French director Luc Besson thinks that he is “one of France’s great talents of all time”. I think he’s a second rate hack who deludes himself that because he made The Fifth Element, Leon:The Professional and whatever the hell Lucy was we’ll ignore the fact that he was responsible for Taken 2, Taken 3, Transporter 2, and From Paris With Love among others.
Actual film legend John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween, The Fog…) and his lawyers things that he’s a plagiarist, and shockingly Besson’s lawyers think he would never stoop so low.
The judge agreed with Carpenter.
In 2012, Besson write a film called Lockout ( 32.2 million on a 20 million dollar budget 38% on Rotten Tomatoes) which pretty much every critic going called a half-assed remake of Escape From New York (25.2 million on a 6 million dollar budget 85% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Carpenter agreed, launching a case for plagiarism.
Besson and his EuropaCorp production banner, along with the films directors/ Co-writers Stephen St. Leger and James Mather lost the first round and was ordered to pay $95’000 or 85’000 Euros. He appealed and must now pay Carpenter half a million dollars. Which is still less than the 2.4 million that Carpenter originally wanted.
Besson and his lawyers have always maintained that he would never intentionally (emphasis mine) plagiarize such a famous movie . And besides, Escape From New York itself owed much to classic Western Rio Bravo and Mad Max.
But the judges said there many similarities between the films. The heroes of both “got into the prison by flying in a glider/space shuttle, had to confront inmates led by a chief with a strange right arm, found hugely important briefcases and meet a former sidekick who then dies,” they ruled.
“And at the end [of both films, the heroes] keep secret documents recovered during their mission,” the judgement added.
But really, if anyone should be suing Besson for this film it should be the people who made the Sci-Fi Classic Fortress 2 Re-Entry (Budget 11 million, takings unknown 21% Rotten Tomatoes) of which Lockout is a virtual clone.
Now I’m not disputing that both films are incredibly similar but if you subscribe to the theory that there are only 7 stories (Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rebirth) then inevitably there will be some overlap. hell, ‘Anti-Hero faces impossible odds to get back the McGuffin’ seems to be the plot of half the movies I treasure from my childhood. Will Mr. Carpenter be suing them too? Or what about Hideo Kojima who has admitted that the main character of his legenday Metal Gear Solid series Solid Snake is partially influenced by Snake Plissken. Hell, In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty Snake actually uses the alias “Pliskin” to hide his real identity during most of the game!
Look at what happened in music, After Blurred Lines was sued by Marvin Gayes estate not for crimes against music but for infringing the copyright of ‘Got to Give It Up’ for which Robin Thicke, T.I, and Pharrell Williams were forced to pay 7.4 million dollars, although they have claimed that they will appeal the verdict. As a result, music has become a lot blander, with people afraid of releasing songs that were based upon their favorites for fear of being sued. I mean, how many great songs haven’t been written/released for fear of the lawsuit? How can you claim that your film or song which was influenced by exhibit A, isn’t a direct copy or plagiarism of said exhibit?
If this sets a precedent then what will films do? Make ever blander, safer, remakes like the type I’ve had to suffer through this summer or will they take a chance on smaller, independent films which could be sued at any second? What for example is stopping the owners of the copyright of Fight Club from suing the people behind Traders other than the fact we don’t talk about Fight Club?
I love film, I love films and I really do love it when an old tale is told in a new and refreshing way, but what do you guys think?
N.B. The Copyright on this article is owned by Miles Teller/ Jai Courtney (probably) so please don’t sue me.