7 Low-Budget Blockbuster Rip-Offs

Franchise riffs or shameless steals? See the trailers and decide...

 

For every big film that arrives, there's a rack of low-budget bandwagon-jumpers.

But shameless, straight-to-DVD studio The Asylum doesn’t bother to even wait for films to be released. If there’s a blockbuster in the offing, they’ve got a cheapie version ready to go before the print on the original is dry...

The Day The Earth Stopped (2008)

It’s a bit like: The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008/1951)

What’s the plot? Much like in the Keanu version. We’re all doomed. A man from space bears a message of destruction.

Er, except in this one, there’s a really, REALLY big robot who looks like he belongs in the old Star Fleet puppet show. Oh, and a hot chick who is apparently also here to wipe us out.

Why the alien threat needs both of ‘em is not adequately explained in the trailer.

Will act for food: Judd Nelson and C Thomas Howell. Howell even directs!

How does it compare? The effects are decidedly ropier. And The Eifel Tower gets destroyed, which we don’t recall from either of the original films. Can't be much worse than the pointless, finger-wagging Keanu redux.[Page-break]

 

The Terminators (2009)

It’s a bit like: Terminator Salvation (2009)

What’s the plot? Robots and cyborgs built to serve man get re-programmed and go on a rampage to take us all out

Why? Um, based on the trailer, we’re going to go with… aliens?

Will act for food: Jeremy London

How does it compare? We're not sure how he team avoided being sued by Warners, Sony, Jim Cameron and notoriously litigious Outer Limits writer Harlan Ellison.

While the alien plot does add some new elements into the story, it doesn’t quite make up for the cut-and-paste story rip-off feel

And confusingly, it also seems to feature the Eagle space ships from Space 1999 and the moment from Race To Witch Mountain where the kid – or in this case, cyborg warrior – destroys a car by standing in the way. Audacious and messy.[Page-break]

 

Transmorphers (2007)

It’s a bit like:Transformers (2007)

What’s the plot? In a stunning break from the Asylum sci-fi norm, an alien race has conquered the planet and humanity must fight back.

Think Transformers if the Decepticons won (and were much crappier CG). 400 years later humanity’s in a pitch battle to survive.

So, Terminator meets Transformers, then…

Will work for food: No-one of note. Shame they didn't wheel in Michael Ironside.

How does it compare? Like we said, it’s one of the furthest away from the 'source' material, probably to avoid the explodey wrath of the Bay and, more importantly, Paramount’s lawyers.

But that hasn’t stopped them from knocking out a sequel for this year – Transmorphers: The Fall Of Man, starring Will-Appear-In-Anything Poster-Boy, Tron’s Bruce Boxleitner.[Page-break]

 

2012: Doomsday (2008)

It’s a bit like: 2012 (2009)

What’s the plot? The Mayan calendar ends on December 21st, 2012. This has been interpreted as the end of the world, and Earth-shattering events will take place.

Most of it will be really bad weather, then volcanoes, earthquakes and all that Really Bad Stuff.

Four strangers are brought together to see if they can make the weather better...

Will work for food: The esteemed Dale Midkiff

How does it compare? Actually, they’re out ahead of the game on this one - and could easily make the argument that Roland Emmerich is stealing from the… Well, no... It can't quite decide if it's ripping off 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow.

Still, the idea of 2012 as an apocalyptic story is public-domain enough. Expect to see much more of this leading up to the doomsdate.

Oh, and it’s one of their more impressive offerings, boasting a budget of... (Dr Evil voice) $1 million![Page-break]

 

Death Racers (2008)

It’s a bit like:Death Race (2008)

What’s the plot? Four crazed teams of racers are pitted against each other in a brutal future where violence is a way of life.

The only way to win is to survive and the only way to survive is to make sure everyone else loses. And by 'loses' we of course mean 'dies'.

There’s also some sub-plot about a fella trying to destroy the world.

Will work for food: WWE wrestler Raven

How does it compare? Measured against the Paul WS Anderson version? It actually looks like fun - at least holding to the values of Roger Corman’s original Death Race 2000, with the cross-country aspect and the crazier teams.

And we'd include the Insane Clown Posse in the 'will work for food' section, but they seem to be the spearheads/creative force behind this charming little chunk of carmageddon.[Page-break]

 

Journey To The Center Of The Earth (2008)

It’s a bit like: Journey To The Center Of The Earth (2008)

What’s the plot? In a blend of Journey (helpfully in the public domain) and The Abyss (not so much), a research team gets trapped beneath the surface and a high-tech drilling rig must be employed to help rescue them.

Along the way, the heroic rescuers encounter strange animals and plants… And plenty of danger. But no Brendan Fraser.

Will work for food: Greg Evigan

How does it compare? Well, it’s not in 3D, that’s for sure. Most of the actors don’t quite seem to break free of 2D either.

But hey! Dinosaurs! GIant spiders! And you could pretend it's in 3D by persistently rocking your head close/far-away from the screen.[Page-break]

 

I Am Omega (2007)

It’s a bit like:I Am Legend (2007)

What’s the plot? Meet Renchard. He’s the last man on Earth, apparently. And he’s surrounded by badly masked zombie/vampire type blokes.

Will work for food: Mark Dacascos IS Renchard.

How does it compare? Calling it 'Omega' doesn’t fool anyone into thinking this isn’t ripped straight from the Will Smith and/or Charlton Heston version (The Omega Man) of Richard Matheson’s book.

