“Do You Come From Time?” Remember the movie In Time? Directed by Andrew Niccol, and starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Cillian Murphy? The one that takes place in the future where there is no money and goods and services can be exchanged for time? Yeah, that one! Well, someone has recently filed a lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox and New Regency Entertainment for plagiarizing the film’s story.
As reported in Variety, Greek screenwriter Odysseus Lappas has filed a lawsuit at the Los Angeles Superior Court for breach of contract, slander of title, and unfair business practices, alleging that the studio and production company stole his idea to make 2011’s In Time. He claims the concept and “nearly every creative element” from In Time came from his original idea for his film project called Time Card.
Time Card takes place in the future where people die after reaching their 25th birthday. The main character also falls in love with a rich woman — who is almost immortal because she is very wealthy. In Time also takes place in the future, in the year 2169, when people stop aging at 25. The wealthy are able to stay alive and young, thanks to genetically engineered digital clocks on their arms. Odysseus Lappas claims these ideas for Time Card and In Time are virtually identical.
Lappas also claims that he met with a script reader at Twentieth Century Fox and was offered $50,000 for the high-concept movie idea. Lappas refused the money because he wanted to direct the science fiction film himself.
In Time grossed $173.9 million worldwide against a production budget of $40 million. Despite a hefty box office, the Andrew Niccol-directed sci-fi film didn’t register well with critics, currently sitting at a 36% “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. General audiences seem to have liked the film a bit more, giving it a “B-” Cinema Score grade. The film has always suffered from its lack of conviction, as it devolved into a conventional action film. Niccol doesn’t seem to know what to do with the story, even though the world is fantastic and innovative. Ultimately, the film is just too silly to be taken seriously and not fun enough to be considered pure popcorn enjoyment.
This isn’t the first time In Time has been hit with legal action against New Regency Entertainment and director Andrew Niccol. Science fiction author Harlan Ellison claimed that the plot for In Time was based on his 1965 award-winning short story “Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.” In the short story, people have a certain set amount of time to live, which can be taken away at the discretion of the Timekeeper. At first the lawsuit called for an injuction to prevent the film from being released, then Ellison asked for film credit, and then later the sci-fi author dropped the lawsuit altogether after he watched the movie. He probably realized that the movie was so bad that he didn’t want credit for it.
Plagiarism lawsuits happen all the time in Hollywood (just ask James Cameron), but it doesn’t seem like any party can prove willful theft, so sooner or later the lawsuits get dropped or settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of money…I mean, time.