In an earlier post I wrote about a time I was reading a comic and I had this “new idea.” That idea proved too strong for me to keep bottled up. So I eventually wrote my first script. This idea was new to me and I was excited to get it on paper, try to make my dreams come true and publish this fantastic idea. Soon I would have a movie deal and I would be famous, I was on my way to untold riches.
Now back to reality, as I kept thinking about that same idea I began to realize that maybe my idea was not so different from so many others, maybe it has already been done and done better. That is when it hit me that there is no such thing as a true and true NEW idea. Everything gets recycled. Let’s look at some examples.
Avatar, one of the most popular films of all time, can be seen as a mix and mash of many different stories. When I first saw this movie I was blown away, to me there were some brand new ideas and themes in the movie that never crossed my mind before. Now as the film ages and critics and movie goers have had ample time to dissect every aspect of the film here is what I have realized. First, I want to make it clear that I do not believe that James Cameron has in any way shape or form plagiarized from anyone while making Avatar. I will say however that I think he has done what countless writer, directors, musicians have done since the beginning of time and that is take what they already know or is popular and change it, adapt it and create something completely new or just put a new spin on it.
John Allen or James Marshall as he use to go by, was in my opinion one of the greatest at this concept. He took the music of blues legends and hooked it up to an amp and added a little flair and stage presence and whala a new breed of rock and roll was born. James was known for his wild guitar solos and improvisation, often saying he played colors rather than read music. Chuck Berry was the father of rock and roll, but James took it to the next level, he was revolutionary in his field. You probably know James by another name, Jimi Hendrix.
James Cameron was no different, if you do a quick internet search you will find there was no shortage of individuals that were suing Cameron because he stole their ideas. While some of their ideas were very similar he did not steal them. He took an existing idea, man falls in love with local and massive evil corporation wants to destroy local indigenous population for monetary gain, and put a totally new spin on both of them while adding some awesome special effects. I do think there were some smaller themes/ideas (whole planet is basically a computer that stores the memories of all the deceased!) in the movie that I had never seen before, but that does not mean he was the first one to think of them.
Also, the main theme is the lone warrior/chosen one takes on insurmountable odds or accepts an epic journey is nothing new. This idea is very interesting as it thousands upon thousands of years old, yes I said thousands, meaning more than one. I believe the first writing of this idea was in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which tells a tale of a lone warrior stepping from the normal world and goes on a miraculous journey, only to return changed by his journey. Sound familiar? The theme had been played out millions of times through human history. Check out Hero with a Thousand Faces if you are interested in learning more about the idea. Star Wars, Avatar, The Matrix are just a few that display this theme that come to mind, although there are millions more in every aspect of storytelling. Even the story of Jesus Christ fits nicely into this layout as well.
What I also think is very interesting is that it is such a simple them, one that has literally been around for thousands of years and yet it is still popular. That shows just how powerful a single idea really is. Some of the most powerful devices in existence all started with a single idea. I have often said that ideas are dangerous, perhaps the most dangerous thing in existence. Here is some food for thought in closing: Are certain ideas ingrained in our DNA? Are they what makes us human? Is that why these simple ideas are still so popular after all these years?
Trying to think of something new….