Consider the following plotline: A young man travels to another world where he infiltrates the indigenous people and adopts their ways. He is befriended by a beautiful young woman who is very important to the tribe and ultimately becomes her lover. Although at first the tribe has doubts about him, he proves his worth by mastering one of the world’s largest and most formidable creatures. In so doing, he fulfills one of the tribe’s messianic prophecies. Finally, he leads the natives in a successful battle against the imperialist forces that are attempting to subjugate them.
I have just described the plot of Avatar, but you may also recognize it as the plot of Dune, a film produced 25 years earlier by the late Dino de Laurentiis (and his daughter, Raffaella), based on a novel by Frank Herbert, adapted and directed by David Lynch.
Very few plots are completely original. Avatar and Dune are basically the story of Captain Smith and Pocahontas (cf. Terrence Malick’s The New World) by way of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars. Dune also throws in some elements borrowed from Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. I wrote about Avatar’s other sources here.
It’s all in the realization anyway. Avatar and Dune are as fundamentally different as â€¦ James Cameron and David Lynch. I was reminded of these two films by: 1) the viewing of Avatar on Blu-ray this weekend – for me, it worked much better as a Blu-ray than as a 3-D theatrical feature; and 2) the completely fortuitous discovery of some Super-8 footage taken on Dune’s set by none other than “the Princess of Dune,” Sean Young. Her affectionately narrated YouTube video speaks for itself.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFTS5-cIHgQ]