Last week Friday and after a few months, a French Court hearing an appeal by Luc Besson, producer and “original story” creator of 2012’s Lockout, decided the man had indeed ripped off John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape From New York. The original judicial judgment was for €80,000 but this new decision upped the penalty to €450,000.
Read all about it here in an article by Germain Lussier and presented on i09:
A French Court has officially deemed Luc Besson’s Lockout a rip-off of Escape From New York
So, not only did the appeal fail for Mr. Besson, it failed pretty damn spectacularly as his original penalty judgment was upped nearly six times.
Here’s where perfect 20/20 hindsight comes in: I suppose in retrospect Mr. Besson should have just taken that original judgment and accepted it then simply moved on.
I wrote twice before about Lockout, first offering a review of the film in which, among other things I stated this with regard to the “similarities” between the film and Escape From New York:
My younger, more strident self (as opposed to the more mellow person I’ve since become) might have been furious that Mr. Besson (who is also listed in the credits as having the “original idea” of this film!!!!) would so cavalierly rip off another person’s concept.
Later, when the initial case was brought before the French Courts and Mr. Carpenter won, I also wrote about that and had this to say:
…with Lockout vs. Escape From New York, there is very little doubt that one inspired (or, as the French court ruled, “ripped off”) the other. Whatever you may think of Lockout, good or bad, if you’re familiar with John Carpenter’s film, you instantly see the similarities…and they are quite significant.
As I writer, I have my own ideas regarding “original” story concepts.
There are those who say there’s no such thing as an “original” story and that any form of similarity between stories is worth nothing more than a shrug.
Copying a story concept is a question of degree. You can isolate all the individual elements in Escape From New York and Lockout and decide nothing in the film is original.
For example, you have a lone borderline villainous anti-hero in both films (been done, see Kiss Me Deadly to Fistful of Dollars to The Road Warrior)
You have an impenetrable/unescapable prison where the protagonist has to escape from (been done, see Escape From Alcatraz, The Great Escape, etc.)
You have a mission which must be accomplished by a certain time or else (been done, see Mission Impossible movies and TV shows, Wages of Fear, Smokey and the Bandit, etc.)
You have questionable allies helping your hero do his thing (been done, see Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone…hell, most of the movies based on Alistair MacLean novels)
You have a strong, flamboyant villain and his even more flamboyant right hand man (been done, see almost every James Bond film)
You have a very important person you have to get out of there (been done)
I could go on but I think I’ve made the point of many of those who do not feel Lockout is a rip-off of Escape From New York.
HOWEVER, what Lockout did which many other films did not is take these individual elements found in Escape From New York and present them in pretty much the same order and way but with one cosmetic change: Setting the story in space.
Otherwise, they are essentially the very same works.
And that is a step too far.