Is Avatar ripping off Ben Bova’s “Winds of Altair”?

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[digg=http://digg.com/movies/Is_Avatar_ripping_off_Ben_Bova_s_Winds_of_Altair]Everyone is dying to hype up James Cameron’s Avatar as the second coming of film. There really hasn’t been hype for a movie like this since Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and we all know how that turned out. But is Avatar as original as everyone thinks? Not really.

This is the Avatar description from Wikipedia:

The story’s protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a former Marine who was wounded and paralyzed from the waist down in combat on Earth. Jake is selected to participate in the Avatar program, which will enable him to walk. Jake travels to Pandora, a lush jungle-covered extraterrestrial moon filled with incredible life forms, some beautiful, many terrifying. Pandora is also home to the Na’vi, a sentient humanoid race that humans consider primitive, yet are more physically capable than humans. Standing three meters tall (approximately 10ft), with tails and sparkling blue skin, the Na’vi live in harmony with their unspoiled world. As humans encroach deeper into Pandora’s forests in search of valuable minerals, the Na’vi unleash their formidable warrior abilities to defend their threatened existence.

Jake has unwittingly been recruited to become part of this encroachment. Since humans are unable to breathe the air on Pandora, they have created genetically-bred human-Na’vi hybrids known as Avatars. The Avatars are living, breathing bodies that are controlled by a human “driver” through a technology that links the driver’s mind to their Avatar body. On Pandora, through his Avatar body, Jake can be whole once again. Sent deep into Pandora’s jungles as a scout for the soldiers that will follow, Jake encounters many of Pandora’s beauties and dangers. There he meets a young Na’vi female, Neytiri, whose beauty is matched only by her ferocity in battle.

Over time, Jake integrates himself into Neytiri’s clan, and begins to fall in love with her. As a result, Jake finds himself caught between the military-industrial forces of Earth, and the Na’vi, forcing him to choose sides in an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire world.

Sounds pretty cool. Unfortunately, that is the plot of Ben Bova’s 1972 novel “Winds of Altair”:

The classic SciFi novel tells the story of humans trying to terraform the planet of Altair IV, where they cannot breath the air. The natives of this planet are a cat-like race (hmm, the Na’vi in Avatar look a little like cats) and Humans are able to transfer their minds into these cats in order to explore the planet safely. Throughout the course of the novel, the main character inhabits the body of one of these cats (just like in Avatar) and grows to side with the natives against the Military in the story.

The plots are almost identical. But will Cameron give credit to Bova for the story in Avatar? Doubt it.

The Hobbit Continues its March to Awesomeness

There’s a story about this all over the internets today, but the best source is probably here at G4.

Basically, Del Toro was in the UK on a BBC radio show and he confirmed that Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, and Hugo Weaving will reprise their LOTR roles in The Hobbit.

Well, it was expected but the confirmation is a huge relief.

The story also mentions that James McAvoy is the current favorite for Bilbo. That could work, he looks a bit like the other Hobbits and could pass for a relative of Frodo.

December 2011 can’t come soon enough.

Star Trek is back!

[digg=http://digg.com/movies/Star_Trek_is_back_Starbase_Blog]Imagine watching something that you loved beaten and left for dead. That’s what happened when Berman and Braga killed off Star Trek in “These are the Voyages…” ending Enterprise and 40 years of Trek.

Well, JJ Abrams has brought Trek back to life in a way that you wouldn’t believe.

While respecting what has come before in previous series and movies, this film reboots Trek for the 21st Century making it accessible to everyone and more fun that it’s been in a long, long time. Everyone is perfectly cast in the iconic characters, ILM’s special effects are amazing, the movie moves at an excellent clip where you’ll never be looking at your watch, and it’s filled with enough laughs, fun, emotion, and excitement that you’ll not find a better way to spend $10 this summer.

The basic premise is that about seven years following the events of Star Trek: Nemesis; the Romulan star is about to go Nova. Ambassador Spock (still being on Romulus) promises to fix it, but is unable to do so in time and Romulus is destroyed. A Romulan miner named Nero was off planet at this time, but his family wasn’t. Nero and Spock were both caught up in the resulting black hole and tossed back in time. Nero arrives in 2233 on the day James T. Kirk is born and proceeds to destroy the USS Kelvin, which is being captained by George Kirk. As a result Kirk’s father dies when he wasn’t supposed to and the entire time line is thrown out of whack and things don’t quite happen as they’re supposed to.

