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Avatar - 'borrowed' by James Cameron?

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  • Avatar - 'borrowed' by James Cameron?

    We're all probably aware of the controversy and court case about James Cameron using Harlan Ellison's fine Outer Limits episodes The Soldier and Demon with a Glass Hand as his basis for The Terminator but reading I read these earlier:

    http://io9.com/5390226/did-james-cam...ersons-novella (note that PA also wrote a short story called The Avatar)

    The cover certainly bears a passing resemblence to the CGI from the film:



    But I also read this in The Guardian today:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/...lagarism-claim

    Without wanting to drag this forum into the area of potential court action, I thought I'd just ask Mr. M and others for their opinions on 'borrowing' plot lines. When do plot similarities become plagiarism?
    What part of 'Get out of town, Freak' don't you understand?

  • #2
    Every successful book/film/stage show will spawn its own rash of lawsuits, in proportion to the number of zeros in the reported profits. Since the well-publicised Ellison case - Ellison sues everyone just on principle - Cameron's a target for anyone who's ever written a SF story featuring blue-skinned aliens. It wasn't that long ago that someone sued (I think) J.K. Rowling over a story they'd written about a boy wizard - even though it had never been published! It's like the old saying "Where there's a Will, there's a Relative". Someone's lawyer smells money so they sue on the slightest excuse.

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    • #3
      I think it's really rare that a blockbuster movie shows much originality, by nature it's an assemblage of stuff that's already on the public's mind and it also has a lot of people working on it, bringing a lot to the table.

      On the other hand, people rip off other people's stuff a lot, becuase of laziness of one kind or another. I haven't seen Avatar or read the Poul Anderson book, but I did read one of the Strugatsky books and I can see their point... world name the same... alien name the same... takes place in the same century... so is the plot the same? And Cameron did actually take his plot for Terminator from a couple of old Outer Limits episodes, so who can say. I don't think it makes the movie inferior, it just makes Cameron kind of lazy. I guess I know what to expect when I see the movie.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by opaloka View Post
        And Cameron did actually take his plot for Terminator from a couple of old Outer Limits episodes, so who can say.
        I think you'll find Cameron publically admitted that he did - that's why Ellison (who, indeed, is very litigious) was sucessful.
        What part of 'Get out of town, Freak' don't you understand?

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        • #5
          The Avatar thing could be taken from Anderson, but the larger premise of the story is from Ursula K. Le Guins The Word for World is Forest:

          Concrete wasteland dying Earth setting up colonies to gather resources to send back, fragile eco-system endangered by Mans tampering, native indigenous species living in an airy fairy harmony with nature endangered by this, being used as a slave labour pool (not in the film but it is in the 'scriptment' floating around), organizing a resistance, psychotic military commander going all out to stop them, Vietnam War motifs abound, and it just goes on like that.

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          • #6
            I am the last frog who do not see Avatar.
            Papi

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            • #7
              Let's face it, with everything that has been written over the centuries it's kind of hard to find anything that is totally original any more. People are going to trample on toes no matter where they step. Of course it depends on how hard they step. Star Wars was nothing more than a western set in space. In fact if you look at a lot of the old westerns you will find a lot of sf authors listed as screen writers. David Drake u8ses history as the basis of his writings, when not using personal experiences. Someone had to write about those battles. I'm not a writer though I have often thought of trying it but I read so much that trying to think of something to write about always seems to bring me to somewhere that's been done. So, as stated, something completely original is tough to do so that you are going to see influences in almost anything done today but one should never just "steal" and pass it off as one's own just because the medium may be different.

              herb
              herb

              Man spends his time on devising a more idiot proof computer. The universe spends its time devising bigger idiots. So far the universe is winning.

              http://www.wolfshead.net/wolfshowl


              http://www.wolfshead.net/books

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Wolfshead View Post
                Star Wars was nothing more than a western set in space.
                As we've discussed elsewhere, Star Wars was, in part, based on/influenced/inspired by an Akira Kurosawa samurai film, The Hidden Fortress. All artists are influenced by other artists, and as Picasso said: "Good artists borrow; great artists steal". (Or as Wally Wood taught: "Never draw what you can copy, never copy what you can trace, never trace what you can cut out and paste up.") However, it all comes back to the observation of Terry Pratchett's that Mike likes to refer to in these circumstances: "Generic fiction is a big pot from which everyone takes a bit and adds a bit. However, some people put back more than they take out". You may decide for yourselves which camp Cameron is in.
                _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Papi View Post
                  I am the last frog who do not see Avatar.
                  Then I must be the last rosbif as well!

                  Although, my wife sudden today says lets go and see it. She is a great SF buff like me.
                  Papa was a Rolling Stone......

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                  • #10
                    I don't want us to get bogged down into the details of Star Wars, but I after seeing the six movies I found resonaces with Wagner's Ring cycle with its intergenerational conflict, prophecies and use of magic (the force).

                    Borderlands (computer game) is using a planet Pandora too.

                    I felt Avatar was a retelling of older stories with an added social environmental commentary reflecting the concerns of the age. There was a whole lot of stuff from Westerns, Vietnam War movies and SF in Avatar.

                    Stories are endlessly retold in cultures - just watch any soap opera. The only way any story can survive is through the retelling to pass it one from one generation to the next and each generation probably adds something or takes something away.

                    Coming to think about it with the advent of recording activities the last 5 or 6 generations has allowed us to share more material across the generations. My nephews watch the same children's TV shows on DVD that I watched on television. I have never seen the television programmes my parents watched because recordings were not kept or made available.

                    Do you think this availability of recorded media means audiences might be more spoilt? The fact that you can watch Jeremy Brett, Basil Rathbone and Robert Downie Jr play Sherlock Holmes and compare how the character has been played across the generations has an effect upon what we consider to be new and original?

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                    • #11
                      Apparently, Avatar is also a pretty straight retelling of Disney's Pocahontas.



                      Which is fine really, but when you don't even think up your own names for fictional races and planets you're crossing a line...
                      Last edited by opaloka; 01-17-2010, 07:40 PM.

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                      • #12
                        First I was thinking I was watching Dances with Wolves. Then I remember where I saw this story first.

                        http://www.multiverse.org/wiki/index...on_%28novel%29
                        Infinite complexity according to simple rules.

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                        • #13
                          Berry,

                          Are you really suggesting that Cameron mined Mike's work?
                          --Thus Dances with Wolves, and Pocahontas are also derivatives of Mike's work?
                          Ani Maamin B'emunah Sh'leimah B'viyat Hamashiach. V'af al pi sheyitmahmehah im kol zeh achake lo b'chol yom sheyavo.

                          "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." - Phillip K. Dick

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                          • #14
                            I think Mike has mentioned this process elsewhere, where lifting of a lifted, lifted, lifted.. chain sets up what we now think of tropes, which were original "once upon a time". Those using tropes may, or may not, know their original source(s).

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by opaloka View Post
                              Apparently, Avatar is also a pretty straight retelling of Disney's Pocahontas. ... Which is fine really, but when you don't even think up your own names for fictional races and planets you're crossing a line...
                              Wow. Thanks for that! Now I don't have to spend $20 to go see the movie! WOO!


                              das

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