John Carpenter wins plagiarism lawsuit against Luc Besson over Escape from New York 'rip-off'

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Aug 2, 2016, 3:32 PM EDT (Updated)

French filmmaker Luc Besson's movie Lockout was apparently a little too close for comfort to a John Carpenter classic.

That's what a Paris appeals court determined when it handed down a ruling on Friday that the 2012 sci-fi action film Lockout, which Besson executive-produced and co-wrote with directors Stephen S. Leger and James Mather, "massively borrowed key elements" from Carpenter's futuristic thriller Escape From New York, released in 1981.

In Escape From New York, Kurt Russell played Snake Plissken, a former government agent turned convicted criminal who had to get onto the island of Manhattan -- which has been turned into a gigantic prison -- and rescue the president of the United States after his plane crashes inside the walls.

In Lockout, meanwhile, it's wrongly convicted anti-hero Guy Pearce who can win his freedom by rescuing the president's daughter from a space jail where the prisoners have overrun the facility. As Yahoo points out, critics have long noted the similarities between the two films, with Box Office magazine calling Lockout a "shameless rip-off" of the Carpenter movie. 

The judges on the appeals court agreed, writing that the main character in both movies "got into the prison by flying in a glider/space shuttle, had to confront inmates led by a chief with a strange right arm, found hugely important briefcases and meet a former sidekick who then dies."

Carpenter sued Besson and his Europacorp production company over the claim, asking for $2.4 million in damages. The case was decided in Carpenter's favor last year, but Besson appealed, with his lawyers calling the case a "block on artistic freedom" and saying that Escape From New York itself was inspired by films like Rio Bravo and Mad Max.

The judges didn't buy that argument either, ordering Besson to pay Carpenter, his co-writer Nick Castle and Escape From New York rights holders Studio Canal nearly $500,000 in damages. Besson's attorneys said that they were "very surprised by the ruling but the judges have spoken and we will accept their judgment."

Besson is currently in post-production on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which he previewed last week at Comic-Con and is due out on July 21, 2017, while Carpenter is doing a U.S. tour on which he is performing the music he's composed for his films. 

Did you see Lockout? Do you think it was too similar to Escape From New York and Carpenter was right to sue?

(via Collider)

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