Nero is bent on revenge against Spock and the Federation for the destruction of his home world, and as a result things happen in this Star Trek that completely change the franchise’s universe forever. Through it all the original NCC-1701 crew must come together in the roles we’re all familiar with, only in a different way than what happened before. Old Spock (called Spock Prime now) pops up a couple times to push both Kirk and Spock in the direction they need to go in order to fall into the roles we’re familiar with.

A perfect soundtrack that couldn’t be much better unless Jerry Goldsmith were still around compliments some amazing ILM effects. Those two elements just wrap around what is pretty much the best Star Trek movie that isn’t titled The Wrath of Khan. I look forward to seeing this Star Trek many times in the future. With a fresh time line to work with, the sequels can go almost anywhere and Star Trek is finally back. It’s been too long a wait.

“Bad Star Trek is Better Than No Star Trek”

That’s pretty much what I’ve been saying in the last couple years after Berman and Braga killed off Star Trek with the most insulting send off ever; “These Are the Voyages…” The Enterprise series finale was Braga and Berman collectively pissing on Roddenberry’s ashes while at the same time taking a crap on every Trekker/Trekkie on the planet.

Everyone knows that “Terra Prime” is the true finale to the series and would’ve been a fine send off for televised Star Trek. Archer’s speech at the end of the episode captures the core of what Star Trek has always been:

“Up until about 100 years ago, there was one question that burned in every human, that made us study the stars and dream of traveling to them. Are we alone? Our generation is privileged to know the answer to that question. We are all explorers driven to know what’s over the horizon, what’s beyond our own shores. And yet the more I’ve experienced, the more I’ve learned that no matter how far we travel, or how fast we get there, the most profound discoveries are not necessarily beyond that next star. They’re within us, woven into the threads that bind us, all of us, to each other. The final frontier begins in this hall. Let’s explore it together.”

That would’ve been a perfectly acceptable end to Star Trek on TV, but the evil duo who had Trek in their titan grip wouldn’t have it and had to burn the corpse beyond recognition. “These Are the Voyages…” is not canon, and it should never be considered so.

Yet in the years since that Holodeck disaster was captured in high-definition; I’ve come to realize that even bad Star Trek is better than having no Star Trek. As bad as Voyager and the first two and a half seasons of Enterprise were; I would gladly watch them right now (but I still won’t watch “These Are the Voyages…“). I couldn’t stand Voyager, especially the later seasons, but if I find it on TV; I’ll stop and watch it. It’s still Star Trek, and that’s something we’re desperately missing and needing right now.

Six Years Later, and Nemesis Still Sucks.

So I was watching Star Trek Nemesis the other night to conclude watching through all ten movies in a row, and Nemesis is still mind bogglingly insulting in how bad it is. The link above does a better job than I could in illustrating how bad it is, but if they didn’t cut so much out of the movie it could almost have reached Star Trek V levels of bad. They cut a scene where Picard explains more about humanity to Data, one of the best parts of TNG. That right there would’ve given the movie a bit more of a reason to watch; at least in the first half. As it is, the only thing good about the existing movie is that Riker and Troi finally got married and Riker finally got promoted to Captain.

Captain’s Log: Stardate 62069.1 – First Entry

Why did I start this blog? Well, for about four years I worked for IGN.com and for a good portion of that I was responsible for the DVD site. While running that corner of the larger portal; I was lucky enough to revisit and review my favorite TV series of all time Star Trek: The Next Generation. Over the course of the series release on DVD I was able to go back and reflect on the best and the worst episodes of the series while reviewing the sets.. Those seven reviews were honestly the most fun I ever had at that job, and the work there I am most proud of. I was writing about something I really liked and knew.

So that’s why I decided to start this blog up.

Star Trek may not be in first-run television anymore, but it isn’t dead. There are still things to talk about surrounding it (a new movie on the way, for one) as well as general opinions and rants to get out. So this blog will be just that. A longtime Trekker/Trekkie (whichever you prefer) writing about Trek and SciFi in general – I also am a huge Star Wars fan. Expect to see a heavy Trek focus here, but don’t be surprised if I post something about Star Wars, Indy, Battlestar Galactica, or something completely random.

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