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James Cameron rejects claims Avatar epic borrows from Russians' sci-fi novels | Film | The Guardian

Director James Cameron is facing claims that his 3D blockbuster Avatar owes an unacknowledged debt to the popular Soviet fantasy writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky


Did James Cameron Rip Off Poul Anderson's Novella?

James Cameron's Avatar has been championed as an attempt at original science fiction storytelling in film amongst a sea of remakes and adaptations. But Cameron may have borrowed some of the key aspects of his tale from author Poul Anderson.

Reader Goldfarb pointed us to Call Me Joe, a novella written in 1957 by Golden Age science fiction writer Poul Anderson. Many fans of Anderson suspect that the story was an important influence on Avatar, and some are calling for Anderson to be credited on the film. And it's easy to see why.


Is Avatar A Rip-Off Of An Obscure 1993 British Comic Series? « ecorazzi.com :: the latest in green gossip

When a movie reaches the height of Avatar, surely similarities to previous works will be compared. Parallels have already been pointed out between the mega box office hit and Fern Gully, Pocahontas, Halo, and Dances with Wolves. Now the entertainment website Heavy.com is making a case for the uncanny resemblances between James Cameron's Avatar and a comic book series titled Firekind.

Firekind ran weekly in 2000 AD, a British science fiction comic anthology best known for its Judge Dredd stories. Created by John Smith and Paul Marshall, the comic series features a human botanist named Hendrick Larsen who travels to Gennyo-Leil, a jungle alien world with a toxic atmosphere, large dragons, blue-skinned natives, and floating rocks.


Avatar Isn't A Delgo Ripoff, But It Is A Matthew McConaughey Movie

While James Cameron's Avatar has many ardent supporters, it's unlikely that the release of fifteen minutes from the film last week had the effect Fox was hoping for. More than a few fans have decried it as, well, rather silly. Others have even gone so far as to label it a rip-off. Worse, the makers of the animated movie Delgo not only think it's a rip-off, they appear to think they may have a lawsuit.


Vancouver man files first 'Avatar' rip-off lawsuit

The first claim actually comes from a Vancouver restaurant owner, Emil Malak, who says that "Avatar" bears a striking resemblance to his screenplay, "Terra Incognita," copyrighted in 1998. In Malak's story, a tree is a focal point of a community of indigenous people and contains their collective memories. His characters are odd-looking creatures, some with braided hair and others with tails. They are protecting their home planet from militaristic human intruders who want to mine precious minerals. Here's a point-by-point comparison put online by the plaintiff.

Malak says that in October 2002, he sent the script and some graphic designs to about 20 movie studios, including Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment. He never got a response. Now he's suing Cameron, Lightstorm and Twentieth Century Fox in B.C. Supreme Court. Fox hasn't immediately commented on the case, filed yesterday.

So I'm guessing, odds of anything legal are not good - unless everyone gets together and tries a class action suit.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 14th, 2010 at 10:38:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Danke, TBG.  Who woulda thunk it?  (Didn't realise there was a whole industry of this stuff on Avatar, though i've realized for two decades or more that plagiarism is Hollywood's second biggest industry.)

Should the similarities between Avatar and Call Me Joe cause problems for Cameron, it wouldn't be the first time. After The Terminator came out, writer Harlan Ellison sued the production company for plagiarizing two episodes he wrote for The Outer Limits. Even though Cameron took Ellison's ideas in a very different and novel direction, the company settled with Ellison, who is now acknowledged in the film's credits.

Literature, film and art are derivative of past efforts. The extent to which one is influenced does matter, but it's wrong to pick and chose who gets scorn and who gets praised. There's nothing wrong with seeing a great story and being inspired by it, and that is how some of the best material was created. Without that, we'd have a tiny collection of books and film.

The story with "The Terminator" is as follows. Cameron admitted in conversation that he had ripped off the plot "from a couple of Outer Limits episodes". At that point, the author of said Outer Limits episodes (Ellison) asked to be paid, and after a bit of litigation and negotiation (perhaps made unnecessarily unpleasant by the caustic personalities of both Ellison and Cameron) he was. This was perhaps entirely unnecessary, as the ideas ripped off were sufficiently generic that there is little chance Ellison would have had a case had Cameron not already admitted it. If the same has happened again with Poul Andersonm, well I hope he gets paid too.