In fact, calling it 'Omega' and not, say, 'Alpha' or 'Gamma' or something actively feels like a cheeky challenge to Matheson's/Heston's lawyers.

Dacascos has the advantage that he knows more cool martial arts moves than Will Smith. And we’re at least intrigued to see how they pull off extended scenes where Dacascos and his monstoid enemies are supposed to be the only people in major urban areas. Out with the hooky copy of Photoshop!

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Comments

    • spudmonkeysteve

      Apr 16th 2009, 10:12

      Actually Transmorphers is a pretty good film in its own right, despite the knock-off Nigel title. Ok so the acting leaves a lot to be desired and the dialogue is stilted and hackneyed but the plot is an intriguing blend of Transformers and The Matrix centering around a human plot to overthrow the tyranny of the machines, sound familiar? The film has a delightful lack of product placement, unlike Transformers, and the plot itself is way better than Transformers. I would give this film three stars any day of the week compared to some of the big budget tosh that tends to score big points within the hallowed pages of your illustrious magazine, good though it is.

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    • thedarkknight

      Apr 16th 2009, 15:26

      You like Transmorphers. You're silly.

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    • theGlimmerTwin

      Apr 16th 2009, 22:18

      I'm surprise you missed out such classics as the imaginatively titled "Snakes on a Train", "Alien vs Hunter" and "Monster" (a less obvious name for a Cloverfield knockoff). I got all three a joke presents and quite frankly they are painful... Alien vs Hunter is maybe the worst edited movie I've ever seen. SoaT was doing ok until the most uncomfortable and needless near rape scene ever... oh dear indeed!

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    • spudmonkeysteve

      Apr 20th 2009, 9:03

      Wow mocking and sarcasm, well excuse my degree in Film all to hell, you've proved me wrong, how dare I have an opinion that differs from mass dismissal. Just because one film was ok, please read my comment as I don't rate it as exceptional merely passable with a decent story, doesn't mean every single one is going to be the same level. theGlimmerTwin and thedarkknight, I am sure you have some DVDs in your collection that are far worse and that cost far more to make than Transmorphers. People are all too ready to dismiss films as irretrievably bad if every single aspect of it isn't glossy. I was merely offering an actual analytical dissection of the films merits rather than just talking about the bad aspects of the film. I merely pointed out that I could see the potential in the story that is hidden beneath the below average acting and sub par script. You focus on details of a film rather than the overall piece of work, just because one aspect of a film is bad does not make the entire thing rubbish, there are always elements to be salvaged from even the worst cinematic car crashes, be it the camerawork, the story or one particular performance that stands out above the rest and lifts an otherwise awful film to the level of being merely below average. Films like this start ooff on a disadvantage because we automatically assume they are going to be c**p and so we focus on those aspects of the production that confirm this, anything that is good is quickly dismissed as coincidental, a happy accident, rather than a small glimmer of talent being exhibited by the makers. I think if this film had had a bigger budget, better actors and a different title it would have been merely average and audiences would have treated it as the Deep Impact to Transformers Armageddon, another Michael Bay film see what I did there? Watch films with an open mind and don't be so ready to mock and deride them, a successful analysis relies on you being able to analyse each aspect individually while keeping your eye on the bigger picture asnd, while Transmorphers bigger picture wasn't particularly brilliant, it had elements that were OK and, given the 'talent' was involved, that is a massive achievement. An unreserved unashamed 3 stars remains my final answer.

      Alert a moderator

    • spudmonkeysteve

      Apr 20th 2009, 9:03

      Wow mocking and sarcasm, well excuse my degree in Film all to hell, you've proved me wrong, how dare I have an opinion that differs from mass dismissal. Just because one film was ok, please read my comment as I don't rate it as exceptional merely passable with a decent story, doesn't mean every single one is going to be the same level. theGlimmerTwin and thedarkknight, I am sure you have some DVDs in your collection that are far worse and that cost far more to make than Transmorphers. People are all too ready to dismiss films as irretrievably bad if every single aspect of it isn't glossy. I was merely offering an actual analytical dissection of the films merits rather than just talking about the bad aspects of the film. I merely pointed out that I could see the potential in the story that is hidden beneath the below average acting and sub par script. You focus on details of a film rather than the overall piece of work, just because one aspect of a film is bad does not make the entire thing rubbish, there are always elements to be salvaged from even the worst cinematic car crashes, be it the camerawork, the story or one particular performance that stands out above the rest and lifts an otherwise awful film to the level of being merely below average. Films like this start ooff on a disadvantage because we automatically assume they are going to be c**p and so we focus on those aspects of the production that confirm this, anything that is good is quickly dismissed as coincidental, a happy accident, rather than a small glimmer of talent being exhibited by the makers. I think if this film had had a bigger budget, better actors and a different title it would have been merely average and audiences would have treated it as the Deep Impact to Transformers Armageddon, another Michael Bay film see what I did there? Watch films with an open mind and don't be so ready to mock and deride them, a successful analysis relies on you being able to analyse each aspect individually while keeping your eye on the bigger picture asnd, while Transmorphers bigger picture wasn't particularly brilliant, it had elements that were OK and, given the 'talent' was involved, that is a massive achievement. An unreserved unashamed 3 stars remains my final answer.

      Alert a moderator

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