Posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 by Germain Lussier
The day a movie turns a profit, the vultures come out to pick. More often than not when a movie becomes a hit, people accuse the filmmakers of stealing their ideas and sue them for a taste of the profits. A recent example is the highest grossing movie of all time, Avatar. Writer director James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment are reportedly fighting multiple lawsuits concerning the film, one in particular from a man named Gerald Morawski who accuses Cameron of stealing his pitch about a war between a native tribe and a mining company.
To combat this lawsuit, the filmmaker wrote a 45-page text for the court, nearly a small autobiography, detailing all the points in his life where Avatar began to blossom into an idea. They date back to his childhood. One of the biggest examples, though, is a short film he created in 1978 called Xenogenesis, which Cameron says in the document, contains material that “may be used in the Avatar sequels.” What could that mean? Watch the film yourself and discuss below.
The Hollywood Reporter posted the full Cameron statement, which we’ve embedded below the video. But here’s the most relevant piece, from paragraph 19:
In the late 1970s, I wrote on a project called Xenogenesis, co-writer a treatment and draft script for Xenogenesis with [Randy] Frakes….Attached as Exhibits 6 and 7 are true and correct copies of relevant portions of the treatment and draft script that I wrote with Mr. Frakes in or about 1977-1979. These documents contain my propeiretary and confidential work, disclosure of which would harm me because they contain material that was not used in the Avatar film but may be used in the Avatar sequels
Jackpot, right? Wrong. Of course this statement doesn’t include those confidential documents. Instead, what we have is the short film version of Xenogenesis via YouTube. Can you find any clues to Avatar 2 in it? I have some theories after the video.
The film is pretty straight forward but I think the idea of a world untouched, that’s sort of become self-sufficient, and then a new race comes into the equation is something Avatar plays with and might be explored more deeply in the sequels. The Na’vi going underwater, for example. Also the spider-robot thing is possibly a design idea we’d see in the film. Obviously, the woman’s piloting of that robot much mirrors what Cameron would do both in Aliens and Avatar.
More likely, though, is that this version of Xenogenesis doesn’t have any of the ideas Cameron is talking about. According to an older article on the film which you can read here, the pair were developing a feature length version of Xenogenesis and this was just a short film version to gain more funding. So maybe there’s nothing in there. Either way, it’s pretty spectacular to see Cameron’s work at such a young age is so similar to what he’s doing now.
Here’s the full statement. It’s a fascinating look into the creative mind of the filmmaker. And if you’re lazy, the Hollywood Reporter story has some relevant bulletpoints.