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French court rules that Lock-Out is just Escape From New York in space

Guy Pearce? That's cute...
Guy Pearce? That's cute...

INT. — JOHN CARPENTER’S HOUSE — NIGHT

It’s March of 2012. A long Steadicam shot glides through a California mansion to reveal horror master John Carpenter as he hammers out some notes on his synthesizer. A television blares innocuously in the background. A commercial for Luc Besson’s Lock-Out plays. Carpenter looks up from the keyboard and lowers his glasses.

JOHN CARPENTER

A movie about an ex-con rescuing the President’s daughter from a prison in space? I bet I can get some money out of this motherfucker.

FADE TO BLACK

According to a French court, 2012’s Lock-Out is officially nothing more than a French knockoff of Escape From New York. According to The Playlist, EuropaCorp, who produced Lock-Out, has lost a plagarism lawsuit filed by Carpenter and has been ordered to pay Carpenter 20,000 euros, the screenwriter 10,000 euros (the script is credited to both Carpenter and Nick Castle), and 50,000 euros to the movie’s rights holder. It’s long been said that there are actually only seven story plots in the world, and the Turkish filmmaking industry has been leaning on that concept heavily since the ’60s. (Surprisingly enough, there is no Escape From Istanbul). So where is the line drawn in what elements can be borrowed, lifted, or ripped off? Where does homage end and plagiarism begin? According to the court’s ruling:

A number of elements present in both [Escape From New York] and Lock-Out could in fact be considered as stock elements in cinema ... The court nevertheless noted many similarities between the two science-fiction films: both presented an athletic, rebellious and cynical hero sentenced to a period of isolated incarceration—despite his heroic past—who is given the offer of setting out to rescue the President of the United States or his daughter held hostage in exchange for his freedom; he manages, undetected to get inside the place where the hostage is being held after a flight in a glider/space shuttle and finds there a former associate who dies; he pulls off the mission in extremis, and at the end of the film keeps the secret documents recovered in the course of the mission ... The difference in the location of the action and the more modern character featured in Lock-Out was not enough to differentiate the two films.

Most readers are by now probably saying to themselves, “Yup, that sure sounds like Escape From New York” (or perhaps, “Wait, wasn’t Lock-Out the one with Stallone and Schwarzenegger in a prison?”). The details of EuropaCorp’s defense are not clear, but presumably involve Carpenter’s Escape From New York remake contract, which states that Plissken “must be called Snake, must wear an eye patch, and must always be a bad-ass.” (Only one of those may describe Guy Pearce in Lock-Out.)

It should also be noted that Carpenter wanted to send Snake Plissken to space with Escape From Earth; he also reportedly had plans at one point to send Michael Myers to space. Instead of either of those adventures, audiences were treated to “Assault On Precinct 13 in space,” a.k.a. Ghosts Of Mars. And while 80,000 euros is a drop in the bucket for EuropaCorp, it’s a nice enough check for Carpenter to sit at home and play with his keyboard for a few more years, something he very vocally prefers to filmmaking these days. David Robert Mitchell and Jeremy Saulnier better watch their backs.

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