Is The Plot Of James Cameron’s Avatar Plagiarized?

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avatar header new1 Is The Plot Of James Camerons Avatar Plagiarized?

With the hoopla over James Cameron’s upcoming sci-fi blockbuster Avatar, you wouldn’t expect a spanner to be thrown in the works at this stage in the game, less than two months from its release. But that appears to be the case, with the aforementioned  trouble taking the form of an uncanny resemblance between Avatar‘s plot and the plot of a 1957 Poul Anderson novella called Call Me Joe.

Some sites – such as over at io9 where this story originated – are asking the question of whether or not Avatar is a rip-off of Anderson’s sci-fi story from over five decades ago. It seems a bit strong to say “rip-off” but the evidence of the similarities between the two plots is undeniable. One of io9‘s readers, “Goldfarb,” pointed them toward Call Me Joe – take a look at the plot synopsis for both it and Avatar, along with some artwork for both, and see if you think they bear more than a passing resemblance to one another:

Call Me Joe:

Call Me Joe centers on a paraplegic – Ed Anglesey – who telepathically connects with an artificially created life form in order to explore a harsh planet (in this case, Jupiter). Anglesey revels in the freedom and strength of his artificial created body, battles predators on the surface of Jupiter, and gradually goes native as he spends more time connected to his artificial body.

Avatar:

In the future, Jake, a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na’vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Those from Earth find themselves at odds with each other and the local culture.

avatar call me joe artwork comparison Is The Plot Of James Camerons Avatar Plagiarized?

Avatar & Call Me Joe - Too close for comfort?

Pretty striking, eh? One of the big things about Avatar – which is one of the biggest selling points for me personally – is the fact that it’s said to be a ‘totally original work from the mind of Cameron,’ the man who brought us such classic sci-fi classics as The Terminator, Terminator 2 and Aliens. There’s no previous brand to build off of, which will make it all the more interesting to see how well Avatar does at the box office when it opens.

But now that there’s a possibility that the plot might not be as original as we were first lead to believe kind of takes some of the wind out of the sails, at least for me. Of course, there are varying opinions on this matter, ranging from if Cameron was even aware of the novella at all when he came up with the story (i.e. it’s just a coincidence); to some saying it’s one influence but not “the” influence; and some are even going as far to say Cameron stole the idea and Anderson deserves a credit on the film.

io9 reminds us that Cameron doesn’t claim to be totally influence-free when it comes to Avatar - he’s cited the likes of Dances With Wolves, Rudyard Kipling and Edgar Rice Burroughs. But as io9 also says, it’s strange that he hasn’t cited Anderson’s Call Me Joe amongst those.

This isn’t the first time Cameron has run into a problem involving accusations of plagiarism: Back when he made The Terminator, writer Harlan Ellison sued the production company claiming the ideas were already in a couple of Outer Limits episodes. The matter was settled out of court, and Ellison got (and still has) a credit on The Terminator.

Apparently this isn’t the first time Avatar has been compared to Call Me Joe, with /Film doing some research that turned up comments from readers that are months old, pointing out similarities between the two. For some reason it’s taken this long for it to bubble to the surface and become a (semi-)real issue.

avatar new image2 Is The Plot Of James Camerons Avatar Plagiarized?

"Call me Jo...er, Jake -- yes Jake..."

It’s up in the air at this point in time what affect this will have on Avatar, Cameron or 20th Century Fox. My bet is that it will turn out to have been an influence of Cameron’s all along, and they will have the permission to use some of the ideas. Kind of the way things turned out with the whole Pirates of the Caribbean 4 book source mess last month. I really don’t think that with a film as huge as Avatar that Cameron, Fox and everyone else at the top haven’t thoroughly covered their hindquarters.

Do you think Avatar is influenced or even based on the Call Me Joe novella? Are the similarities too great to ignore? What do you think this will mean for the movie, Cameron and 20th Century Fox?

Avatar hits theaters on December 18th, 2009.

