November 2011

The Thing

The ThingThe Thing, a remake of a remake of a solid sci-fi/horror film directed by, despite what the credits may tell you, Howard Hawks, is being projected onto silver screens in dollar theaters across the country right now. While a viewing of the movie does not immediately make clear why theater space would be made available for such a project, I strongly suspect that in the current climate of more-CGI-less-story-less-character, none of the other reels delivered to theaters contained anything more promising. In other words, for about the same reason I occasionally find myself eating broccoli. The best thing I can say for it is that there were a handful of stretches, some of them two or three minutes in duration, in which I forgot how forgettable the movie was.

In this third generation version, a young, good-looking scientist is asked to come to Antarctica and given no clear reason why. She is only told that it is important. When she arrives, she discovers the scientists stationed there are excavating an alien spacecraft buried in the ice a hundred thousand years ago. They have found a creature, also buried in the ice, that they believe came along with the ship. It is nothing more than a blurry form under the translucent surface, and next to nothing about it has been discovered.

They dig out a block of ice containing the extraterrestrial but, because this is sci-fi/horror, it escapes and is so unfriendly that people start dying. The rest of the movie is a desperate fight to survive in the most inhospitable environment offered on this planet that still has breathable air. For those keeping track, yes, there is a black man in this movie. No, he doesn’t make it. And that’s not a spoiler, either. As soon as I reported the monster’s escape from its prison you knew no black man was going to live long enough to read the credits.

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So it looks like a recently published spy thriller, Assassin of Secrets,1 was largely plagiarized by the “author” from quite a few other novels — some post-Fleming Bond novels and others.

Now, when someone like myself says he is against intellectual “property,” as an illegitimate government grant of monopoly privilege over something that cannot be owned (i.e., ideas), the responses are fairly predictable.

A common one is “Well, then what’s to stop me from copying your novel, changing the name on it, and selling it as my own?”

Well, your customers could sue you for fraud, for one thing. No need for copyright to make that possible.

For another, in the Internet age, you run a very high risk of being found out and ruining your reputation.

In this case, fans of James Bond novels discovered the plagiarism first. As you can imagine, fans can be mighty protective of their favorite books and authors. Try to rip one off and some fan is bound to spot it, and soon they’ll all be royally pissed.

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  1. A rather cheesy title, no? 

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