#2. Michael Bay's The Island Shamelessly Ripped Off a '70s Movie
The Island is Michael Bay's least successful film ever, but also probably the only one that requires the audience to perform any thinking. That's because the plot is actually kind of intriguing. It (spoilers) is about a seemingly utopian community of people who are actually the clones of wealthy and powerful individuals, basically created as spare organs. One of the clones (Ewan McGregor) discovers the truth and goes on the run.
It's a pretty cool idea, and Bay totally stole it from someone else.
The Original: Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979)
Parts: The Clonus Horror is also about a group of clones living in an isolated community and one of them discovering the truth. The only differences stem from the fact that it was made for only 0.2 percent of the budget of The Island, and the most recognizable actors in it are the captain from Airplane! and the second Darrin.
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit starring in good films."
In a lawsuit against DreamWorks, the creators of Clonus listed 90 points in common with The Island, among them:
In both films, the characters don't know they are clones, live in a closely monitored facility and are duped into thinking they won something when they're shipped off to have their organs harvested. Also, they all dress in track clothes 24/7.
Gotta keep those lungs healthy.
Most of the clones are pretty dumb, but the main character comes out smarter and starts questioning his surroundings, eventually deciding to escape the facility alongside a hot female clone (Scarlett Johansson in The Island, "No IMDb Photo Available" in Clonus). In both cases, this is motivated by the discovery of an object from the outside world: In The Island it's a moth, and in Clonus it's ... uh, an Old Milwaukee beer can.
That can cost them half their budget.
Both sneak out at night and wander into a building that looks like a hospital ...
... where they witness clones being killed by injection with a green liquid, and then being covered with plastic tarp.
The heroes escape from the facility through a corridor of pipes ...
... winding up at the top of a rocky bluff in the desert ...
... and then decide to visit the guys they were cloned from, who initially side with the clone but end up betraying them. This website lists even more similarities.
DreamWorks settled out of court and, according to Clonus screenwriter Bob Sullivan, wound up paying a seven-figure sum. Considering that The Island cost $126 million and only grossed $35.8 million domestically, and then had to cough up more money afterward, Michael Bay should have probably followed the moral of the story and stayed away from illegally cloning things.
How They Improved It:
Did we mention Scarlett Johansson is in this thing?
And did we mention she spends half the movie running from explosions?
On second thought, we're not sure why this thing didn't make more money.
#1. Monsters, Inc. Already Has a Live-Action Version
Let's face it, Pixar has a thing for "unofficial" remakes. Still, one of their most wholly original movies is Monsters, Inc. -- the idea of a society of monsters whose work is to scare children is something that made everyone in the kids' movie business wish they'd thought of it before. Nothing like this had been done in animation.
Live action is a different matter, though.
The Original: Little Monsters (1989)
Try to imagine what Monsters, Inc. would be like if it were an '80s live-action movie and you can get a fairly accurate idea of 1989's Little Monsters. In it, a kid played by Fred Savage (of course) meets a friendly monster named Maurice, who is basically a low-budget human version of Sully from Monsters, Inc.: It's just Howie Mandell with blue/purple makeup, blue hair and plastic horns on his head. Mandell's performance is somewhere between Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice and "child molester."
That makeup may be the reason Mandell is now a germaphobe.
It turns out that in every kid's room there's a portal to a world ruled by monsters. In Monsters, Inc. it's in their closets, and in Little Monsters it's under their beds, but the basic idea is the same. Instead of the big row of doors, the monster city in Little Monsters has "innumerable staircases" leading to the human world. Also, both movies have a main villain who dresses more snappily than the rest of the monsters and who kidnaps a human child for its own evil purposes.
"We want a five-eyed creature with giant spider legs. No? Eh, just paint a kid blue then."
And of course, both villains have a hideous sharp-toothed henchman who does most of the dirty work, allowing them to remain hidden for most of the movie.
Only one looks like Fat Bastard from Austin Powers.
The character arc of the friendly monster is also pretty similar: At one point, both Maurice and Sully accidentally scare their human friend (Fred Savage because he sees Maurice scare a baby, and Sully's friend Boo because she is a baby), leading to a vocational crisis where they question if scaring kids for a living is really the best thing to do.
How They Improved It:
Mainly, by not including Howie Mandell. The carefully animated and awesomely voiced characters are a plus, we guess, and it helps that Monstropolis doesn't look like it was shot in someone's basement, but just the fact that Howie Mandell isn't in this movie is probably what made Monsters, Inc. a classic, and this is something we've believed since long before finding out that Little Monsters was a thing.
The magical world of monsters is basically a thrift store warehouse.
Robin Warder is the co-owner of the pop culture website The Back Row.
For more "originals" that are anything but, check out 7 Classic Movies You Didn't Know Were Rip-Offs and 6 Famous Characters You Didn't Know Were Shameless Rip-Offs.
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