Sources: io9 thanks to /Film

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  1. yes the book deals with someone who is paralyzed and uses a talent of telapathy and a special headset to go to jupiter. this story is NOT about him seeing other natives and falling in love and warring with the humans that he used to live with. the plot of the story is him feeling like a second class citizen for being paralyzed so he found a way to escape from his world into a world where he can be strong again. No natives, no war with humans. its a story about the inner struggle of a person where they try to find something that makes them happy. total seperation from humanity finally comes where he no longer comes back to his human form and is forever inside his other body called “joe” where he is able to live how he wants to live and feel strong in his “joe” body and not be paralyzed in his human form.

    the only comparison you can make of the book and Avatar is obviously how a paralyzed person is able to transfer into another body, is that enough to be called plagerisim? no, also considering that cameron said he did take bits and pieces from alot of different science fiction books and stories. its ridiculous to say that the descendants of the author should sue Avatar, it would be the same as saying kevin costner should sue because its like dances with wolves, or pocahantas should sue

  2. people need to actually look up on the call me joe book.. yes the book deals with someone who is paralyzed and uses a talent of telapathy and a special headset to go to jupiter. this story is NOT about him seeing other natives and falling in love and warring with the humans that he used to live with. the plot of the story is him feeling like a second class citizen for being paralyzed so he found a way to escape from his world into a world where he can be strong again. No natives, no war with humans. its a story about the inner struggle of a person where they try to find something that makes them happy. total seperation from humanity finally comes where he no longer comes back to his human form and is forever inside his other body called “joe” where he is able to live how he wants to live and feel strong in his “joe” body and not be paralyzed in his human form.

    the only comparison you can make of the book and Avatar is obviously how a paralyzed person is able to transfer into another body, is that enough to be called plagerisim? no, also considering that cameron said he did take bits and pieces from alot of different science fiction books and stories. its ridiculous to say that the descendants of the author should sue Avatar, it would be the same as saying kevin costner should sue because its like dances with wolves, or pocahantas should sue

  3. the light you took my saying on IMDB huh? :) haha

  4. This article is another in the hate vs. hype train that only the internet can offer to AVATAR. I don’t get it. Do you guys not want to see anymore fantastical sci fi films made with any sort of budget ever again? Original or not, Cameron has worked hard for 4 years (I’m might be hyping this) to tell a ‘story’ so that we, the audience, can experience it the in a fresh and exciting way. I love the idea of a crippled person being able to use his legs through an avatar hybrid. That’s new to me. I didn’t read this short story. I imagine neither did most of you. Let Cameron and the author fight this battle. If Cameron plagurized, at least he’s trying to distribute the story to a wide audience.

  5. @Darren

    There’s nothing in the code for post pages that should be causing them to automatically refresh.

    Vic

  6. I’ve read the story years ago. From memory, the crippled man’s mind being transferred into an alien creature is the only similarity in the ‘ripped off’ plot. There were no military bases on Jupiter, no mining, the character controlled the creature from the orbit, no dragons, and no sentient local population.

    Of course the idea of a crippled man’s mind being transferred into an alien creature is so mind-blowingly ‘out there’ that two people couldn’t have possibly thought of it independently.

    And James, the Delgo thing was a joke.

  7. http://thefilmstage.com/2009/10/28/james-camerons-avatar-trailer-2-new-featurette/

    Everyone, haters included need to watch these videos.

  8. In spy kids 3d the grandpa goes through the same thing when he gets into the game… Being able to walk again and be strong, etc etc. Am i convinced this is completely original… No but again i am curious to see it ( it can be good, it can be bad… We’ll see).

  9. I think Cameron is plagiarizing the Call Me Joe novella. The similarities are too great to ignore and just like The Terminator, Cameron and Fox should be sued.

    Avatar has a terribly cliche story. The dialogue is horrendous and the subpar actors make it worse. The so called “Photo-real” CGI is horrible. The Na’vi character designs are laughable. All the fans screaming “YOU HAVE TO SEE IT IN IMAX 3D!” doesn’t help Avatars case. I hope Avatar gets sued and flops like Boxoffice.com and worstpreviews.com are predicting.

