James Cameron’s First Attempt to Beat Star Wars Came Nearly Three Decades Before Avatar in a Poorly-rated 1980 Film

As it turns out, James Cameron's first attempt at outshining 'Star Wars' wasn't through 'Avatar'!

Avatar and Star Wars

SUMMARY

  • James Cameron worked on 'Battle Beyond the Stars' as a production assistant, a movie influenced by Star Wars, Star Trek, and Seven Samurai elements.
  • Despite its space opera vibe and commendable effects given its budget, 'Battle Beyond the Stars' was a rip-off of Star Wars and didn't achieve the success expected, receiving mixed reviews.
  • Nonetheless, Cameron later succeeded to beat 'Star Wars' with 'Avatar', which eventually surpassed 'The Force Awakens' as the fourth biggest movie ever.
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James Cameron is currently one of the highest-rated filmmakers in the entire entertainment industry, having helmed fan-favorite masterpieces like Titanic and 1986’s Aliens. But he wasn’t always this famous, nor were his outstanding directing skills garnering interest from audiences for at least a few years after he kicked off his directorial debut with Xenogenesis in 1978.

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James Cameron. | Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.
James Cameron. | Credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons.

That said, besides The Terminator film series, what actually made him super famous in the industry was his brilliantly helmed Avatar saga, which quite literally surpassed the Star Wars lore by flying colors. But that wasn’t Cameron’s first attempt at outshining George Lucas’ universe, because the first attempt came nearly three decades earlier in 1980 through one of Cameron’s poorly-rated films.

James Cameron’s First Attempt at Surpassing Star Wars Came in 1980

After Xenogenesis in 1978, Cameron inevitably caught the eye of the late mastermind director Roger Corman, who hired the younger talent as a production assistant on his 1980 movie that pretty much no one remembers in today’s day and age, Battle Beyond the Stars.

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Though many may not even have heard of that movie, the ones who have seen it may have very well understood that it was nothing short of a rather shameless space opera rip-off of the then-raging science fiction world of the Star Wars saga.

Battle Beyond the Stars.
Battle Beyond the Stars.

Produced by Corman, the movie contained mixed elements from three of the most well-known space opera universes of that time: George Lucas‘ universe, the Star Trek saga, and the franchise that is widely said to have influenced Lucas’ lore, 1950s Seven Samurai.

This film tells the story of a planet named Akir, which faced brutal attacks by Sador, a warlord, and his army of mutants. Thus, to protect his planet against the barbarians, a young Akira farmer, Shad, gathers mercenaries for help. (Doesn’t this sound oddly familiar to the Rebel Moon story, though?)

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Star Wars universe.
Star Wars universe.

Working on this film was Hollywood’s very own favorite filmmaker James Cameron, who ended up scoring a major role among the supervising team for the movie’s special effects after being hired for a more or less minor behind-the-lens role.

However, even after giving off the near-perfect adventurous vibes of a space opera with its space battles and commendable spaceships despite being made on a very meager budget, this rip-off still failed to outshine Lucas’ universe, becoming one of Cameron’s most poorly-rated movies of all time.

Battle Beyond the Stars Failed to Outshine Star Wars Nonetheless

A still from Battle Beyond the Stars.
A still from Battle Beyond the Stars.

Those who have seen the movie know for sure that it holds some pretty good scores and sound designs, and is overall creative with the storyline despite being a clear rip-off of Star Wars. Still, it ceased to amuse audiences and ended up on some pretty low scores.

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Developed and released in July of 1980, this film was made on an estimated budget of around $2 million (as per the facts in the book John Sayles: An Unauthorized Biography of the Pioneer Indy Filmmaker), and garnered around $1.732 million in its first three days (as per Wikipedia).

While Corman managed to recoup his losses nonetheless by selling its foreign distribution rights to Orion Pictures and Warner Bros. for $2.5 million and reselling the cable rights to HBO for $750,000 (as per Wikipedia), what still remained were the not-so-good reviews the film received.

A still from Avatar.
A still from Avatar.

On Rotten Tomatoes itself, the movie has a 50% score from critics and an even worse 42% score from general audiences from 1000+ ratings. Similar ratings have been found on other sites as well, so it clearly didn’t manage to outshine George Lucas’ saga as it was expected to.

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Nonetheless, James Cameron made sure to beat Star Wars almost three decades after this movie through Avatar, the sequel of which has reportedly officially overtaken The Force Awakens to become the fourth biggest movie of all time (as per Independent).

You can watch Battle Beyond the Stars on Peacock.

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Written by Mahin Sultan

Articles Published: 1146

Mahin Sultan is a News Content Writer at FandomWire. With almost one year's worth of experience in her field, she has explored and attained a deep understanding of numerous topics in various niches, mostly entertainment.

An all-things-good enthusiast, Mahin is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Commerce, and her love for entertainment has given her a solid foundation of reporting in the same field. Besides being a foodie, she loves to write and spends her free time either with her nose buried in a good book or binging on COD or K-dramas, anime, new movies, and TV serials (the awesome ones, obviously).

So far, Mahin's professional portfolio has more than 500 articles written on various niches, including Entertainment, Health and wellbeing, and Fashion and trends, among others.