Notice, I put new in quotations, because well... it's not really a new film. It was already released back in November 2008 and called Repo! The Genetic Opera.
Repo! The Genetic Opera goes all the way back the late 90s, where creators Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith performed as rock duo The Gallery, where they would perform short 10 minute mini-operas, one of which was called The Necromancer's Debt about a grave robber living in a dystopian future. The middle song in this three-song operetta was “The Genetic Repo Man,” about the organ snatching activities of the publicly dreaded Repo Man. This mini-opera became known as Repo! and was later used in the 2008 film as the opening song.
It was extended and became a hit off-off Broadway. Eventually, Terrance and Darren decided they wanted to make their rock opera into a film, and produced a short film version of it directed by Darren Lynn Bousman that they used to shop around to different film distributors in hope of getting it financed with a bigger budget and released in theaters. This is how many believe Universal Studios caught wind of the story, as they told Terrance and Darren they would finance the film, however the music had to go - they didn't like the idea of a rock opera. Of course they said no - Repo! is a rock opera - in addition to the artistic quality of it, the music is what makes it what it is. They packed up shop, and eventually (after Bousman directed several of the Saw films) got Lionsgate to agree to do the movie, which was filmed in 2007 and released in 2008, starring Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Stewart Head, and Sarah Brightman.
Terrance states on his blog:
"We were told that Universal’s ostensibly cloned concept was based on a book. At the time, we could find no record of the novel, which was later published in 2009 as The Repossession Mambo - one full year after Repo! the film was released. Satisfied that Darren Smith and I came up with Repo! long before Repo Men (or Repossession Mambo) came into existence, our producers carried on with the production of our film"Now it's quite obvious to those of us that have seen Repo! that Repo Men is a non-musical version of Repo! as it's clear from the trailers that the storyline is similar. However, I didn't realize just how bad the book this film is based on blatantly rips off Terrance and Darren's masterpiece! So far, there have been 25 comparisons between this book and the original Repo!
Take a look for yourself - I was shocked at how this isn't considered plagiarism! If I had done this in college I would have failed and been in trouble with the university for plagiarism. But because this backed by a huge film studio, it's okay?
Like me, you're probably wondering, why aren't Terrance and Darren suing Universal and Garcia over this?
Well, Terrance, again on his blog, puts it this way:
"We asked the same question that is now being posed to me in a continuous outpour of letters from Repo! ’s fans: can we sue these guys?So basically, it comes down to money...
Several entertainment attorneys told us that while the script, characters, and music of Repo! are copyright protected, the ideas are not ... We were further told that attempting to litigate against Universal’s mammoth legal team would be, in effect, financial suicide."
"So, in response to your many expressed concerns: no, we are not planning to sue Repo Men. Further: even if I wanted to bring legal action against Universal Pictures, it’s really not my battle to have; Twisted Pictures and Lions Gate Films now own the rights to Repo! Any potential legal action on behalf of the property would need to be initiated by these studios ... Repo! exists as a whacky art film, a sliver of cult cinema. Repo Men looks like a gigantically-budgeted Hollywood blockbuster. And Repo Men is NOT an opera."...and Lionsgate just doesn't care as much as the creators and fans do to take on Universal.
Terrance goes on to say:
"Also: it seems unlikely that Repo Men, no matter how successful it may be at the box office, will ever garner the sort of intense fan support that Repo! has. I doubt we will see people dressing up as Jude Law (who stars in Repo Men) and acting out scenes from the film in the aisles of theatres over a year after the movie’s initial release. This is what is happening with Repo! All over the world. As fans of Repo!, it seems that one of the things you love about our project is its uniqueness. Repo Men does not threaten this. It exists almost as the antithesis to what you love about Repo!: it’s mainstream. Because of this, Repo Men will undoubtedly have a huge marketing budget and a public presence that Repo! never did (and probably never will). As fans of Repo!, this gives you a unique opportunity to testify to those who bring up Repo Men, those who may be unaware of the existence of Repo! The very controversy over what looks like idea theft could rally a whole new viewership to Repo!’s fandom.
Emotions aside, I think the trailer to Repo Men looks pretty cool, and I wish the filmmakers nothing but luck with their project."
So what can we do?
To be honest, Repo! is one of those cult films that you either love or hate - there is no inbetween (it's been called the Rocky Horror of its generation). Those that loved it, like myself, are passionate about it and are really upset at what's been done. Those that hated it, well, while they'll admit Repo Men appears to be a ripoff of Repo!, they'll most likely be the ones that want to see Repo Men (hubby fits in this category).
I am refusing to see Repo Men - as an artist myself, I can't bring myself to support plagiarism like this. But I will gladly bring up the topic of Repo! when those not aware are talking about this "new" film.
Whether you love or hate musicals/rock operas, I strongly urge you to check out Repo! The Genetic Opera before seeing Repo Men this weekend.
It really is a work of art. The world it's set in is very artistically designed, the costumes are pretty neat, and the singing and music is fantastic - one of my favorite numbers is a song with Brightman and Vega, and my! Anthony Stewart Head (aka Giles from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series) can really sing! Yes, Paris Hilton is in the film, however her character has maybe, at most, 15 minutes of screentime - she is a minor character. And while Darren Smith did direct Saw II, III and IV, it's not nearly as gory as those films - the blood and gore seen in the movie is about as gruesome as say the blood and gore in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd (which is to say, it's extremely over the top and obviously fake).