AN EMPIRE OF ONE

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Did the Star Trek Into Darkness Writers Steal Its Plot?

SPOILER ALERT!

To Live_Star Trek

Anyone else notice the remarkable similarity between the major plot points of Star Trek Into Darkness and William Friedkin’s 1985 To Live and Die in L. A.?

To Live and Die in L. A.:

William Petersen’s older, father-figure type partner, Michael Greene, is killed by bad guy Willem Dafoe. Petersen seeks revenge, but his new partner, John Pankow, is a stickler for the law. Eventually, Petersen is killed by Dafoe, but his partner, having seen the error of his ways, pursues and dispatches the bad buy. Along the way, a friend, Debra Feuer, betrays and almost gets them killed.

Star Trek Into Darkness:

Kirk’s father-figure, Captain Pike, is killed by bad guy Khan. Kirk seeks revenge, but his new (again) first officer Spock is a stickler for the law. Eventually, Kirk dies (although not in hand to hand combat), but his first officer, Spock, having seen the error of his ways, pursues and dispatches the bad guy. Along the way, a friend, Admiral Marcus, betrays and almost gets them killed.

It’s hard to see the plot of To Live and Die in L.A. as anything other than a string of cliches. Except, perhaps, its ending. Killing off a character before he can fulfill his goal, then having him replaced by someone else who goes on to fulfill that goal, is something that usually happens in the first act. Happening as late into the film as it does in Friedkin’s film is unusual. Here’s what Friedkin says about it in his book, The Friedkin Connection:

Halfway through production, it occurred to me that Petersen’s character, Chance, had to die. This was not in the script or the novel, but I though it was unexpected and justified, given that he lived constantly on the edge. He wasn’t a superhero immune to danger. In the final confrontation between Chance and Masters (Dafoe), it would be Chance who was killed. I didn’t have an ending until discovering during production that Vukovich (Pankow) becomes Chance in appearance and attitude after Chance’s death. (The Friedkin Connection, p. 391)

At first I thought that the similarity between the plots was nothing more than a coincidence. As they say, there are no new plots. There are enough differences between the two films that there’s no danger anyone will be sued, but the fact that the each of Friedkin’s major plot points, including its most unusual one, shows up in Star Trek makes me wonder:

Did the Star Trek Into Darkness writers steal their plot from To Live and Die in L. A. ?

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Written by David Kilmer

May 17, 2013 at 10:09 am