Jack, Jack, Jack of Titanic, watch out for that iceberg!

Posted on 04 February 2010 by ShepRamsey

Well, the Academy Award nominations are out now, and everything went more or less as expected, and I’m more or less pleased.  The Blind Side sneaking into the Best Picture race kind of…um…blind-sided me, making the cut over Clint Eastwood’s expected Invictus. Other than that, they were all there: The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, Up in the Air, District 9, An Education, A Serious Man, Up…and Avatar.

Yeah, a lot of people absolutely love Avatar, James Cameron’s massive-scale science fiction passion project.  I’m not one of them, though.  I’ve been loudly campaigning against it since the moment I saw it.  Now it’s tied with Kathryn Bigelow’s (ex-wife of James Cameron) Iraq war movie (and far superior) The Hurt Locker for the most nominations, with nine.

Of course, while The Hurt Locker received an unsurprising and most deserved nomination for Best Original Screenplay, James Cameron’s script for Avatar was unsurprisingly and most deservedly left off that ballot.  In other words, I got just what I asked for last week.  Thanks, Oscar!

Surely this can’t come to Mr. Cameron as a surprise.  Surely the constant allegations of his movie’s similarity in plot to Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, and Ferngully haven’t gone completely under his radar.  Surely he knows that he’s one of the most unoriginal talents in the film industry today, right?

And listen, friends…this isn’t the first time, either.  Wolves, Pocahontas, and Ferngully are all pretty obvious films to connect with Avatar, as they share similar settings and/or aesthetics.  But remember Titanic?  (I know, I know, it’s easy to forget.)  Despite its since-unbeaten 14 Oscar nominations (and eleven subsequent wins), Cameron threw a tantrum twelve years ago when Titanic failed to be acknowledged for its screenplay.

Now, I want you to think about Titanic—about its plot, its characters, everything.  Are you thinking about it?  Good.  Now I want you to think about Disney’s live action big-screen adaptation of the popular 60’s cartoon George of the Jungle.  Think about those same things in regards to that movie.  Now I want you to feel your love and admiration for the mind of James Cameron draining out of your body.

The similarities between the plots and characters of George of the Jungle and Titanic are so similar, you might have to vomit.  Let’s explore.

Our lead character in Titanic is Jack Dawson, of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, as played by Leonardo DiCaprio.  In George of the Jungle, our lead character is George, of the jungle, and is played by Brendan Fraser.  Both men are from a low-income-to-primitive background.  They are lacking in the areas of physical presentation and general skills of etiquette.

Both of our characters meet a nice young rich woman who is on an expedition with loved ones.  Jack meets a first-class passenger on Titanic, Rose, played by Kate Winslet.  George meets Ursula, a woman enjoying a safari vacation, unbeknownst to her, in George’s place of residence.  She is played by Leslie Mann.  Both women are black sheep in their families for their inexplicable lack of hatred and disgust for the poor.

Both women also have a rich and cartoonishly arrogant fiancé.  Rose is engaged to Cal, played by Billy Zane, usually a cool dude to whom we should all listen, but in the case of this film, he’s always wrong and never cool.  Ursula is engaged to Lyle, played by Thomas Haden Church, who was so lovable as Lowell on Wings, but not here he’s not!  He’s a douche.

Both Rose and Ursula have overbearing money-hungry mothers who just love, love, love their rich arrogant fiancés and hate, hate, hate the mysterious new poor boy.

Now, since both films are about poor lowly common boys who want to win the heart of a  seemingly unwinnable rich girl, they wouldn’t be complete without a friendly character to help clean them up and teach them the game.  In Jack’s case, his friendly helper is The Unsinkable Molly Brown, played by Kathy Bates.  For George, it’s an ape named Ape, voiced by John Cleese.

And since these films are timeless love stories, then certainly the low-income-boy’s love is reciprocated in both circumstances, and much to the chagrin of the lady in question’s mother and fiancé?  Yes, indeed.  In fact, in both movies the forbidden couples first meet under circumstances of the lady being in peril, and the poverty-stricken lad coming to her rescue.

