Total Recall versus The Matrix: Who Ripped Off Whom?

9 Apr

By Open Book

There’s been a lot of buzz on the Internet about the new trailer for Total Recall. Many are complaining director Len Wiseman ripped off scenes from the The Matrix.  Yet, the first Total Recall film released in 1990 had a few scenes that looked like the Wachowski Brothers ripped off Total Recall. The Matrix was first released in 1999. Here take a look for yourself.

According to fans director Len Wiseman (who is the director of the reboot) used scenes from The Matrix. Really? To defend Wiseman one could argue, maybe he was inspired by the first Total Recall film? But unfortunately, fans have documented how many times Wiseman ripped off The Matrix for his other films like The Underworld, where there are Matrix moments in all those filmsIn an article entitled “Did “Total Recall” Director Rip Off From “The Matrix”…Again?” by states

  • Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but in the case of Total Recall director Len Wiseman, it’s now crossed over to cinematic plagiarism.[1]

Is plagiarizing uncommon for filmmakers? Let’s recall (no pun intended) back in 2010 when Nokia disqualified a filmmaker for cheating. The story goes the 18-year-old winner of a Nokia British filmmaking competition was awarded a trip to the Cannes Advertising Festival for her short film, which was a lo-fi retelling of the 1994 blockbuster film Forrest Gump.  In an article “Nokia in plagiarism row after ‘short film award winner disqualified for cheating” a film student who discovered the problem states,

  • Someone’s sent me an entry to a Nokia filmmaking competition that’s literally a shot for shot, line for line, idea for idea remake of it, this has been the first I’ve heard of it.
  • I wouldn’t mind except the person who entered it has won a ‘Critics Choice’ award out of this rehash, including a ******* TRIP TO CANNES.[2]

Something to consider with all these sequels, reboots and retellings being produced in Hollywood. What is cinematic plagiarism? Are film students learning from accomplished directors the art of cinematic plagiarism? Is it possible for filmmakers original concepts and ideas to flourish in a world where they are encouraged to give audiences left overs?

What are your thoughts?

Please join our discussion Tuesday 4/10/2012@7pmE/12UTC

50 Responses to “Total Recall versus The Matrix: Who Ripped Off Whom?”

  1. littlebells April 9, 2012 at 10:56 AM #

    Ah plagarism…it seems to be everywhere doesn’t it.

    • Open Book April 9, 2012 at 11:22 AM #

      Yeah! It seems to be going around a lot these days. Do u believe its harder to be original in Hollywood because of audiences unwillingness to try something new or is it the studios unwillingness to take risk?

      • littlebells April 10, 2012 at 6:55 PM #

        I think it’s a little of both. Society may seem stuck in a rut, but it is a group that can be molded. We went from 24 hour talk shows to 24 hour reality. It took some time, but it happened. I think studios need to take a risk and wait for society to catch up. We see many directors creating thought provoking, original work, but studios dont seem to want to take the risk and wait out the period of lull that gets audiences more and more interested in these types of films. I think it also comes down to the greedy bean counters as well, but if society demands more maybe it will force studios to create and be original.

        Ok, that made better sense in my allergy stuffed head.

        • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:13 PM #

          Hi LB-

          Sorry for your allergies. Yuck! No fun…..

          I think audiences need to demand more. I think our society is at a pivotal point where everyone can voice an opinion and a little research can help educate audiences where we are no longer at the mercy of advertisers telling us what to think and believe.

          • littlebells April 10, 2012 at 7:22 PM #

            Yes and i totally missed putting that in my original post. Audiences need to be more demanding. if they want to get rid of movies that don’t do much for the brain, they need to stop buying tickets to those films. Let the studios suffer a bit at the box office and figure out what it is we want. 🙂

            • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

              Yes! LOL!! I think today people are so brainwashed by advertisers telling them to doubt everything about themselves that people are to afraid to take risk.

  2. Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 6:40 PM #


    This is a very interesting article OB, and I imagine more and more relevant over time. How do you believe this trend hurts audiences and creators how do you believe this trend may impact green lit projects.

  3. Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 6:46 PM #


    I’m sorry I do not know of the main contributors to this Wikipedia page, but how do these films figure in your evaluation. Some of which are fantasy and science fiction.

    • “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” Both films are modern versions of the Snow White fairytale by the Brothers Grimm. Judging from the trailers, both make heavy use of CGI imagery.
    • “Beautiful Boy” and “We Need to Talk about Kevin” Both films are about parents dealing with the aftermath of their son’s campus shooting sprees.
    • “Melancholia” and “Another Earth” Both films are about a depressed woman and the arrival of a mysterious planet
    • “Kick-Ass” and “Super” Both feature characters who possess no super abilities/powers who embark on vigilante justice under the disguise of homemade costumes and alter egos. Each confronts the difficulties of fighting evil while lacking special abilities, and both are joined, later in their stories, by characters who share similar vigilante motivations.
    • “Friends with Benefits” and “No Strings Attached” Romantic comedies both featuring 2 friends attempting to have an ongoing sexual relationship, while avoiding a romantic relationship and it’s accompanying complexities.
    • “The Town” and “Takers” Both are crime films from 2010 about a gang of robbers and the FBI pursuing them.
    • “Megamind” and “Despicable Me” are CG animated films featuring a super hero & super villain in relationship more akin to high school rivalry than good vs evil. Both films feature the antagonist/super villain as the lead and diminish somewhat the virtues of the superhero’s character. Villains from both films, experience catharsis and become better people. Despicable Me features a host of sidekicks referred to as minions. Megamind has a single sidekick named Minion.
    • ‘Knight and Day” and “Killers” Both films are about a spy in a romantic action comedy

    • littlebells April 10, 2012 at 6:58 PM #

      I applaud you for looking this up CR!

