Avatar, James Cameron’s $200 million dollar sci-fi epic and the first feature film he’s directed since Titanic, has been surrounded by much hype, anticipation, and now controversy. Sci-fi fans and film bloggers are calling into question Cameron’s ethics as discussions of plagiarism start to make the rounds on the web.
Speculation started in full force when a blog reader dubbed “Goldfarb” suggested to io9 that the plot of Avatar bears an uncanny resemblance to the 1957 novella Call Me Joe, written by Poul Anderson. Both plots involve a paraplegic protagonist who mentally pulls the strings of an artificial life form, engineered for the purpose of exploring a planet with an environment hostile to humans.
People have noticed similarities not only in themes and subject matter, but many skeptics have also pointed to obvious parallels in the visual aspects of the creatures in the film and the one depicted on the cover art of the novella.
And speaking of déjà vu, Cameron had to handle a situation a lot like this back when he made Terminator and Harlan Ellison accused him of borrowing heavily from episodes he wrote for the classic sci-fi anthology series The Outer Limits. In the end, Ellison sued and was awarded an undisclosed sum and acknowledgement in the film’s closing credits. Now Anderson’s defenders want the same sort of concession for his contribution.
Although Avatar has mostly been promoted under a banner of complete originality, Cameron has cited a few “influences” such as: Dances with Wolves, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Rudyard Kipling. Poul Anderson is absent from that list, but I suspect he won’t be for long.
As far as the controversy is concerned, it remains to be seen if Cameron will have to answer his accusers. Will these questions even be heard or will they be drowned out by all the special effects-related buzz circulating on the internet? All I’ve heard or read about this movie up to this point has been “CGI this” and “3-D that.” Borrowed or not, I’m just relieved to hear this movie has a plot!