Hey, Hollywood, we get that it's hard to come up with new ideas. Especially when you've gotten really good at improving on the original. But it's one thing to purposefully remake a dud into a classic -- it's another to pretend you're the one who came up with the idea in the first place. How would you like it if we said we invented anorexia and scientifically impossible explosions, huh Hollywood?
These movies are like that.
There's nothing wrong with an honest, loving rip-off. Like Cracked's Star Wars Adventures in Jedi School mini-series.
This seems like a really obvious one: Everyone knows the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are a combination of the Disney ride and Johnny Depp channeling the ghost of a pre-dead Keith Richards.
Which fled from his body sometime in the mid '70s, leaving it an empty husk of decaying meat.
Except the Disney attraction has as much of a story line as a bad night at a gay bar -- basically you're going around in a boat while drunk robot pirates dance and sing around you. It's more of an acid trip than a narrative. So where did they get the rest of the story?
What It's Suspiciously Like:
The video game The Secret of Monkey Island came out in 1990 and follows the adventures of Guybrush Threepwood, a bumbling swashbuckler who must gather a crew of pirates to rescue the woman he loves while dealing with a mysterious supernatural curse. Sound familiar? That's also the plot of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, except Threepwood is called William Turner there. Both characters even dress alike.
To be fair, vests were very popular in pirate times.
Well ... but all pirate stories probably have some things in common, right? Don't worry, we're just getting started.
In Pirates, the love interest is Elizabeth Swann, the governor's daughter. In Monkey Island, her name is Elaine Marley, and she isn't really related to the governor -- she is the governor.
Disney will only accept a woman in a position of power if she's an evil witch queen.
In Pirates, Elizabeth is captured by an undead pirate and his skeleton crew. In Monkey Island, it's ... the exact same thing, except the bad guy goes by the objectively more awesome name of Ghost Pirate LeChuck.
If he didn't tell us we'd never guess he was a ghost and a pirate.
Both stories involve zombies, cannibals, pet monkeys and the oddly specific character of a black voodoo priestess who lives in a shack in the middle of a swamp. The main difference here is that she's younger and hotter in the Disney version, but that seems like the sort of thing Hollywood would change even in an official adaptation.
And the visual similarities don't stop there -- notice Guybrush using a coffin as a boat in that picture? At one point in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Jack Sparrow does the same thing (the linked image is from the film's game adaptation, which frankly seems redundant). Then there's the pirate town made out of wrecked ship parts from the same movie and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1991).
So is this a huge coincidence, an homage, or just thievery? Well, Monkey Island's creator Ron Gilbert has admitted that he was inspired by the original Disney ride, and also the 1987 novel On Stranger Tides (which was loosely adapted into the fourth Pirates film), but that doesn't even begin to explain all the similarities -- there's no clumsy protagonist, kidnapped governor-related love interest or coffin-boat in the book or the attraction. The only important common element that could be attributed to the novel is the voodoo/zombie aspect -- however, Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer says the screenwriters only "found the book" while filming the second and third movies.
Here's another explanation: There was actually a canceled Monkey Island film project around 2000, and Wikipedia credits Ted Elliot for the screenplay. Guess what major Johnny Depp movie Ted Elliot went on to write a few years later, possibly reusing parts of the script and some concept art?
Hint: It wasn't Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
In 1999, The Matrix came out and blew everyone away with its insane action sequences, revolutionary cinematic techniques and, most of all, a mind-fucking plot that left the head of every viewer filled with intense philosophical questions.
Like if there's no spoon, what is this called?
What It's Suspiciously Like:
The Invisibles, a cult comic book series created by Grant Morrison, is basically about a group of individuals who fight the establishment because the establishment is secretly keeping people dumb and hiding the fact that reality is an illusion. Turns out that the "real world" is ruled by horrifying insect-like demons. One more thing: The Invisibles debuted in 1994.
