John Carpenter Wins Plagiarism Case Against Luc Besson Over ‘Lockout’

John Carpenter Wins Plagiarism Case Against Luc Besson Over 'Lockout'

In 2012, Luc Besson‘s mid-budget action factory delivered "Lockout," a sci-fi-ish action movie that saw a game Guy Pearce leading a dumb yet more-enjoyable-than-it-had-any-right-to-be adventure about an ex-con tasked with rescuing the President’s daughter from a prison… in space! Like I said, it’s dumb. The box office was dreadful and reviews were worse, though on a positive note, Box Office described the picture as "a sleek, slick and shameless rip-off of John Carpenter‘s Snake Plissken films ‘Escape from New York‘ and ‘Escape from L.A.‘ " And Carpenter himself agreed.

READ MORE: ‘Lockout’ Is The B-Movie You’ve Been Waiting For All Year 

The director took production company EuropaCorp and the film’s writers — Stephen St. Leger, James Mather and Besson— to court over the matter, claiming they plagiarized his work. Surprisingly, Carpenter has won. These kinds of cases are notoriously difficult to prove, let alone win, but in this case, a French court ruled that enough similar distinctive elements from Carpenter’s "Escape From New York" were borrowed to merit a sanction. Here’s an excerpt of the ruling via Observatoire européen de l’audiovisuel

A number of elements present in both ‘[Escape From New York]’ and ‘Lock-Out’ could in fact be considered as stock elements in cinema. Other elements differed, such as the pace of the film and the special effects, but this could be because of the amount of time that had passed between the releases of the two films —1981 and 2012— and by the evolution in both techniques and mentalities in the intervening period. 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 free 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 court held that the combination of these elements, which gave the film ‘New York 1997’ its particular appearance and originality, had been reproduced in ‘Lock-Out’, apart from certain scenes and specific details that were only present in the first film. 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.

Europacorp has been ordered to pay 20, 000 euros to Carpenter, 10 000 euros to the screenwriter (the script is credited to both Carpenter and Nick Castle), and 50 000 euros to the rights owner of the movie. Granted, these are fairly paltry sums for a company as big as Europacorp, but it’s a very significant ruling. While art forms have a long history of borrowing and recycling elements, the judges in this case seem to say that there is a line that can be crossed, and that some genre creations do have enough distinctive characteristics to be protected by law. Thoughts? Let us know what you think below.

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Comments

ti

the French don’t screw around when it comes to the sanctity of cinema.

Bluben

FINALLY!!! In some way I’m choosing to see this as vindication for Jodorowsky and Moebius after Incal was ripped off.

Edward

i enjoyed this picture as an homage to escape, plagiarism seems a bit of a stretch….

Steve

There is a difference between homage and borrowing elements to straight up using the exact same plot. Lock Out was Escape from New York in space, it was almost shameless. A Fist Full of Dollars likewise was a shameless, yet brilliant, Rip-Off of Yojimbo. Carpenter was well within his rights and it baffles me it took 3 writers to rip off one screenplay.

Xavier

Maybe the COBRA’s screenwriter can attack Besson for plagiarism in LOCK-OUT. Because Besson also re-used exactly the same joke about the male hero who refused to give his first-name… because his name is "Marion" !

Jakob Montrasio

Happy for Carpenter, it was his idea placed in outer space. On the side, the plural of Euro is still Euro not Euros ;)

pikul

"a dumb yet more-enjoyable-than-it-had-any-right-to-be adventure" : there’s nothing enjoyable about this piece of crap. Even the usually great Pearce and Gilgun are awful in this. Anyway, Besson’s whole career is based on plagiarism so he finally get what he deserve.

The Doctor

Hey puly1333 you do realise Korea and Hong Kong are two different places and film cultures right?

Toyland Chairman

I watched LOCKOUT on Netflix recently. I had never heard of it before, it was kind of a whim moment. And while I overall enjoyed it, the movie seriously screamed ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and ESCAPE FROM L.A. I actually joked to myself maybe this should have been John Carpenter’s third Snake Plissken movie. I had no clue he had taken anyone to court over this.

good glory

Can’t believe Besson’s been condemned for plagiarism – finally! Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person. Too bad all the no-name writers he rips off haven’t been as lucky.

Luc Besson

My one regret is that so many people had heard of John Carpenter, Metal Hurlant and limitless.

    Vidar Støre Nystad

    Need my US$ 5. millions for Taken(#1). It’s a plagiarism of Love in Danger. This was going to be my way into the film -or movie biz. You guys have stolen my whole potentially career opportunities. -You are also stealing from children. This was going to be Daniel 12 & Celestes inheritage, – & all I had to give them, of material things! Vidar, screenwriter “Blue Ninja Pictures”

L.E.Alba

Besson is a hack with very poor science literacy. Lucy was absurd. I’m glad Carpenter won the case.

John Carpenter usually doesn't mind when directors are influenced by his work, but this is a total ripoff . Glad it worked out for him.

H2ohyeah

Daniel

Still beating that horse from 1994, eh?

Puly1333

If the Korean film community find out about this, it will be the end of Quentin Tarantino!!!

Frankyo

Don’t make your movie in France. Boom. Problem solved.

Vidar Støre Nystad

TAKEN (#1) is also a plagiarism of both Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen from the spec script ” “Love in Danger” by the norwegian screenwriter Vidar Støre Nystad. The case has been through tye Norwegian Court System from 2013-2015. But the “Luganoconvension” of 2007, says that you have to sue the Copycat in the country / city he lives in, or has his company Europa Corp. The movie grossed US$ 226. mill. Haven’t seen a dollar yet

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