      It seems to be a big thing with studios to compete with the same subject matter.

    • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:21 PM #

      Well I think u have variations on realism. Some are more realistic then others which really impact the story and message. I think the two films Total Recall and The Matrix both borrowed from each other but The Matrix story and message was presented far better then Total Recalls. IMO!!

      • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:26 PM #

        My point is CR. It boils down to how the directors present the story. Does it matter if a filmmaker borrowed from another no? Especially if the genre is different. I think what makes it plagiarism is when u have the same genre, similar characters and plots being sold as new.

        • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 7:35 PM #

          Do you believe someone is due some recompence, for the loss or theft of original idea(s).

          • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

            I see you answered below.

  4. Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

    Hi New and returning visitors to our discussion tonight. Please feel free to ask questions or comment.

    • littlebells April 10, 2012 at 7:10 PM #

      Hi OB and CR!

      I’m not feeling so good but I’m here. I may be more of a lurker today.

      • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:15 PM #

        No problem. I’m glad u are here but if u need to veg go ahead.

        • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 7:23 PM #


          Referring to my question from earlier, how do YOU believe audiences are hurt by deriviative work? Or do you believe that they are hurt?

          • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:27 PM #

            CR-I answered up above.

  5. Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

    Q: Does anyone remember Total Recall’s plot or see the film?

    • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 7:40 PM #

      A: Sorry I saw it yet only partially remember the story. Here’s the new trailer since it isn’t posted elsewhere.

      • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:44 PM #

        Do u remember Total Recall or The Matrix more if so why?

        • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

          I remember “The Matrix” better. Essentially the protagonists of the story believed that they were living in a fake computer simulated world named (by them) “The Matrix”. Essentially “the Matrix” became aware of them as a rebel tribe within its midst and began it’s extermination process.

          “Total Recall” had something to do with memory loss or reassignment. I can’t remember more than that.

          Yet IMDB says this;

          “When a man goes for virtual vacation memories of the planet Mars, an unexpected and harrowing series of events forces him to go to the planet for real, or does he?”

          • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 7:57 PM #

            Obviously very little stuck.

            • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

              Do you believe the new trailer suggests a better outcome this time around.

              Do yout think author Philip K. Dick would be proud?

              • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:27 PM #

                Perhaps! It looks far better then the 1990’s version.

            • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:17 PM #


  6. Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:40 PM #

    Here’s some info on what’s legal to rip off versus not.

    A claim for copyright infringement arises where an infringer has (1) access to your work and (2) there is “substantial similarity” of expression between your work and the infringer’s work. What this means is that if someone reads your work and then creates a work that is similar in such elements as plot, theme, dialogue, mood, setting, pace and sequence of events (which are the elements courts look to in evaluating claims), you would have a federal copyright infringement claim.

    • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

      In addition, the law has also developed the concept of “idea theft,” known technically as “breach of implied contract.” As so often happens in Hollywood, you may pitch an idea or submit a spec script to a producer in hopes that they will produce your idea. Even though ideas are “as free as the air,” if you disclose an idea to a producer under circumstances which suggest that there was a mutual understanding that you would be paid in exchange for your idea, an “implied” agreement arises between you and the producer with regard to the idea. If the producer later uses your idea without compensating you, then you would have a claim for idea theft or “breach of implied contract.”

      • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

        For more info. u can go here to this great site.

        • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 7:44 PM #


          Maybe this is an obvious question, who should file against whom?

          • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:52 PM #

            Good question but honestly IDK I’m not a lawyer. I think if u want to work in HW and u are new to the business expect to get ripped off.

            • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

              CR- I think artist become far too precious with their work. Not that I’m advocating stealing but artist borrow and are inspired by other artist all the time. Its all in the presentation and if its a success. The only time people scream plagiarism is when someone is successful. No one cares if u steal from a crap movie or story.

            • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

              Maybe I should n’t ask but, is this what you believe happened to the “original” Matrix screenplay writer?

              • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:05 PM #

                Well its like an urban legend now. However, CR is talking about an African American Women who claimed to have written the original screenplay for the Matrix and Terminator. Here’s the story.


                • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

                  Gosh! I love WB! NOT!

                • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 8:17 PM #

                  OMG, she won!!!! I didn’t know that and Terminator also.

                  Surprise. Surprise. Surprise.

                  • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:21 PM #

                    Yeah! What do u think of this story? She received alot of threats from fans claiming there was no way a black women wrote The Matrix.

                  • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:22 PM #

                    Yes 2 of my favorite films I might add.

                    • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 8:24 PM #

                      I guess I should ask: do you know what she’s doing or writing now?

                    • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 8:27 PM #

                      I don’t want to get into what’s really on your favorite films list, yet I thought one of these film’s was on it yet the other wasn’t. Can you confirm or deny?

                    • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:28 PM #

                      Last I heard she was developing something for CBS.

                    • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 8:33 PM #

                      Wow, after winning 2 billion plus dollars I’m surprised wants to work. Yet good for her.

  7. Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:31 PM #

    Well u know The Terminator I like to watch while drawing, eating, sleeping. LOL!! The Matrix come on CR? How many times have I watched this movie before u said enough?

    • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 8:34 PM #

      I’m sorry I’m still trying to get over the fact these movies are related at all.

      I learned quite a bit tonight.

      • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 8:35 PM #

        sorry: “I sorry” + “I’m sorry.”

        • Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:36 PM #

          I fixed it for u.

  8. Open Book April 10, 2012 at 8:37 PM #

    Well I’m glad u came to the discussion. I have to leave early but if u have more questions please feel free to ask and I will be sure to come back and answer later. Take Care and Goodnight!

    • Comic Relief April 10, 2012 at 8:41 PM #

      sure. talk to you later.

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