This post will focus on what exactly Cameron stole for the fist part of the "trilogy" that he wants to make epic and unforgetable. I know how this thing works. Stealing ideas and some parts of stories is what keeps the industry running today, but directors tend to make those parts and ideas as invisible as possible. Cameron, on the other hand, made a complete replica of things already seen. Things already seen many times before. I will focus in the following on what I've noticed, so feel free to add things in comments.
James Cameron knew that people will see the simularities, so he even made Neytiri (kind of) look like Pocahontas. Was he trying to be ironic or just to let everyone know that he can steal shit and nobody can do anything about it?
As many of you have probably seen, Avatar is mostly based on Pocahontas. The story of Pocahontas is mostly a true story, but many elements were added afterwards, to make the story more dramatic. Some of those elements were kept afterwards because people found it to be important for some reason. Technologically advanced people, without human values, come to the land owned by the primitive tribes that love nature, other beings etc. . One of the visitors falls in love with one of the natives and their way of life. *puke*
Avatar before the Avatar.
Some would say that the whole story isn't totally like Pocahontas, because there are some (minor) differences. Ok, let's go with that. Cameron added some fantasy (this crap isn't sci fi, it's simply fairytale-like fantasy) to it, to make it all different (!?) from the original story. Was Cameron the first to do that? No. There is a cartoon called FernGully: The Last Rainforest, made in the 1992. that tells a story of woodcutters on their way to destroy a sacred rainforest that fairies and many other beings live in. One of the woodcutters spends time with one of the fairies and after that encounter does his best to help the fairies defend their holy land from the woodcutters. Need I go deeper into the story? For those who still doubt, woodcutters would be the invaders from the Earth, fairies would be the Na'vi, a guy who falls in love with a fairy is a guy who falls in love with a Na'vi.
Cover of one of the books from the "World of Noon" series by the Strugatsky brothers. It's worth checking out if you're a Sci Fi fan.
Hold on, folks! Somebody would dare to say that even tho all of this is true, Cameron still made a unique backstory. He chose 23. century, named the planet Pandora and his belovered race Na'vi, that humans tend to invade. There happen to be a couple of Soviet Sci Fi (true Sci Fi) writers that already did all that. They're called Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Now, their story isn't a lot like Cameron's, but the aspects that I've mentioned earlier in this paragraph are all there. Their "World of Noon" series take place in 23. century on the planet named Pandora, where people called Nave live. Folks from the Earth do the research on the very planet. Still in doubt?
Nagrand and Pandora's floating pieces of earth. Coincidence? I think not.
Now, that I have most (all?) of the story covered, let's focus on what many people think is quite unique and only Cameron did. I'm talking about the planet of Pandora and the way beings and the sorroundings were designed. Big blue beings... Now where have we seen those? Oh, that's right, World of Warcraft (not implying anything in WoW is very original). To be quite precise, I'll focus on The Burning Crusade expansion for WoW, that Cameron probably played while trying to picture the world he created (or he just leveled in the Outland while writing the script, being that he didn't need much of a focus to come up with most of it). His Na'vi look a lot like Dranei (took some bits from the Night Elves as well) from WoW. Floating pieces of ground - Zone called Nagrand in the Outland. Big ass birds that Na'vi ride? Check. It's interesting how most of it come from the same place.
Now, for the 3D. Avatar IS NOT the first 3D film, or anywhere near the first one. The technology itself is 76 years old and it's first been used in the theatres in the 50's. Later on it was revived in the 80's and it wasn't that successful. The scientific progress made the 3D look better through the years. Somebody wanted this film to hit the market hard, because it was all over the media! It was everywhere. Cameron is just one of the famous directors, not the most famous one or the best. He just knows his marketing or has someone who's an expert. The out-of-this-world-success of this film just shows how manipulative people are nowdays.