There are so many remakes of popular movies. The Last Man on Earth became The Omega Man, which was transformed into I Am Legend—the title of Matheson’s source material. Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven, and Yojimbo evolved into A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing. For the most part, these remakes are tributes to the originals. George Lucas openly admitted that Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress inspired Star Wars. Too bad the inspiration didn’t last. (Remember Jar-Jar Binks? He made the Ewoks look good.)
Avatar has been lambasted for its weak plot, a story that is unoriginal at best and derivative at worst, calling to mind all of the “white guilt” movies we’ve come to know and love. The Last Samurai is one of my favorites, despite Tom Cruise. We know it’s been done before: white male infiltrates band of noble savages with ulterior motives, but he comes to love the native way of life enough to fight for its survival—regardless of his own. It’s good stuff. Maybe we need to see it again. And again. And again. Just to get the point.
Regardless, I think it’s a universal desire to see something fresh that’s never been done before. And while I realize there’s nothing new under the sun, it’s my goal to write stories that haven’t been told yet. I think that’s a given. So it can be a little disheartening when I’m told one of my manuscripts is like Wells’ The Time Machine and another is like King’s Misery. In this case, imitation is not the finest form of flattery; it’s derivative. And I don’t want the reader to think, “Show me something new already.”
Instead, I want to take my readers to a place they’ve never been.