Like in The Matrix, these "terrorists" are actually one cell of a much larger group, and some of them can even "warp themselves out of reality" by using the real world as a shortcut. The story starts when the Invisibles recruit a young guy who takes on the alias of Jack Frost. Like Keanu in The Matrix, at first he wants nothing to do with the group, but eventually he comes to accept the fact that he's the messiah (yeah, they're a lot less subtle about it here). From that point on, he uses his reality-bending powers to help bring down the beings that secretly rule the world. Also, part of his training involves jumping off a tall building.
Other than that, they're completely different.
At one point, the bald, shades-wearing kung fu leader is captured by the bad guys and tortured by a non-human conscience ... who has taken the shape of a government agent. When he refuses to give them any information, they try to enter his brain, until eventually the rest of the team comes to his rescue. Here are a few panels from that sequence:
The Invisibles, Volume 1 Issue #18, "Entropy in the U.K."
And, oh, hey, remember this scene from the movie?
The Wachowskis have never acknowledged The Invisibles as an influence, even though they had invited the comic's creator Grant Morrison to contribute a story for their website. Morrison -- who actually liked The Matrix -- says he "was told by people on the set that Invisibles books were passed around for visual reference." His reaction to the second and third movies? "They should have kept on stealing from me."
The ballet thriller Black Swan had all the ingredients of a great indie film: a psychologically tense plot, plenty of weird/artsy visuals, a French person and Hollywood starlets desperate to break away from their "good girl" image.
Altogether the movie was voted "Most Likely to Get a Thumbs Up from Both Partners on Date Night."
What It's Suspiciously Like:
A Japanese cartoon, of all things. Perfect Blue is about a pop singer instead of a ballet dancer, but other than that, Black Swan could pass for its American remake. In both movies, the young, innocent protagonist has just moved on to a more demanding job (dramatic actress/lead dancer), and the pressure turns her apeshit. She gets chased by a "double" who may or may not be the product of her imagination, and at one point becomes convinced that she killed someone.
Check out the scene at the end of both movies where (if you don't like spoilers and you're still reading there's something wrong with you) she has a physical fight with her double, glass shatters, and the other woman ends up being stabbed in the stomach and dies (it starts at 4:07 in this video):
Although the plots are really similar, it's the little moments that give it away here. Like the short scene where she stares at herself on the window of a subway door:
Or the part where images of herself/her mother become animated and taunt her from a wall:
So how do we know that Black Swan's director, Darren Aronofsky, is familiar with Perfect Blue? Mainly because it's not the first time he borrows from it: Check out this scene from an earlier film of his, Requiem for a Dream.
It's the exact same scene.
Aronofsky allegedly bought the remake rights for Perfect Blue in 2000 in order to use that one scene. When asked if Perfect Blue influenced Black Swan at all, he said: "Not really, there are similarities between the films, but it wasn't influenced by it."
Those of you surprised that Aronofsky is completely detached from reality haven't seen Pi.
On the one hand, you've got to give Abrams props for doing a reboot the right way: The story was engaging, the casting was spot on and the lens flares were superb.
Proof that J.J. Abrams really gets Adobe Premiere.
On the other hand, when you're watching Star Trek, there are moments when this rushing river of deja vu comes coursing through your body. You know you've seen these characters before, but where?
What It's Suspiciously Like:
George Lucas would have sued, but he, like us, is terrified of J.J. Abrams.
Now, let's be clear: Lots of movies follow the hero's journey model to tell their story. Obscure nobody is called into a great and dangerous adventure, he follows the call until he hits a low point where it seems that everything is lost, but it's not. The nobody is transformed into a somebody, succeeds at his quest and celebrates with everyone he loves. It works whether his name is Harry Potter or Frodo or Neo.
But once you get past the fact that both young Kirk and young Luke were orphaned farm boys whose fathers were once great pilots and who want nothing more than to get off their boring planets and join the nearest academy, the similarities start to get downright eerie. For example ...
They both have an older mentor.
And they both have a second, pointy-eared older mentor. Just in case the first older mentor doesn't work out.
Both use a height-challenged non-human and an accented know-it-all for comic relief.
Both movies up the stakes with a peaceful planet getting destroyed.
But Star Trek's most incriminating indictment isn't even those very, very similar plot points. It's like they weren't even trying ...