    What makes it worse is that the rabid, brainwashed, bandwagon, fans are proud that Avatar is an “original” story and use that to try promote this 300 million dollar fury porn cartoon turd of a rip off.

    Dances with Wolves,John Carter of Mars, Battle for Terra, Delgo, Ferngully 2, The Last Samurai, Matrix, Star Craft, Star Ship Troopers, Pocahontas, Dark Crystal, WOW the list goes on forever… Very original concept.

  10. ok ok you know whos fault this really is and who WE all should be mad at

    WHO THE HELL put that first trailer together. someone mentally insufficient.

    THEY tried to kill the movie before it even got close to its release dates

    THAT also should be placed on the top 10 all time horrible movie trailers of all time.

    NO trialer would have done less damage than that one did.
    MORON.. and how could the team let that slip throught the cracks seeing how they mass marketed for AVATAR day.. what a joke.

    I like everyone else saw the trailer and thought (ok ill watch it agian im sure its better than what im thinking it is) then a second time (ummm a lot of that looks really fake)
    then a third time (im not even amped to see it anymore)

    i was hyping my friends about this movie cause they dont follow upcoming films like i do, crowded them around my laptop for the premier trailer.. and i was embarrassed..lol

  11. Like everyone else? you mean everyone else who was using all caps saying how astounding and amazing the new trailer is and how its probably their favorite trailer of all time.. cause that’s all ive seen. On many web sites plus Marketsaw, IMDB, and Avatarmoviezone.

  12. All I want is a good story well told.
    I have no reason so far to believe that I am not getting that.

  13. Gary your comment would be considered “hate speech” if this was MSNBC Rant.

    ;-) ,,,

  14. If that turd T3 can make over $400M, then this movie surely can. It’s not a sequel of another movie, but it’s the next movie by James Cameron, which can almost be considered a sequel…

    But we’ll see when it comes out. I just love all of the “hate whatever’s big” people there who claim they can magically predict that this movie will bomb.

    I’m optimistic, but I’m still not going to play psychic…

  15. @ENTROPYpro – I don’t even know how to respond to yoru comment but here it goes:

    “This article is another in the hate vs. hype train that only the internet can offer to AVATAR. I don’t get it.”

    I have a hard time believing you actually read past the title of this article. The author neither hypes nor “hates” on Avatar. Please read again.

    “Do you guys not want to see anymore fantastical sci-fi films made with any sort of budget ever again?”

    Of course we do, but any sort of budget now = $200+ million? Some how I think other directors can manage to pull off a decent sci-fi flick on less…oh yeah District 9 did it this summer.

    “If Cameron plagiarized, at least he’s trying to distribute the story to a wide audience.”

    Seriously? If he plagiarized it’s OK because he was just trying to tell people a story? Sorry but I call BS on that. This movie has two types of hype driving it – 3D photo real CGI effects and Cameron’s claim that this is a one-of-a-kind, original, never before seen Sci-Fi story. Well when you make claims like that you are bound to make the internet hounds start sniffing out anything remotely similar to your work, just to call you on it.

    When the 1st trailer came out; it only took a couple of hours for someone to point similarities to Delgo and post the side-by-side pics online. Then more pics and a 2nd trailer emerge and a couple of days later someone else finds yet ANOTHER story with striking similarities.

    It took a couple of “net geeks” very little time to find these items, and since Cameron claims to be better than most, if not all, of the people he works with, then one of 2 things has occurred:

    1. Either he didn’t bother doing any research to find out if his story could be mistaken for someone else – which would make him both lazy and inept (and I doubt that he is either)

    OR

    2. Or he knew he was drawing from someone else’s material as a source and he didn’t think we would catch it – which means he is insulting his audience’s intelligence.

    Either way, I’m not impressed by his ability to wear camo pants, stand behind a gun and use green screen tech. The film itself will be the deciding factor.

    @DreamScape18 & ENTROPYpro

    You call me a “hater” for being skeptical about a movie before I’ve seen it. I call you a “blind lover” for fawning over a film you haven’t seen either. Remember, the trailers and features are made to get your ass in the seat and your money in their pockets. It wouldn’t be the first time Hollywood has screwed over the audience in hopes of recouping their mal-invested dollars.

