Any Marvel fans eager for the arrival of the Spiderman comic book series in India would have likely been surprised to see the superhero take on a new form. Rather than being the alter ego of one Peter Parker, the hero’s secret identity in the Indian Spiderman series was Pavitr Prabhakar, sporting a dhoti instead of the more familiar hood. This adaptation for international markets is known as transcreation. where films, TV shows and other forms of visual art are adapted for the cultural sensibilities of a global audience.
However, if you didn’t know this was an official Marvel product, you’d be easily forgiven for thinking this adaptation was an unofficial cash-in, not unlike the rising wave of so-called “mockbusters”. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and copycat movies like the Pulp Fiction-inspired Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels do hold up in their own right. However, mockbusters take this flattery to whole new levels, made cheaply and released quickly, with the sole aim of capitalizing on the publicity of the source movie.
In fact, some are so plagiarised that film studios have even sued mockbuster creators for breaching copyright laws or for false advertising. One notable example was the case Disney brought against Canadian film company Phase 4 Films, for its film Frozen Land, which the US behemoth argued ripped off Frozen. However, many mockbuster makers get around such legal issues by tweaking the elements of the film just enough to avoid being sued.
Given that most mockbusters are churned out by small production companies, who have minimal interest in artistic merit, they tend to be hilariously bad, with a z-list cast, dreadful dialogue and dire special effects. Here are three of the worst.
The first Transformers movie enjoyed huge success grossing over $700 million dollars worldwide, with its director Michael Bay going on to helm four further sequels. Mockbuster studio The Asylum clearly anticipated the sci-fi film’s popularity, releasing the shamelessly-titled Transmorphers directly to DVD, just a week before Transformers hit theaters in summer 2007.
The post-apocalyptic mockbuster takes place 400 years in the future, in a time where giant robots have conquered Earth and forced humans underground. However, not only do these bionic baddies barely make an appearance — they’re only on screen for about 15 of the film’s 85 minutes — but they were, to say the least, shoddily animated. Indeed, one reviewer cuttingly remarked that the SFX could have been created “in the garage of some poor soul who mentioned he once saw some tutorial on 3D animation”.
But it gets worse. The audio on initial copies of the DVD was out-of-sync, and some special effects were missing altogether, well and truly earning Transmorphers its 1.7/10 IMDb rating. Not that this stopped the studio from releasing a sequel, Transmorphers: Fall of Man, two years later.
2. Metal Man
As you may have already guessed, Metal Man is a rip-off of Marvel’s Iron Man, and was released in 2009, a year after Robert Downey Jr. first took on the iconic role. Marketed under the cringeworthy tagline “Part man. Part machine. All hero.”, everything about this mockbuster is bottom-of-the-barrel. The synopsis on the back of the DVD case sets the tone by talking about a character that doesn’t even appear in the movie.
In terms of its plot, Metal Man is indeed similar to Iron Man, in that a guy wearing a metal battle suit defends the forces of good and takes on evil. But unlike the Marvel flick, Metal Man’s suit looks like something from a cheap costume shop, not the revolutionary creation it is billed as. With an incoherent, aimless plot, and some of the worst acting you’re likely to see, the film is truly in keeping with its dreadful title.
3. Snakes on a Train
Successfully creating a B-Movie based on a B-Movie is no mean feat. But, despite their best efforts, the makers of Snakes on a Train didn’t quite manage that either. Presumably concocting the idea for the film after realizing that train rhymes with plane, the massive Samuel L. Jackson-sized hole in this 2006 mockbuster is only the start of its issues.
Released just three days before Snakes on a Plane, the movie boasts a markedly more outlandish plot, as the titular snakes end up on the titular train after an unsuspecting woman falls subject to a Mayan curse. This dark magic pops some snake eggs into her stomach, which within seconds develop into full-grown serpents that she can’t stop puking out. The character then goes on a journey to Los Angeles in hope of lifting the curse. However, more snakes escape on board, causing all hell to break loose until the main character turns herself into a giant serpent and swallows the train whole. Totally bonkers, achingly awful, and definitely unlike anything else you’ve seen before.
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