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Plagiarism lawsuits are nothing new in Hollywood -- hell, we've covered several here just in the past few months -- so you would expect a movie that made nearly three billion dollars worldwide to attract its share of litigants. Indeed, Avatar director James Cameron has been sued before by people claiming he swiped the idea for his ecological sci-fi epic from this place or that. Now the lawyers are flocking once again, and this time it's a former employee of Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment claiming that Avatar was based on his ideas.
According to THR, Eric Ryder has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that while employed by Lightstorm back in 1999 he wrote a story that became the basis for Avatar. Called K.R.Z. 2068, Ryder says the story was developed as a planned movie by Lightstorm, but was eventually abandoned in 2002 because the company didn't think there would be enough interest in the film. Ryder also claims to have created supporting materials such as treatments and photos.
So what was K.R.Z. 2068 all about? THR lists several choice quotes from the complaint (which you can read in full right here). Ryder's story was an "environmentally-themed 3D epic about a corporation's colonization and plundering of a distant moon's lush and wondrous natural setting." The complaint also claims that both Ryder's story and Avatar include a corporation spy, similarities between their respective alien inhabitants, and the spy forming a relationship with the natives and eventually switching sides.
Okay, it all sounds relatively Avatar-ish, but whatever else you can say about it, Avatar definitely doesn't have the most original storyline in the world. Many have pointed out the film's similarities to movies such as Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves, to name only two. Plus, Cameron has said that he began developing Avatar back in 1994, when he wrote the 80-page treatment for the film, which was later leaked and popped up all over the internet. From what I remember of that treatment, most of the elements Ryder is claiming were stolen were already there, at least in prototypical form. Sure, it's possible Cameron could have incorporated Ryder's ideas into the eventual film...but that, along with the rest of it, remains to be proven.