Of course, in Titanic, the peril is Rose’s own choice as she stands at the edge of the boat, contemplating jumping.  And then along comes Jack who talks her down—but then she slips and he has to save her!  In George of the Jungle, George meets Ursula when he saves her from a lion after Lyle pusses out.

If that’s not enough, both couples reach the apex of their bonding experience during a night of joyous ethnic dancing.

And beyond those character developments, both films document infamous crashes—that of the Titanic into an unforeseen iceberg, and that of George himself into many, many trees.  Both films have irritating theme songs that have surely found themselves stuck in your head before.

Now, I’m not alleging that James Cameron knowingly ripped off George of the Jungle—which was released only a few months before Titanic was, but if this man’s outrageously expensive passion projects are comprised of characters and storytelling that can’t stretch beyond something that a handful of Disney drones thought up in their sleep, then is he really deserving of all this acclaim and attention?

And if Avatar is teaching us anything, it’s that this isn’t a fluke, either.  Dances with WolvesPocahontasFerngully: The Last Rainforest.  Will James Cameron ever stop?  Or are we doomed to watch the big-screen $500,000,000 version of fighting-man-and-wife-trapped-in-elevator-and-resolve-their-differences.  Or was that True Lies, kinda?                           

11 Comments For This Post

  1. Pants McCracky Says:

    Awesome story, bro.

  2. James Says:

    I just watched Avatar and saw the same silly connections with a myriad of previous films but I am also at a loss as to why anyone thinks Hurt Locker is a good film? It is nothing but a retread of Iraqi war movie cliches, other war movie cliches, and action movie cliches with a bunch of nonsense thrown in, from the soldier making friends with the local boy and getting caught up with the locals because of it (See Good Morning Vietnam and others), to the Iraqi who can’t understand a road block or a gun pointed at his head (See every Iraq movie ever made), to the gas tank exploding from gunfire and then being put out by a single small fire extinguisher to the exterior of the car, to the preposterous reluctant suicide bomber who never had a chance to kill anyone, to the ridiculous sniper vs. sniper with both sides sticking their heads out in the exact spot their friends were previously sniped!

  3. Zeit Says:

    I was thinking about writing a long drawn out comment but a short one will do.
    You sir, are an idiot.

    I actually do not disagree with you and I am not defending either movies originality or James Cameron’s screenwriting ability. What I cannot stand is the ineptitude of your comparison of movies. Do some proper research or, having done the research, don’t leave important facts out just to make a false point.

    You talk about the main characters and their similarities but you leave out most of the differences. You gloss over various major differences in circumstances like the fact that you can not even compare Molly Brown and Ape. Molly Brown was a virtual mother figure acting as a compassionate guide. While Ape is George’s ever present conscience that prevents Georges id from taking over.

    Now…I can go on and on but the major glaring problem with your article, for which I believe you to be brain dead, or worse, a biased self centered douche…Much like a combination of Cal and Lyle, is that you completely leave out 90% of each movie, going so far as the beginning of the plot line where they share similarities and ending the moment any type of differences (and there are many) start cropping up. Like the fact that (oh and this one is a biggie…George loses himself in his wealth and power while Jack never once forgets where he comes from, and maybe…just a small thing…but the fact that Jack dies and well George goes to live happily ever after.)


  4. free movie downloads Says:

    I can see the similarities of a “civilized” woman meeting an “uncivilized” man in both stories, but the setting and overall plots are nowhere near the same, whereas in Avatar/Dances with Wolves, practically everything is the same, including setting besides the time period.

  5. Unidentified Says:

    Well, my friend, you are slightly stupid.
    How many different types of movies are there? There are obviously going to be replays. I’m sure even George of the Jungle and all the others were made off some story from back in the day.
    Get off his case. You have a stupid point, and are just overreacting to sound “cool”.

