Elysium, Neill Blomkamp’s follow up to District 9, left many genre fans wanting. It’s not that Elysium isn’t action-packed and fun, it’s just a bit on the nose and heavy-handed with the social allegory, and the world isn’t as well constructed as his directorial debut. But still, Elysium, is worth watching. A new lawsuit, however, alleges that Blomkamp stole the idea and many of the film’s characteristics from another screenwriter.
According to The Wrap, screenwriter Steve Wilson Briggs is suing Blomkamp and Sony for plagiarizing his 2005 screenplay, Butterfly Driver. Briggs claims that not only did Blomkamp swipe his story, but that many elements make it obvious that he ripped off Butterfly Driver. The Wrap writes:
Briggs alleges that “Elysium” infringes on the heart of his “Butterfly Driver” story as well as its plot, characters, unusual settings, themes, conflict, catalyst, crisis, climax-twist, the hero’s unique “character-affiliation,” the hero’s “keepsake necklace” and more.
Briggs wrote Butterfly Driver in May 2005 and registered a revised copy of the screenplay with the WGA-West that December. In February 2007, he later submitted the script on Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti’s screenwriting website TriggerStreet.com, which is where Briggs claims Blomkamp had access to, and stole, his ideas. Briggs registered the script with the U.S. Copyright Office in June 2013 in order to file the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.
The Wrap also points out that copyright infringement lawsuits are commonplace with major Hollywood blockbusters like this. In fact, James Cameron recently had a lawsuit dropped against him that claimed he stole the ideas for 2009’s Avatar. Cameron is another writer/director that gets sued all the time because he makes big films and has deep pockets.
Briggs only has one writing credit to his name, a feature film called The Amazing Mr. Excellent, which he also produced and directed. Currently, he’s a teacher’s aide at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California.
As for Blomkamp, the director is busy getting together his next film, Chappie, a sci-fi comedy that takes place in South Africa. Hugh Jackman was recently added to the film’s cast, which also includes Sharlto Copley and Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, members of the rap-rave duo Die Antwoord, and key players in the Zef counterculture movement. Chappie follows two gangsters who kidnap a resilient robot for their own nefarious purposes.
While Elysium wasn’t the greatest movie released this past summer, it did feature some of the coolest recent sci-fi tech, like droids that move realistically and one badass exoskeleton. A majority of the film did felt contrived and well worn, which is most likely why Briggs feels that Neill Blomkamp plagiarized his particular screenplay. Hopefully, Blomkamp didn’t steal anything, and we can continue to believe that he’s a great up-and-coming genre director.
Elysium will be released on Blu-ray/DVD and as a digital download on December 17th. Stay tuned for details on Butterfly Driver.