The art of the mockbuster: Good artists copy, great artists steal
The art of stealing art is a long lasting one -- since the dawn of the civilized era, people have been copping other people's ideas and running with them. On some levels, there's no real shame in it, but when stealing is turned into a profitable business, things start to get a bit wonky. Today, we have entire industries devoted to the mockbuster, the clone and the knockbuster. How do they do it? By skirting copyright ever so slightly they're able to deliver people what they want: big-scale entertainment at home or on the go.
Every form of media has companies that do this, but for our purposes, we'll be looking at two examples of companies doing it the right way and the wrong way. On the chopping block today will be The Asylum, perhaps best known for Transmorphers, and Gameloft, best known for titles like Guitar Rock Tour, Gangstar: Miami Vindication and N.O.V.A..
Now, when you look at the lineup of The Asylum, you'd likely assume it's all about directly copying pre-existing movies in the cheapest way possible. That's only partially true. The purpose of Asylum movies is not to directly copy; it's about copying the covers and names of movies.
None of its movies share anything other than a name with the blockbuster equivalents. The purpose is to confuse people at home for long enough to pick their movies off the shelf and take them to the counter (or start up a Netflix stream). It's a bait-and-switch tactic. Transmorphers has literally nothing in common with the Michael Bay movie other than the fact it's about robots beating the shit out of humans. Where Transfomers tries to make us believe these robots just showed up, befriended the stupefied Shia Lebeouf -- who also happens to score a date with Megan Fox -- and save the day, Transmorphers takes place years after the robot Armageddon and features a far more interesting lesbian sub-plot.
The same goes for Sherlock Holmes. Where the blockbuster version had something to do with Robert Downey Jr.'s dumb problem solving, Asylum's was far more interesting. Not only was it about Sherlock solving a mystery, it was about how he punched an octopus, rode a Tyrannosaurus Rex, defeated a dragon and beat up a steampunked Iron Man. Seriously, here's the trailer to prove it.
Asylum takes dumb movies and makes them dumber. That's its purpose in this world. When Roland Emmerich masturbated all over the pretentious pile of shit that was 10,000 BC, Asylum countered with 100 Million BC, a far better movie that was all about time-traveling scientists who end up in 70,000,000 BC (no, that's not a typo) and who bring back a Carcharodontosaurus back to the present. Which of those two movies would you rather watch?
Then there is Gameloft, the videogame equivalent to Asylum.