It is common that some work is heavily "inspired" by a previous work—they may have different authors and settings, but there are strong similarities of plot, situations and characters. It is also common that the second work is much inferior to the original because the original is great or the derivative is awful or both. The Better by a Different Name snarkily expresses this idea. The usual phrasing is "[This work] was better when it was called [other, earlier work]."
Though rarely this can be a compliment, such as noting that a good film also works as part of another series of films if you imagined it so.
Often overlaps with If I Wanted X, I Would Y.
Compare Take That! (to mock the referenced work), Recycled IN SPACE! (where a work is set in a new setting), Serial Numbers Filed Off (where a work cannot use the same setting names, but is suspiciously similar), and Spiritual Successor (where audiences consider the work to be nearly the same as a sequel, despite the Serial Numbers Filed Off).
In-Universe Examples Only (sorted by source of the comment instead of the subject):
- In a 1989 issue of MAD Magazine, during the spoof 21 Junkheap, the cast of The Mod Squad makes a cameo pointing out that about 15 years ago, we did "just like these shmendricks are doing".
- In one Doctor Who Magazine "The Comic Assassins" strip by Steve Noble and Kev F. Sutherland, they watch "The Curse of Fenric" and have the following conversation.
Steve: Hang on. An old war ... a brigadier ... We're not watching "Battlefield" by mistake, are we?Kev: Can't be. In "Battlefield" a stupid blue-faced monster appeared for no apparent reason and...Ancient Haemovore (on screen) Hello, I am a stupid blue-faced monster.Kev: Oh, lordy...
- That is All has a semi-complimentary variant. John Hodgman writes that he was able to accomplish his goal of getting The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. back on the air (a goal he had stated in his previous book, More Information Than You Require), except he had nothing to do with it and the show is now called Burn Notice.
- Used in this video of Dragon Ball Z Abridged.
Nappa: I'd rather watch Naruto, Vegeta.
Vegeta: Oh, please! If I wanted to watch over a hundred episodes of Filler, I'd watch Inuyasha.
Nappa: What about Bleach, Vegeta? It's like us, with swords!
Vegeta: I liked that show better when it was called YuYu Hakusho, and I liked THAT show better when it was called DRAGON BALL Z!
- In this review, Love Hina is said to have been better when it was called Maison Ikkoku.
- A Zero Punctuation review for Painkiller says that it's often called the Unofficial Doom 3 "since the actual Doom 3 tripped over something in the dark, banged its head, and forgot it wasn't System Shock".
- He also noted that BioShock was "not 'like' System Shock 2, it IS System Shock 2", though he didn't make a quality judgement either way.
- He does it again in his review for Dante's Inferno:
"So all in all you could swap out the disc for God of War 2 while the player pops out for a piss and there's a good chance they won't notice. That is, until they realize that the game has suddenly become good."
- Yahtzee describes Hatred as the latest iteration of the game that always comes up in discussions about moral panic and video games, which was called Postal last time.
- Also done in the review for Stardew Valley:
"Stardew Valley is a retro-style farming simulator recently released on Steam that's somewhat reminiscent of Harvest Moon. Oh, sorry, I read that wrong. Stardew Valley is Harvest Moon.
- Rotten Tomatoes' consensus on Duplex: "It was funnier when it was called Throw Momma from the Train."
- The Nostalgia Chick does this a lot:
- She notes that Spice World is a movie with at half the ambition of A Hard Day's Night, a quarter of the budget and at least two percent of the talent.
- On The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, which she notes is a total rehash of the first movie: "I'm no fan of the original, but I hate to say it, I liked this better when it was called The Little Mermaid. (Beat) And it was about a mermaid."
- Inverted in her review of The Craft. She called Mean Girls an unofficial remake of that film, only Played for Laughs, without the witchcraft, and a much better film for it.
- "The thing is, they already made this movie successfully. It was called WALLE."
- "I liked this movie a lot more he first time they made it, when it starred Bill Murray. And was called Groundhog Day." She then goes on to describe how both use Magical Realism to create similar plot and character arcs, except that What Women Want is a lot more shallow and forced.
- Vampire Reviews:
- Maven says that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie is basically Clueless with monsters, but that the latter at least makes most of its characters likable.
- At the end of her review of The Fearless Vampire Killers, she said that, if one wants a similar horror-comedy about vampires that isn't tainted by Roman Polański's rape charges, they should watch What We Do in the Shadows instead.
- Bob Chipman:
- A week after reviewing Jennifer's Body (in the appendix to his review of Surrogates), he compared said film to Ginger Snaps, which he called the good version of that movie.
- He had previously said the same thing about Cursed (2005), ending his scathing review by providing a link to Ginger Snaps' IMDb page and telling everybody to go watch that film instead.
- Inverted in his review of Zootopia, which he compared to Disney trying its hand at a DreamWorks-style animated movie, specifically calling it "what one of these would look like if they didn't suck."
- Discussing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in Part II of his Really That Bad episode regarding said film, he opined that Captain America: Civil War handled the same idea of a hero-on-hero punch-up movie much better.
- While reviewing Proud Mary, he referred to Smokin' Aces as "Suicide Squad (2016) but, like, good."
- He has said that the Supergirl (2015) TV series does a better job adapting the Superman mythos to the screen than the DC Extended Universe, devoting an episode of In Bob We Trust to holding it up as a counterpoint to all of his problems with the DCEU.
- He referred to The Platform as "what if Snowpiercer but in a building? And also not good?"
