Mockbusters vs. Blockbusters: Inside So-Bad-You-May-Love-‘Em Copycat Movies
The term “blockbuster” originates from a type of bomb that could take out a large area, like a city block. These days, when you hear the term you probably think of a big-budget movie loaded with your favorite movie stars and likely riddled with special effects. When it’s released, it hits the movie market like a bomb and demolishes the competition.
What do you do if you’re a filmmaker and can’t afford to compete with a blockbuster movie? You try to ride their coattails, of course. For almost any big movie out on the market, there’s a similar movie that was made with a much, much lower budget called a mockbuster.
Mockbusters are nothing new. When “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” came out in 1954 it was a hit with audiences. The film featured a prehistoric “Gill-man” creature that takes a woman captive.
A few years later, the movie “The Monster of Piedras Blancas” hit the market. Using the same costume designer as “Black Lagoon,” this movie featured a prehistoric reptilian man-creature who eventually tries to kidnap a damsel. While it may not be a complete ripoff, “Piedras Blancas” was obviously trying to ride on the coattails of “Black Lagoon’s” success.
Let’s take a look at some more recent mockbusters that may just make you toss your popcorn.
Worldwide Gross: $709,709,780
Everyone nostalgic for the entertainment of their youth was excited for the 2007 “Transformers” movie by Dreamworks Studios. It didn’t disappoint. Awesome special effects brought our childhood toys and cartoons to life on the big screen. The film raked in nearly $710 million at the box office, which is pretty awesome but doesn’t put it in the top 50 of all time, if you can believe that.
Wow. Really? When The Asylum studios released this straight-to-DVD flick, they didn’t even pretend it wasn’t a knockoff. Just look at the title. For just 1/600th of the budget, it didn’t need to fool too many people to pay off. While the gross profits are unknown, it must have done okay. When “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” hit theaters in 2009, The Asylum followed suit with “Transmorphers: Fall of Man.”
Worldwide Gross: $2,789,968,301
At $2.8 billion, “Avatar” is the second-highest-grossing film of all-time. This 3D spectacle was highly hyped before it came out, and audiences responded. The movie was so popular that Disney World replaced Camp Minnie-Mickey with Pandora: The World of Avatar, in 2017.
When you can nudge Mickey out of his own theme park, you’re doing something right.
Mockbuster: ‘Aliens Vs. Avatars’
Why ripoff just one movie when you can rip off two? “Aliens vs. Avatars” pits a race of transforming extraterrestrials against humanity and some alien shapeshifting avatars. We don’t think that "It’s a Small World" has to worry about this one taking its place at the Happiest Place on Earth. It gets a miserably low 16 percent user score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s so bad it could be good.
Worldwide Gross: $2,187,463,944
The third-highest-grossing film of all-time, James Cameron’s epic love story/disaster film kept butts in theater seats for 3 hours and 14 minutes. That’s impressive. The love story about a down-and-out tramp who stows away on the mighty ship and the rich girl may not have been the most original storyline, but it kept people riveted right up to the teary end. Spoiler alert: The boat sinks!
Mockbuster: Titanic 2’
Can it really be a mockbuster when it doesn’t come out until 13 years after the blockbuster? Consider the title. It’s called “Titanic 2,” yet it’s not a sequel. Instead, it’s a movie about a second Titanic ship that’s built 100 years after the first one. The ship’s owner has a love story with a nurse on board. Surprise, surprise — the boat sinks and the guy doesn’t make it. Oops. I meant to say spoiler alert!
Blockbuster: ‘Snakes on a Plane’
Worldwide Gross: $62,022,014
Compared to some on this list, “Snakes on a Plane” could be considered a low-end blockbuster. At only $62 million worldwide gross, it’s not “Titanic” money, but it nearly doubled its significant production budget. Plus, it had Samuel L. Jackson and that’s an instant qualifier, right?
If you haven’t seen it, the basic plot is that a bunch of deadly snakes is let loose on a plane, and Sam plays the guy who has to save the day. At least they didn’t try to mislead you with the title.
Mockbuster: ‘Snakes on a Train’
From the great minds at The Asylum comes this cleverly masked mockbuster. The twist here is that the snakes that get loose on this train come out of the body of a zombie woman. No one saw that coming. What we do see coming is the next sequel, “Snakes on a Crane: Construction Bites!”
