After reading all the things that AVATAR is supposed to have ripped off, you’re sure to wonder if there is a SHRED of originality in the movie — that is, aside from the brand new way of shooting movies that took years to develop.
While the usual suspects — POCAHONTAS, DANCES WITH WOLVES, FERNGULLY — have been well annotated, Rich Johnston digs up yet another old comic that featured bluish flying peoples.
And Heavy.com continues its investigation of Avatargate in which the all-time money maker movie is based on an obscure 2000 A.D. strip.
Botanist Hendrick Larsen arrives on the planet Gennyo-Leil, to live among the native Kesheen and explore the world – home to the Firekind, huge dragons full of miracle drugs that make humans young and virile again. Larsen needs to wear something called a Filter:Mask at all times, since the atmosphere of Gennyo-Leil kills humans. After watching the Kesheen have weird, unsettling alien sex practices, Larsen is blamed for several massacres and cast out, to die alone. What happens next is the weird drugs in the atmosphere re-wire Larsen’s brain, letting him join a tribe of outcast natives (outcast for having kinky sex, in case you needed to know) and share in their psychic link. Pretty soon a band of sadistic mercenaries show up (having framed Larsen for the earlier atrocities, intent on killing all the Kesheen and stealing their dragon-drugs. Backed into a corner, Larsen has no choice but to summon the destructive all-god of the planet, turning wildlife and a massive colossus against the human fleet and turning his back on his own species.
With all due respect to these tireless investigators, we’re with Graeme McMillan on this one: Yes, Yes, We Get It: Avatar Is Unoriginal.
We’re not saying that James Cameron didn’t, necessarily, rip off these comics – although it’s unlikely – or any number of other sources, but we’re surprised by how many of these claims are being made. Is it because the movie is so unoriginal, or just so successful? And can everyone stop with the accusations before we start feeling sorry for James Cameron?
Perhaps part of the reason the story in AVATAR sounds so familiar is that James Cameron was channeling the pulp milieu with the kind of simple story — stranger in a strange land — that was a staple in SF from ERB to John W. Campbell and beyond. And Roger Dean, whom so many have compared the film’s look to, was following in the footsteps –with airbrush — of Frazetta, Virgil Finlay, Kelly Freas, and so on.
Now, it is true that Cameron’s pulp homage with future-making movie effects is still more on the nose than say, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which similarly mines pulp tropes but with fresher characters and dialog. A word of warning, King of the World: when you spend years looking into a monitor, it’s quite possible you just lose that ear for dialog.