the latest MCU team-up only just fit into that category at 3 hours, 1 minute.
How Long Will Avatar 2 Be?
The discourse behind movie runtimes has certainly become an interesting one in the world of both Marvel and DC movies, especially since the movie industry returned to prominence last year. While Doctor Strange 2 and Thor: Love and Thunder both hover close to the two-hour mark, longer book movies are still a regular occurrence, as evidenced by Eternals (2 hours, 36 minutes) and The Batman (3 hours, 1 minute).
Now, it appears that James Cameron has no problems whatsoever with giving fans another long movie, especially considering how willing fans are these days to binge hours and hours of TV shows. The big question, though, is how Avatar 2 will compare to its blockbuster counterparts in terms of runtime.
Outside of Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max, there are only a few major movies from the 21st century that have exceeded a three-hour runtime. But looking at how James Cameron spoke about Avatar 2, it almost seemed as though he was prepping his fans to be sitting in the theater for a long time for this new outing.
As proven by both Avatar and Avengers: Endgame, movies this long can still succeed at the highest level at the box office - those two films combined for $5.6 billion in revenue, after all. Should Avatar 2 exceed the 181-minute runtime that Avengers: Endgame used, it might not be much longer, but it will certainly be something important to keep in mind with Cameron's return to Pandora.
Avatar: The Way of Water will premiere in theaters on December 16.