Blockbuster: ‘Iron Man’
Worldwide Gross: $585,366,247
When “Iron Man” hit theaters in 2008, no one knew that it would launch a movie empire that’s 23 movies strong and counting. From the storyline to the acting to the special effects, it was a hit with audiences and critics alike. When you think about it, Iron Man is kind of like Batman. He’s a rich guy with a lot of toys but with a suit of metal. You’d think anyone could do that like maybe…
Mockbuster: ‘Metal Man’
The cover of this mockbuster describes “Metal Man” as “Part man, part machine, all hero!” Yep. A brainiac guy is put into a super-soldier suit and ends up fighting against evil. While some relatively positive reviews for “Metal Man” exist out there, it’s pretty ripe on Rotten Tomatoes with just a 19 percent fresh score. Perhaps they underestimated just how much fans want to know what kind of metal the suit is made from. For all we know this guy could be Aluminum Al.
Blockbuster: ‘San Andreas’
Worldwide Gross: $473,990,832
Who doesn’t love a great disaster flick? Throw in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Paul Giamatti and you have a foolproof recipe for a hit. The plot is pretty simple. A massive earthquake hits California’s San Andreas fault, and a helicopter rescue pilot needs to save his family. Meanwhile, a scientist tries to predict the next big hit. It’s the kind of fast-paced action movie that lets you sit back and enjoy the ride.
Mockbuster: ‘San Andreas Quake’
This gem of a mockbuster features a seismologist who warns the world of an impending quake of catastrophic proportions. When no one listens, she races to save her family before the big one hits. Do you remember when Vanilla Ice said that his opening to “Ice Ice Baby” was nothing like the opening to “Under Pressure” by Queen? Yeah, it’s kinda like that.
Worldwide Gross: $497,409,852
This epic retelling of Homer’s “The Iliad” featured Brad Pitt at his hunkiest as his Achilles faced off against Eric Bana’s character, Hector, and the rest of the Trojans. Diane Kruger played the mythically beautiful Helen. At nearly 3-hours long, this film still wowed moviegoers and easily convinced them to part with their hard-earned drachmas. Swords, treachery and beautiful people. What’s not to like?
Mockbuster: ‘Troy the Odyssey’
Thirteen years after Pitt brought Achilles to life, Benetone Films brought this retelling of Homer’s “The Odyssey” to DVD. What does “The Odyssey” have to do with Troy? Very little. That’s just where Odysseus starts out. He’s traveling home after fighting in the Trojan War.
The cover art on this piece uses the same gold and black color scheme and even similar font to the 2004 blockbuster. What’s that called when something comes to you looking like one thing, but it’s a trap? Oh yeah, a Trojan horse.
Blockbuster: ‘Jurassic Park’
Worldwide Gross: $1,030,314,141
“Jurassic Park” hit theaters in 1993, and it had it all. It was the king of theaters that year. The story was just plain cool. Bringing dinosaurs back to life for a theme park? That seems like something humans would do, doesn’t it? Add to that some of the best special effects audiences had ever seen and a star-studded cast and you have a true blockbuster. Heck, why not make three or four more of them?
Worldwide Gross: $1,753,979
Unlike most mockbusters, “Carnosaur” was released in theaters. This film’s plot includes bringing back dinosaurs by using chicken eggs. Wait. What? Yeah, that’s what they did. Once the deed is done, it’s your typical man vs. beast flick. The movie was actually released a couple of months ahead of “Jurassic Park,” which may have helped it bring in some viewers. Somehow, they got Diane Ladd to play the lead in this one. Ironically, Laura Dern, who played the female lead in “Jurassic Park,” is Ladd’s daughter. “Carnosaur” did well enough to spawn a couple of sequels.
Blockbuster: ‘Charlotte’s Web’
Worldwide Gross: $144,877,632
In 2006, Paramount Pictures decided to do a live-action version of the E.B. White classic, “Charlotte’s Web.” Remember when Dakota Fanning was a wide-eyed kid? This film was her at her innocent best. It’s a classic tale told well with a great cast and special effects to make it a treat for kids and adults alike. When all is said and done, $145 million is a lot of bacon.
Mockbuster: ‘Spider’s Web: A Pig’s Tale’
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A farmyard pig befriends a talking spider. Outside of that rather telling similarity, there is pretty much nothing else in this story that would make you think of “Charlotte’s Web.” This one has UFOs, ghosts, evil snakes and a lot of weird plot concepts that separate it from the classic tale in a big way. Maybe there’s a whole genre of film out there featuring pigs that are buddies with spiders that we don’t know about. Otherwise, this one doesn’t make much sense. Where’s that ax?
Related:Highest-Grossing Movie Stars