What’s so fresh and original about James Cameron’s Avatar?
Very little, to be honest.
The film’s design seems inspired by – if not directly borrowed from – the day-glo hyperrealism of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern paperback series and the videogame based on them:
Conceptually, Avatar recalls a 1966 Star Trek episode, “The Menagerie” in which a wheelchair-bound former starship captain (Sean Kenney, below)
so he can live happily ever after with this person.
The concept of an avatar, as such, is familiar to almost anyone who has joined Facebook or played a videogame. It is so much a part of popular culture that it was used – with a minimum of explanation or fuss – by Terry Gilliam in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (a film released at almost the same time as Avatar) to explain why whenever Heath Ledger steps into Dr. Parnassus’s “magic mirror” (below), he is replaced by another actor – Johnny Depp, Jude Law, or Colin Farrell.