  6. wow Says:

    “George of the Jungle—which was released only a few months before Titanic was”

    “George of the Jungle—which was released only a few months before Titanic was”

    “George of the Jungle—which was released only a few months before Titanic was”

    “George of the Jungle—which was released only a few months before Titanic was”

    “George of the Jungle—which was released only a few months before Titanic was”


  7. ParryOtter Says:

    “You gloss over various major differences in circumstances like the fact that you can not even compare Molly Brown and Ape.”


  8. ShepRamsey Says:

    @wow– I’m not sure what your complaint is, or why I’m an idiot. If you read the sentence in question, you’ll see that the quote of mine that you repeated a full five times (for effect, I can only assume) was used to illustrate that I am NOT alleging that James Cameron ripped off George of the Jungle, nor do I believe he knowingly would, either. I am merely remarking that their similarities in character establishment and general construction are disturbingly similar and call into question how original and/or complex and interesting Cameron’s characters are.

    @Zeit– I think you may be taking me way, way, way too seriously. More than anything else, my intention for this article was merely to amuse and joke around about something that I’ve personally found amusing for the last 12 years. Yes, for each one similarity that I name, there are certainly more than a few differences. By going so far as to reference “the id of George,” you seem to be the one who is taking this way more seriously than I am. Let’s not forget that this is a Disney movie based on a 60s cartoon that we’re talking about. Its genuine artistic resonance weighs in at about a zero.

    I really don’t mean to come down that harshly on Titanic–I like Titanic. (I definitely can’t say the same about Avatar, but that’s a different conversation–if you have any interest in my review, you can check that out here.)

    I guess what I mean to say is that I have a rough time swallowing the fact that movies like Titanic and Avatar can be so massively revered, while the films/stories that they borrow from are anything but. Pocahontas was somewhat the beginning of the downfall of Disney’s 2-D animated films, and Ferngully is little more than a punchline. I know that Dances with Wolves is a Best Picture winner, but I would argue that it’s less remembered as being a great film than it is for being the film that inexplicably beat GoodFellas. But I understand that these thoughts are ultimately subjective, and hold little weight.

    Yes, many great movies recycle familiar storylines, but most of them do so in fresh, interesting, and thematically resonant sort of ways that usually have something unique to say in the end (take this year’s Crazy Heart, for instance). Cameron’s take on familiar stories just doesn’t, though–it’s 100% surface and 0% subtlety. I realize that what makes his films so enjoyable is the epic scope and grand spectacle, and in terms of Titanic, I can totally get on board (no pun intended) with that. But I do hesitate to call it a great film.

    This is just my take, and I know there are a million arguments out there for why I am wrong — certainly most people in the world wholeheartedly disagree with me about Avatar, a movie which I found simplistic and arrogant, with little to no redeeming qualities. And yes, as someone who keeps himself so actively plugged into the movie world, it gets frustrating for me that almost no one seems to see what I see, so I apologize if I come off as a “braindead, or worse, biased self-centered douche,” because in all honesty one thing I can’t stand among the film community is the constant barrage of negativity and bitchiness, and it sucks to know that, when I write an article like this, I’m not helping my cause. Sometimes a guy just wants to vent, and the internet is a better place to do that than, say, a fight club.

    Oh well, I’ve gone on for too long and maybe I shouldn’t have even said anything in the first place, but I’ve just been noticing a lot of people taking this article A LOT more seriously than perhaps they should have. For the record, let me just say that I am NOT alleging that James Cameron ripped off George of the Jungle, or even that they follow the exact same plot to a tee–only that I find it amusing how many different things (particularly characters) are very similar between the two movies. I just thought this might be a fun article for me to write and a fun one for others to read. I apologize for the controversy.

  9. Quaid Says:

    Such vitriolic hatred for such a silly and fun article. When you compared the iceberg’s collision to George’s tree difficulties, I’d think most readers would start to get the goofy joke…I guess not.

  10. cristina Says:

    you’re missing a point though: one movie is in the jungle and the other in a freaking ship that’s sinking!

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