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  • James Cameron’s Avatar | Inspired, Influenced, or Plagiarized?

    By | October 27, 2009

    Source: Slashfilm, io9

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    Ever since the details of the Avatar plot-line surfaced, a small flame of controversy has surfaced questioning it’s similarities to Poul Anderson’s 1957 Science Fiction short story Call Me Joe. It looks like the small flame has now become a bonfire. The buzz over the parallels center around the fact that both stories follow a wheelchair-bound human who has their consciousness projected into an artificial cat-like creature that is adapted for life on a world that doesn’t support humans.

    AvatarStillCallMeJoe_cover

    Check out the list of parallels below:

    1. Both main characters, Ed Anglesey (Call Me Joe) and Jake Sully (Avatar) are paraplegics

    2. Both main characters connect telepathically to artificially created life forms in order to survive the alien planets

    3. Anglesey & Sully revel in the freedom and power of their new bodies

    4. Both artificial bodies are blue and cat like

    5. Both characters battle fierce predators on the alien worlds

    6. The main characters both end up going native and spend more time connected to their artificial bodies

    Cameron is not new to this kind of scrutiny since this also happened when he first released Terminator and writer Harlan Ellison sued both the production company Hemdale, and distributor Orion Pictures for plagiarizing two episodes he wrote for The Outer Limits TV series, Soldier & Demon with a Glass Hand. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum and with Ellison gaining acknowledgment at the end of the film.

    When it comes to all mediums of art, little is purely original these days as we are all inspired or influenced by what we know and the elements around us. The question about this issue is – Does it cross the line of plagiarism, and is indeed a stolen story idea without proper credit given to the source? So far Cameron has credited Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs as inspirations, but to date has never mentioned the work of Poul Anderson.

    I have obviously not seen the yet to be released Avatar, and I have also not read the novella Call Me Joe. If any of you sci-fi readers out there care to comment about Call Me Joe, and the Avatar controversy, we welcome the discussion. Comment below or add it to our forums HERE.

    Topics: News | 9 Comments »

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    • Barry Gram

      To Avatar fans and readers:
      James Cameron “claims” he started writing the script to Avatar in 1995. Really?
      The movie Avatar appears to be nothing more and nothing less than an updated, plagiarized version of the 1955 Robert Silverberg sci-fi novel, “Revolt on Alpha C”, which was written two years earlier than the Anderson novel.
      In Silverberg’s novel, an earthman takes an interstellar voyage to an enchanted planet, complete with lush, rain forests and FLYING REPTILES, to help put down a revolt of the local inhabitants. Once he wins the confidence of the locals, he begins to empathize with them, and,at the last minute, switches sides and fights on their side. Sound familiar?
      Many of the specific avatar components may well be from Anderson’s 1957 novel, but the main storyline is so very similar to Silverberg’s 1955 novel, which Mr. Cameron undoubtedly read in his youth. Any sci-fi buff is aware of these two 1950’s novels.
      Time for Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper to do some investigative reporting and look into this and do some substantive journalism!
      Sincerely,
      Barry Gram

    • Jimbo

      Who cares? He made a great film out of all of these ideas. All ideas are based on something.

      Its like saying “This singer cant sing about love, Because Elton John sings about love!”

    • http://derspatz.blogspot.com derspatz

      If a picture is worth a thousand words, then add the graphic available from the following link as yet another potential proof of plagiarism by James Cameron and/or his team.

      http://www.munchkinpress.com/cpg149/displayimage.php?album=61&pos=55

      The image is by Geoff Taylor and was done for a book called “Hidden Echoes” by Mike Jeffries in 1992/93.

      The cover features a blueskinned body-marked “noble savage” and another of his kin is shown riding a “dragma” which look quite like the creatures ridden in Avatar. Also, the chief of the lands seeks to tame and ride a more fearsome flying beasty that all other creatures avoid, much like in Avatar, and in a cross-over of worlds/societies, helicopters and fighter planes go up against such a beasty only to be grabbed and flung out of the sky, etc … much like in Avatar.

      regarDS

    • http://none silvia

      TOTALLY AGREE WITH JIMBO!!

      “Jimbo Says:
      January 14th, 2010 at 11:12 am

      Who cares? He made a great film out of all of these ideas. All ideas are based on something.

      Its like saying “This singer cant sing about love, Because Elton John sings about love!” ”
      ————————————————
      JAMES CAMERON ACHIEVED WHAT NONE OF THE OTHER MENTIONED AUTHORS, ILLUSTRATORS OR 3D ARTIST COULD EVER ACHIEVED, UNTIL NOW THAT THEY HAVE AVATAR AS REFERNCE,IT IS RIDICULOUS TO COMPARE OR ASSUME IS PLAGIARISM BECAUSE “X” AUTHOR USED PARAPLEGICS, CAT-LIKE BLUE CREATURES OR BECAUSE THE MAIN CHARACTERS ARE DEFENDING NATURE. I ENJOY A MOVIE THAT TALKS ABOUT LOVE AND LEAVES YOU WITH YOUR HEART POUNDING FAST AND WITH A SUPER HAPPY MOOD! IF IT IS PLAGIARISM HOW COME THE WORK OF THE OTHER AUTHORS & ILLUSTRATORS DIDN’T TRANSCEND JUST LIKE AVATAR DID? AND PLEASE DON’T FRICKING TELL ME IS BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE MONEY TO DO WHAT JAMES CAMERON DID. JAMES CAMERON HAD THE MINDSET, TALENT AND KNOWLEDGE TO PUT TOGETHER SUCH A PROJECT LIKE THIS. PUTTING UP LINKS OF BLUE CAT LIKE CREATURES AS IF IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY THOSE WERE INVENTED. COME ON, SOMEONE ELSE SHOULD TRY PUTTING SOMETHING LIKE AVATAR TOGETHER, WITH UNLIMITED MONEY AND NOT EVEN IF THEY READ 800 NOVELS THEY WOULDN’T HAVE THE BALLS & THE CRITERIA TO GET SOMETHING LIKE AVATAR OUT OF ALL THAT REFERENCE.

    • ErasmusJohn

      Two things. I believe there are grounds for looking at plagiarism, both in Call me Joe and another novel of the same period by Harry Harrison: Deathworld. (Jan 1960 Astounding) I am not saying that there hasn’t been a major reworking of themes – but only Cameron can be fully aware of what he has read and who should get an acknowledgement or even a a brief salute in passing. In the past it seems that Cameron has only done so when his arm has been twisted. As an older reader with long, long memory I find this lack of notes of homage at the end a little small minded.

    • Tak388

      Yeah, but he didn’t come up with the idea. He didn’t BASE an idea OFF something, he STOLE an idea FROM something.

    • jsmith0552

      Thus speaks the tabula rasa generation, where nostalgia is what they had for breakfast that morning. [That was Harlan Ellison not me; because I give credit where it’s due]. The merits of any film in the long run are basically subjective, but I have my doubts about anyone that would consider Avatar a “great” film. Did it have impressive effects? Without a doubt. Was it unique in any other way? Hardly. To be great in my book, all the pieces have to fall into place. Screenplay, acting, pacing, themes, cinematography, all of it. Avatar only has visuals, but after it’s over what have you got?

    • jsmith0552

      Nobody reads anymore, and if they do, they certainly aren’t reading anything over 10 years old. This is why so much crap that seems so ‘been there, done that’ to older generations gets away with seeming completely mind-blowingly original to this generation. Many times it isn’t even plagiarism, it’s just that many screenwriters don’t realize that most of the ideas they think are so original have much of the time already been done, and done better decades before.