    BTW, IMDB is not always the best source for trusted reviews and MarketSaw has had a couple of misses lately. As for Avatarmoviezone…I think the title of the website speaks for it’s bias.

    If after I see the movie I find myself truly blown away by it, then I will happily say so and have no problem eating my words…are you willing to do the same if you are under whelmed?

  16. Oh and I’m not slamming you guys for your opinions. You’re very much entitled to look forward to whatever you want to…just don’t call me a hater for not being pumped.

    @KenJ – I don’t think the movie will “bomb”. I just think that all parties involved started WAY behind with how big their budget was. Plus, people like to see underdog’s win and big guys lose. It’s just human nature.

  17. Whoever said (comment deleted? Wth??) that this looks like the “Battle for Terra” is 100% correct…
    You can take that film throw in the “Call Me Joe” story and you have Avatar…
    This doesn’t look good for Cameron,,,
    Also,,,
    Real good points Paul Y !!!!
    Enjoyed reading your comments, they reflect my opinion as well. 8-)

  18. considering that james cameron has said that he got basically all his ideas for this movie from all the sci-fi books that he’s read since he was a kid kinda shows this isnt necessarily a super original story and he never pretended it was. in articles he’s quoted books and movies (yes dances with wolves) that Avatar is inspired by, so to say “hey wait i saw this in another sci-fi flick, camerons a liar this isnt original” is dumb.

    Battle for Terra came out yrs after james cameron already wrote his scriptment, and as i already said “call me joe” has only one element that Avatar might have been influenced by but the two stories are COMPLETLY different from one another

  19. favorite trailer of all time huh…

    AHAHAHA there is like no dialogue, no nothing, just a bunch of random scenes that looked stripped from halo and fern gully.. with a whole bunch of it looking CGI-ish,

    from a film suppossed to be the next star wars..

    GO READ THAT comment, Someone – producer or something compared what star wars did for the industry to what AVATAR is going too..

    And dream if anything you should agree with me because im hoping this movie turns out to be up to the hype.
    But that trailer does nothing to back it up! absolutley nothing. DID anyone else see something epic, new, in that trailer??? dont think so, thats why this trailer is not up to par.. even teasers have something to tease you with.

  20. Nickjeezy, also good points,,, 8-)

    I think more then the similarities to other stories, some people (myself included) are just turned off by the hype machine/cameron is jesus, that’s pushing this 3D carnival ride/movie…

    As Paul Young calls it, “Blind love” I like that one!!!
    ;-)

    Sure it looks interesting but its not Terminator 2, Aliens or even the Abyss…
    The trailers would have to be the worst scenes of the film for this to change my opinion…

    Sorry but in the 2009 world of Halo and World of Warcraft these visuals fail to blow my mind,,,

  21. m-cat i agree with angel dust what they are saying is this….the movie looks to be all cgi yes terminator had cgi but it was used in an unabtrusive way the scenes with the liquid terminator and t-100 where done in an almost realistic way. i felt that it was something real. avatar the cgi is all around you and that just keeps some people from really being drawn in, the unatural fakeness of the sets just feels over the top. aliens was and is a fantastic movie loved it and as far as i can tell not much cgi was used in the movie. they were mostly just props and animatronics. that is a huge difference in the movie as the characters the actors are acting with something real they can see and touch. working with cgi most times people are only looking at a little green ball and going yeah that looks like a giant whats it. no sam whoever in the movie he is just a big blue alien….i cant see where some critics are saying he is the next big thing. i just cant see how he is doing this while voice acting. abyss now that was an amazing movie they tell a story with out beating you over the head with ” look at my new technology”

  22. @ Paul Young,
    [If after I see the movie I find myself truly blown away by it, then I will happily say so and have no problem eating my words…are you willing to do the same if you are under whelmed?]

    Yes I am. Thanks for the coherent response. Your comment about reading past the title: I read the article and agree wholey. I don’t agree with other posters’ taking advantage of the article’s title as if they didn’t read it (my opinion) just to, as you’ve said, see the big guy lose.