- In Kaiba's Real Father - Conclusion on Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series
Kaiba: Was that a Dragon Ball Z cameo? Geez, knowing my luck, my father's going to turn out to be Ghost Nappa. That's pretty much how these things usually go.
Mokuba: Aaaahh, but you gotta admit, Seto, Nappa sure is funny!
Kaiba: Yeah, I liked him better when he was called "Tristan".
- A couple times in Cracked:
- "I saw The Matrix back when it was called Dark City." This is the example given for #4 of 6 Common Movie Arguments That Are Always Wrong.
- Another writer's article claims Home Alone and Die Hard are the same movie, although they don't seem to mean this as a value judgment on either film. note
- In 4 Recent Films That Are Accidentally Sequels to 80s Movies they say;
- The First Half Of Fight Club Was In A Movie You Never Saw says that the kid in Cloak and Dagger is the main character from Fight Club as a child.
- That Tag could be seen as a standalone Hawkeye movie for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- The Jabootu review of Sphere draws the broad strokes of the film's Cliché Storm:
I was in fact entertained by the first part of Sphere the first time I saw it (when it was called either The Abyss or Alien), and I was quite highly entertained by the second half the first time I saw that (when it was called Forbidden Planet and starred Walter Pigeon). I have to take it as a given that I would have enjoyed the last five minutes of Sphere along with everyone else who saw it the first time, when it was called The Prince of Tides, but I missed that one.
- The Nostalgia Critic stated in his review of Barb Wire that he liked it better when it was called Casablanca.
- When Sage tells him that there are plans for a live-action adaptation of Star Chaser The Legend Of Orin, the Critic screams they already made it, it was called Star Wars.
- As an intro to his Man of Steel review, Superman (as played by Rob Scallon) sings about the events of that movie, while Batman (Doug himself) keeps pointing out that all of it applies to The Dark Knight Trilogy too.
- Inverted in his review of Osmosis Jones, which he felt was done much better years later by Pixar as Inside Out.
- Film Brain's assessment of Vampires Suck: " I won't be doing a proper review of Vampires Suck - I did that already when it was called Epic Movie and nothing has changed".
- Midnight Screenings will occasionally do this for some movies, usually playing it straight for bad ones.
- The Platypus Comix article "Braver" makes the Adventures of the Gummi Bears episode "Girl's Knight Out" seem like a proto-Brave, albeit with a more courageous and rational Tomboy Princess in the form of Princess Calla.
- Taco-Man calls Five Nights at Freddy's a more realistic, but also more boringnote , version of Night Trap.
- In RedLetterMedia's review of Star Trek (2009), Mr. Plinkett described it as The Theme Park Version of the franchise, but also considered it a better Star Wars movie than the prequel trilogy, and joked that J. J. Abrams should have directed those films instead of George Lucas. Hilariously, a few years later Abrams was picked to direct The Force Awakens, the first of the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
- James Rolfe argued that the original Planet Of The Apes could have been the perfect movie for The Twilight Zone, due to its Twist Ending and being written by Rod Serling.
- He loved Victor Frankenstein because he felt like he was watching one of the old Hammer Horror movies.
- When reviewing the 2014 Godzilla movie, he said that he'd enjoy the 1998 film if it wasn't a Godzilla movie and prefers to think of it as a sequel to Independence Day.
- He complained that Emerald City felt like it was based on Game of Thrones instead of the Land of Oz books.
- In his YouTube video where TheRealJims puts forth his theory that Grampa Simpson actually shot Mr. Burns he argues that the episode, Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in "The Curse of the Flying Hellfish" could be considered Who Shot Mr Burns Part 3.
- When Minty Comedic Arts made his 10 Things You May Not Know About Bill & Ted video, he complained that the plot of Pleasantville had been done in an episode of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures eight years before.
- The Dom from Lost In Adaptation preferred the The Inheritance Cycle when it was called Star Wars, Disney's 2002 Tuck Everlasting movie when it was called Titanic (1997), and both he and his girlfriend Calluna prefer Peter Jackson's The Hobbit Trilogy when it was called The Lord of the Rings. (As he feels all of them are scene-for-scene rip-offs of the respective movies.
- Arstechnica.com said that The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part was the version of Solo they always wanted to see.
- An unusual example which is "Someone did it right later" rather than "Someone did it better earlier" is in the Tough Pigs review of B.R.A.T.S. of the Lost Nebula. Becca says there's a good show trying to get out, and Anthony replies that that show is Star Trek: Prodigy.
- A magazine gave a breakdown of the Summer Blockbusters of 1997. They discuss how Hercules did only moderately well compared to other recent works of the Disney Animated Canon, and they surmised people thought it was done better when it was called Aladdin.
- Roger Ebert: "All bad movies have good twins, and the good version of Goodbye Lover is The Hot Spot... a thriller that was equally lurid but less hyperkinetic."
- A diversion in an online SFX article, giving the cases for and against Armageddon (1998).
Case for the defence: The science in Armageddon is no more wacky than it is in something like Fantastic Voyage and — let's face it — considerably more sensible than the science presented in Source Code.
Case for the prosecution: Hey, I liked Source Code!
Case for the defence: I liked it better 20 years ago when it was called Quantum Leap.
Case for the prosecution: Touché.
- Given Aliens draws a lot from Starship Troopers, James Cameron said that once he knew of Paul Verhoeven's plans he thought: "Why are they making a Starship Troopers film? I already did it!".
- Scott Kurtz of PvP once joked that his favorite stories in Atomic Robo were the issues done by Mike Mignola.