 A lot of these plagarism charges get thrown around far too freely by fans who don't realize how easy it is to accidentally reverse-engineer another story simply by taking a story where it naturally wants to go.

Interesting that Cameron mentions Dances with Wolves as an influence, as well as admitting there were a host of SF stories which influenced him on various films.  The similarities to Pocahantas, a bit overworked comparison in my view, interests me as the star, Irene Bedard, is a friend of mine from the days of Smoke Signals. I haven't seen Ferngully (will rent it today) but i do know the producer, who was the model for The Dude in Big Lebowski.

What sets my claim apart is that most of these are from already published stories, while  Hiawatha  is an unproduced script, and to the degree there are specific elements taken, that could only come from having read the script.  or else two people having the same idea at the same time... which of course has never happened before.  :-))

As stated earlier, I'm not interested in going the lawsuit route at all.  I'm interested in seeing Hiawatha on screen.  I suppose it's time for me to reconnect with the father of the Titanic star (who introduced me to Leo at Tim Leary's wake), as he's told me Hiawatha is a great script.

and i suppose it's time to round up the native film community, from which i've been so distant since i've been focused (re-focused) on windpower here in Germany.  See what we can do now.

Remember, Wes Studi is in Avatar, and he was a colleague in arms.  Tantoo Cardinal from Dances also, and Irene as Pocahantas.

My ex told me that at least this will wake me up again, and apparently it has.  It's already been worthwhile to post here at ET, look what i've learned from TBG's links.

My first internal reaction to realizing Cameron read Hiawatha was that perhaps this will end up to be a good thing.  Wer weiss?

((Postscript:  How wide are the circles in Hollyweird?  One time i was hitchhiking at Sundance, and got picked up by Samuel Jackson. he asked my why i was there, and i told him i wrote Hiawatha. he stopped the van, turned back to look at me, and told me what a great script it was. Of course i had never sent it to him.

Jumpcut.  Jon Voight has taken me out to dinner after the rough cut screening of John Boorman's film (he had a role, and had never seen it before).  Samuel Jackson and a posse of ten are sitting at the next table, so of course he comes over to give props to the legend, Mr. Voight. But when he turns to me and says, "good to see you again" i'm particularly stunned. As is Mr. Voight.))

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 06:30:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me put it bluntly.

The people you need to 'sell' are the distributors.  And for them it's all about getting 'First Run' butts in seats.  If people expire when they get there .... they don't care.  The ticket has been sold.  Generally, you're selling to them at one remove via a Production company.

At any one time there are about 100,000 scripts floating around Hollywood, some of which are even competently written.  The people who are buying don't give a damn about any one of them; it's a buyers market.  They can put their money into just about any one of them and churn a profit.  The only hope you have is convincing them they will make more money with your script than any of the others floating around.  

Unless you form your own production company you will little to no say, and certainly not the final decision, in how the film is cast, made, edited, released.  You might ... MIGHT ... get to write the shooting script along with the director and producer(s) and a contract for additional shooting and ADR dialogue.  As a first time writer?  Probably not.

If you insist on being a Decision Maker during production you will be labeled a PITA and the buyers will move on -- even as I write there are established scriptwriters beavering away, word processors going hacka-hacka, doing 'The Next Avatar.'  The next Production that can grab the label should do between $200 and $300 million because that's what a 'First to Be Second' production does.  To the distributors and production companies it doesn't matter who writes the script or even what the story is: close enough is close enough and the difference can be made-up in the advertising, PR, and other marketing.  

To the distributors and production companies the fact you've written an Oscar Quality script is nice, but lagniappe.  At the same time the more-better the script is, the more powerful the story, the likely the film is to get repeat business and Word of Mouth -- The Golden Light.  ;-)

The American Film Market meeting is looming.  By what you and Sven say the script has a Real Chance of being bought -- even if only to keep it off the market.  (For that reason for God's Sakes do NOT accept an option!!1!!!!eleventyone!!!!!11!!!!! -- unless you really know and deeply trust the people in the production company.)  There will be, roughly, 20,000 'The Next Avatar' floating around, seeking $$$$.  If people in the Business have already seen, and liked, your script you've got a jump on the competition.  BUT YOU HAVE TO GET IT IN FRONT OF THEM!  AFM is the place to do it.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 11:36:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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