    “Blind Love”? I think not. A lot of the AVATAR fans, like myself, grew attached to this movie by reading the scriptment that was floating around the internet for some time. I thought it was really cool. I looked up the author’s name because I thought he was familiar. Turns out he made every movie I adored as a kid. I got excited as did many of the “blind” ones and began to spread the story which is complicated to pitch in a few sentences. I think many fans got sucked into the techno hype because most 20something year olds are familiar with video game terminology. And this is my problem. “It looks to much like Halo and WOW.” Didn’t these games come out after 1995? We lose that wonder from the written narrative making comments to one another about photo-realism and comparisons, odd ones at that. Delgo?

    [a decent sci-fi flick on less…oh yeah District 9 did it this summer.]

    District 9 was better than decent. It was kick-***. But don’t forget that Neill Blompkamp was going to make the Halo movie, with almost the same budget as AVATAR.

  23. @ Vic

    someone mentioned the page automatically refreshing itself. that happens when I’m on the site as well but I think it’s only when I’m on the homepage. not positive.

  24. People always say ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s how you implement the idea that that makes all the difference. I don’t mind if Avatar is not completely original. I just hope it’s told well. All I really want is a movie that actually worth the time and money I spend watching it.

    There’s a chance Avatar will be amazing and an equal chance that it will be ridiculous. I’m going to be optimistic until I hear otherwise.

  25. 790 wrote:
    “Sorry but in the 2009 world of Halo and World of Warcraft these visuals fail to blow my mind,,,”

    Wait… wait… you actually think the graphics of world of warcraft to be good??? That game looks like it was made 10 years ago… And Halo can run on a console, so don’t think you can count that as very good either.

    Just saying, I know it’s completely irrelevant to the topic at hand about Avatar, but seriously, you need to get out and play some real games if you actually use those games as examples of great graphics…

    BTW, yes I’ve played ODST. Pretty much the level of graphics I’ve come to expect from the Xbox360, in terms of graphics, I don’t see anything special, I’ve seen PC games with graphics about that good or better since maybe 3 or 4 years ago…

    You can cite Crysis with Natural Mod to challenge the graphics of this movie. Much better example than world of warcraft or Halo, lol.

    I’m just talking graphics, not talking about gameplay FYI, don’t want you to feel insulted since I know you’re in love with ODST. I only wish Operation Flashpoint 2 wasn’t such a disappointment in terms of gameplay… *shakes head*

  26. @790

    I said this movie looks exactly like Battle for Terra, but I dont see my comment deleted or anything, I still see the two IMDB plot synopsis links.

    There really isnt a difference except the look of the planet inhabitants. People over-sourced earth and had to leave, they find a earth-like planet with sentient beings and decide to take it over. One human gets mixed up with a female of the race and falls in love and becomes a traitor.

  27. I’m going to reserve any judgement until I see the movie. In the meantime, I’m sure James Cameron has enough financial clout to cover all copyright issues.

  28. Ken J

    Operation Flashpoints graphics aren’t that nice man I’ve played it on a PC too.

    Anyways Avatar is going to be amazing regardless of this “plagiarized” claim. I just have to say that in my opinion nothing these days is original. Everything is derived or takes some sort of inspiration from previous work. There are only so many different ways a story can unfold… I remember a year or two ago my teacher told me that Star Wars had been ripped off completely from a previous film. The film is Hidden Fortress by Akira Kurosawa. I’m sure at the time that Star Wars came out people were claiming that it was “an original piece by George Lucas”, even tho the idea was stolen. Sure the plot will have many similarities to other movies but that doesn’t mean it will be a bad film. Most of the films it shares similarities with are considered good movies.I think this combined with the elaborate CGI will make for a wild ride.

  29. @Fenix

    It’s better than Halo, almost all recent games out on the PC have better graphics… That’s basically my point…

    And I hope you’re talking about Dragon Rising, because the graphics in the original was pretty horrible, lol. But the gameplay was excellent. Love that game… Dragon Rising was a disappointment…