Avatar or The Last Samurai?” width=”560″/>
Now: Avatar (2009)Then: The Last Samurai (2003)
James Cameron once described his stunning scifi opus Avatar as being based on every single science fiction book he’d ever read as a kid. We’d add some other titles to that list: Observers have already remarked on how the eye-popping Avatar resembles other films — Dances with Wolves, The New World, and Delgo, among others. But the movie that most screams for a comparison is actually 2003’s historical epic The Last Samurai, in which Tom Cruise played a troubled soldier going native in Japan and joining the rebels he was supposed to fight. Here’s our comparison. (Beware: Spoilers abound for both films.)
A Troubled Former Soldier Gone Corporate
Avatar: Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic former Marine who is hired by mercenaries working in collusion with a moneyed backer to help relocate the planet Pandora’s Na’vi population from a resource-rich area.
The Last Samurai: Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is an alcoholic former Army man who is hired by mercenaries working in collusion with a Japanese businessman to fight back rebels in order to clear the way for a lucrative new railway.
Our Hero Goes Native
Avatar: After he gets lost in Pandora’s forest, Jake is caught by the Na’vi, who take him in and teach him about their culture. Jake begins to find himself drawn to this world, in opposition to his employers.
The Last Samurai: After getting injured in battle, Algren is captured and taken in by a group of Samurai rebels who nurse him back to health and teach him their ways. Now alcohol-free, Algren finds himself drawn to this world, in opposition to his employers.
Time to Become a Mythical Fighter!
Avatar: By taming and riding a giant winged predator, Jake becomes a Toruk Makto, thereby forcing the Na’vi to trust him.
The Last Samurai: When he fends off a gaggle of Samurai with a broken spear embroidered with a flag depicting a white tiger, Algren reminds Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), the head of the Samurai, of a prophetic dream he once had.
Falling for the Wrong Girl
Avatar: Jake falls for Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of a Na’vi king. Problem is, she’s already been betrothed to suspicious Na’vi warrior Tsu-Tey.
The Last Samurai: Algren falls for Taka, the woman who nurses him back to health. Problem is, he killed her husband, a fierce masked Samurai, in an earlier battle.
The Final Battle
Avatar: After the humans destroy their home, the Na’vi assemble all their forces and mount a powerful defense. They are on the verge of losing the battle when all of Pandora’s wildlife comes to their aid, expelling the humans once and for all.
The Last Samurai: After Imperial forces almost kill Katsumoto, the Samurai assemble all their forces and mount a powerful defense. Although they eventually lose the battle, their sacrifice convinces the Japanese Emperor to take action.