The Death of Storytelling

The Death of Storytelling

Although I’m a technophile, I haven’t seen Avatar. Nor do I intend to. The problem with Avatar is not that its story is a lame and nonsensical retelling of Dances with Wolves in space; we do not go to the movies in order to experience a more logical and realistic world than the one we already inhabit. The problem is that James Cameron appears to have shamelessly lifted a great deal of the story and the stylistic trappings from an obscure British comic named Firekind. If the rumors of Terminator-related payments to Harlan Ellison are true, this would not be the first time either.

Here’s how Henry of the Friday Challenge describes it“[T]here is serious speculation that Cameron lifted large chunks of the story in Avatar from an eight-issue British comic book series titled Firekind. The comic book series features a lush, wild planet with an atmosphere that is toxic to humans, blue-skinned aliens, flying dragons on which the aliens ride, a planet-wide psychic connection, floating rocks, humans bent on wiping out the natives to get their hands on something available only on this planet and a human who joins the blue-skinned aliens to fight against his own race. The human is even responsible for psychically summoning the planet to help defeat the humans.”

I don’t know what the facts are, but as a writer who is presently under contract to deliver a script for an animated film, I have absolutely zero desire to support what, according to the case for the prosecution, looks very much like an ironic case of James Cameron blatantly stealing both the story and the creative credit from those who rightly deserve the blame for the nonsense.  I’m not sure which is ultimately more depressing, the fact that a film costing $300 million couldn’t set aside the price of a novel advance for a decent story or the related fact that a decent story is obviously superfluous to requirements for the filmgoing audiences of today.

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John R. Fultz

Wow, that’s interesting. Cameron could have read FIREKIND and sublimated it, then later thought he was actually inventing the story–or he could have blatantly stolen it. I think, given his resources, the former is more likely. Let’s face it–the story is incredibly mythic and archetypal, i.e. it shares a LOT of commonalities with a LOT of other stories. It’s basically a fantasy hodge-podge…Cameron doing everything he always wanted to do in a fantasy.

The reason people are willing to “settle” for the rather simplistic story is the same reason they settle for STAR WARS’ largely goofy storyline: The fact that it IS simple speaks to simple human nature–there’s nothing complicated about it, and it hearkens back to all the myth-tales that our ancestors passed down for thousands of years. And, probably an even bigger reason: The movie is a VISUAL ride…that’s where the true paydirt lies. People don’t go to AVATAR to think! They go to ride that Crazy Cameron Rollercoaster! It’s visually exhilarating.

Yesterday I saw Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND and I kept thinking–wow, all the visual splendor of AVATAR and an enjoyable story to boot! Burton slipped America a big old dose of sword-and-sorcery disguised in the milk of a beloved childrens’ tale. Of course, Burton had help from Louis Carroll to make sure his story was solid, but man did he run with it.

I believe those who were disappointed in AVATAR 3D will find what they were looking for in ALICE IN WONDERLAND 3D.


Well, I objected to the story because it was trite and unoriginal. It could have been ripped off from any number of sources. Then again, the story wasn’t the point. The visual spectacular was. If the comic visuals seem very similar to the images Cameron created, then there might be more to accusations of plagiarism.

John R. Fultz

Soyka: “Trite” is a good word! That’s the word…kudos on your excellent diction.

Although AVATAR, let us remember, was always intended as an all-ages movie, that doesn’t mean it had to be trite.

Still, the ecological message behind the movie is something I salute.

“Who’s the savage? It’s modern man.” –Judas Priest

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