Saturday, November 26, 2022

Avatar, Rolex, and Saving the Planet





After reading the "Avatar" script for the first time, the head of 20th Century Fox had some choice words for the author, according to James Cameron: 

"I like this story, it's a good script, but can we get all this tree-hugging, hippie bullshit out of it?" 

Mr. Cameron, a lifelong climate activist, refused and told the executive:

"The reason I want to make the film is exactly because of the tree hugging, hippie, hairy-legged, Birkenstocks-wearing bullshit." 

That was 15 years ago. On Dec. 16, Mr. Cameron, an Oscar-winning film director and Rolex brand ambassador, will release the sequel to "Avatar." And this time, the movie heavily features underwater scenes. "Avatar: The Way of Water," revolves around the theme of ocean conservancy.  

This month, Rolex unveiled the Deepsea Challenge, the watch with the highest depth rating ever commercialized. James Cameron presented the new watch from Rolex's headquarters in Geneva. A day later, the trailer for "Avatar: The Way of Water" made its debut on the internet. 

Mr. Cameron's and Rolex's goals are aligned in a way rarely seen before among brand ambassadors. And the filmmaker's partnership with Rolex was formed organically.

"I always knew that Rolex made the best dive watches," Mr. Cameron said. "I was asked if I would become an ambassador for this prestigious brand. I’ve worn a Submariner for over thirty years so it seemed natural to accept." 

And when Mr. Cameron needed a new watch for his record-setting solo dive to the deepest point on Earth, in 2012, Rolex built one in just five weeks.

Both Mr. Cameron and Rolex have made preserving the planet their raison d'être. Both have invested dearly in exploration. Both support the cinema. Rolex is also the biggest sponsor of the annual Academy Awards, where Mr. Cameron will likely be nominated in 2023.

On Wednesday, Rolex released a video called "Perpetual Planet."

In the video, Rolex clarified its position on supporting today's explorers: This is no longer about exploration for the sake of discovery or setting records. But to find ways to safeguard the planet and conserve the oceans. 

We may think we’ve seen it all. But the world has its limits after all. But why do explorers, adventurers, scientists continue to venture out there again and again? Certainly not just for the record! So, what do they seek, really? To understand more intimately how complex and delicate our planet is? To document its change and how we can affect it for the better? As long as they need it, we will be at their side. Because today, the real discovery is not so much about finding new lands. It’s about looking with new eyes at the marvels of our planet. Rekindling our sense of wonder and acting, here and now, to preserve this pale blue dot and make it perpetual.

While "Avatar" lost the Best Picture Oscar in 2010 to "The Hurt Locker," it went on to be the highest grossing movie for at least a decade. Still, this was a double win for Rolex: "The Hurt Locker" was directed by Mr. Cameron's ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, also a Rolex ambassador. 

More importantly, after the release of "Avatar," indigenous leaderships in various parts of the world reached out to Mr. Cameron and shared their experiences. 

The movie he'd just made, they all said, was showing the types of things they were actually living.

So for a couple of years, Mr. Cameron went on to become an overt activist, trying to help indigenous tribes, whether it was in the Athabasca tar sands, in Alberta, or down in Brazil with the Belo Monte Dam.

During Mr. Cameron's research into indigenous cultures, he met Raoni, the leader of the Kayapo people who live deep in the Amazon forest. Mr. Cameron said Chief Raoni welcomed him and gave him "gifts of things that had great meaning to him." 

Mr. Cameron gave him his Rolex in return: "It wasn’t a sacrifice. It was a token of friendship," he would later said.

"What do I have that has that kind of value that I could give him?" Mr. Cameron said in a Rolex video. "I couldn't think of anything except my watch that had been with me for 20 years and had been through all my experiences." 

"It was a Submariner [that] I wore for 20 years, everywhere I went, everything I did, 33 dives to the Titanic making all the films that I made during that period of time. I was wearing the watch the first time I saw Titanic for real through the porthole of a submersible ... and I was wearing the same watch in my black tie when I went up on the stage to get the Oscar for directing 'Titanic' and it was equally appropriate in both places. It's the one constant companion. People come and go; the watch is always there."


But Mr. Cameron did not want to become a "drive-by do-gooder," he said. He wanted to reach a much wider audience—and do it through "Avatar" movies. 

As the director of two of the three highest grossing films in the world, Mr. Cameron has essentially become the biggest spokesperson for the Perpetual Planet initiative that Rolex ever had. The new "Avatar" will likely be as popular and, at the same time, raise awareness about the threats facing our oceans even though it is about Pandora's. 

"It may be with a somewhat-diluted message because it's interwoven with entertainment," Mr. Cameron said. "But it throws a much broader net and that's important."