James Cameron’s Avatar reinvigorated the 3D medium, starting a wave of momentum that’s still in effect over 5 years later. It also still holds firm as the all-time domestic box-office "King of the World," at $760 million domestically, and a whopping $2.788 BILLION globally, with sequels in the works. Thus, like someone who’s won the lottery, James Cameron probably still gets a lot of calls from potential moochers. However, one "call" in particular from a Chechen author, has come in the form of a lawsuit accusing the director/writer of plagiarism.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a Chechen author named Ruslan Zakriyev is attempting to throw the book at James Cameron, claiming that Avatar has plagiarized a novel that he published online back in 2002 called Sekretnoye Oruzhiye ("Secret Weapon.") Zakriyev claims that some scenes in Avatar were identical to scenes in his own novel. As the apparently aggrieved Chechen stated to the news agency Russian News Service,
Cameron should pay me $1 billion out of the $3 billion which the movie made. I'd like to form a film studio and make films, too.
Well, Cameron isn’t exactly rushing to jot down a 10-figure check to Zakriyev just yet, despite the Chechen’s desire to reach a goodwill agreement. (How generous, right?) In fact, this is far from the first accusation of plagiarism levelled against the project. Why, one may ask, is this film so riddled with these issues? Well, because as awe-inspiring and stunning as the film turned out, the narrative framework for the story was, putting things generously… derivative. Thus, the film’s monstrous financial accomplishment also comes with the habitual headache of having to address every Johnny-come-lately who thinks the plot resembles some obscure short story published on their LiveJournal way back when, now thinking they can get a big payday out of James Cameron.
Cameron took an interesting, but not entirely original, transhumanist premise of transferring the mind into newly synthesized bodies and meshed it with basic concepts of "simple, but noble," beleaguered natives under attack from an evil corporate military complex. And then there are the characters, which seem ripped straight out of the "Protagonist 101" playbook. Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully is a paralyzed, jaded former Marine who finds his loyalties conflicted after his out-of-body experience with one of the alien Natives his forces are trying to get rid of to mine for fictional space fuel turns romantic. Take away the majestic, altitudinal scenery of the planet Pandora, the exotic flora and the tall blue aliens, and what you have left is a basic framework that could be applicable to a myriad of fictional works, both famous and obscure.
So, in all likelihood, Ruslan Zakriyev should probably not make any plans to form that film studio, or anything else when it comes to that billion dollars he hopes to suck out of James Cameron’s coffers. Unfortunately, lawsuits like this -- despite the unlikelihood of victory -- present a low-risk, high-yield situation. With plans for three Avatar sequels set for release each year starting December 2017 through 2019, this will be far from the last time something like this occurs.