Friday, December 16, 2022

Breaking free from James Cameron’s Avatar spell

I have never been too picky of a movie viewer. While I don’t keep too many movies in my personal collection, I do give each movie I watch a fair chance at winning my heart, through either the transmission of esoteric knowledge or wisdom, or being empowering or inspirational.

When I first watched Avatar in 3D on the big screen, I was, like many at the time, dazzled by the immersive cinematic experience and CGI ahead of its time. The film’s themes of environmentalism and energetic interconnectedness fully registered in my conscious about four years later, in late 2013.

By that time, the combination of my memorable Avatar cinematic experience and a conscious shift that helped me become fully conscious of the film’s spiritual themes had me fully hooked to the film. While I didn’t feel the need to keep rewatching the film, I had elevated Avatar to my movie pantheon.

Then, about one-and-a-half years ago, watching Ridley Scott’s 1492: Conquest of Paradise broke the spell Avatar had cast on my psyche.

Long story short: Despite being a period film without CGI and released 17 years prior to Avatar, the sets and action looked so much more visceral and convincing, and the battle scenes brutally realistic.

For example, in the scene where Columbus and men make their first landing in Guanahani ("San Salvador"), with a boost from Vangelis’ score, I felt the raw emotion, relief, and accomplishment that of the voyage from Spain finally ending and reaching the Indies. Moments later, I was practically hypnotized by the successive photography of snakes, a parrot, and a flock of birds as the men traverse through the rainforest.

Immediately, I was awoken from the spell cast upon my mind by Avatar’s unnatural CGI and green screen rainforest. As someone progressively undergoing conscious- and nature-oriented personal development, I would no longer prefer “nature” built entirely from computer technology, especially when another movie would provide shots of nature unadulterated.

I understand reasons as safety or the intent to portray an alien or futuristic offworld environment would affect production processes, but judging by James Cameron’s track record, it is obvious his foremost fascination is the technological equipment to film and document his work and adventure. Regardless of his public stance on the environment or the natural world, his steering of his career has most prominently resulted in the ascent of his technologies and virtual worlds.

Now, I have nothing personal against James Cameron. I rewatched Avatar recently to see how I still feel about the movie, and I feel its visuals haven't aged that well and the presentation itself is no longer relevant to my current state in personal development. Aliens, True Lies, and Titanic I enjoyed, too, but similarly, I no longer find them relevant to my personal development. In contrast, The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day remain in my heart, because the combination of their characters and environments strikes with lasting rawness, viscerality, and honesty.

I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll watch the Avatar sequel Avatar: The Way of Water in 3D on the big screen, but regardless, I wish it the best of luck at the box office.

It's just that I'm in the phase of my life where I’m letting go of Avatar. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Cameron.

(Image credit: Screenshot from 1492: Conquest of Paradise, captured by the author)

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