Writing on her awesome The Script Reader blog, Cecelia explains,
Listen, fellows, I am not religious. I never went to church as a girl or repeated prayers or hymns over and over again. My sacred texts are Alien, Aliens, Predator, The Terminator, and Total Recall... But even if I’d only seen them once I’d recognize a “new version” of Alien(s) and/or Predator without having to be told what it was in a cover letter. Why? Because every sci-fi action script since those movies has been attempting to be the “new version” of those movies. And each time I hope they will be, because that would be awesome. But usually within ten or twenty pages my hopes are dashed, because all they’ve done is take the concept, plot, characters and major action sequences of Alien(s) and/or Predator and dropped in some new nouns, adjectives and character names, reducing my Nicene Creed to little more than a Madlib.
She even helpfully provides an example of what she's talking about:
Deep in the [name an uninhabited jungle or galaxy] in an abandoned [name an additionally isolated location such as an oil rig or a logging station], a crack team of [name a division of the U.S. army] special ops is sent to rescue a missing detachment of [name a group of innocent civilians (ie nuns, orphans, the blind, blind orphan nuns, etc)], only to come up against a force that is [sub/super] human. After brutally murdering [Brick Wall/Slate/2×4], the tough [black/latino] member of the team, and maiming [Hard Drive/Motherboard/microChip], the group’s geeky operations strategist, the entity shows itself to be a terrifying [alien/science experiment] shaped like a huge, grotesque version of a [name a species of reptile, crustacean or mollusk] with a [name a sharp and/or slimy noun]-like mouth. The team’s fearless leader, [Wolf/Bear/Panther], quickly realizes that if he doesn’t stop the creature, no one will, and that perhaps this battle, in addition to saving the human race, will help him [atone for/work through some of lingering emotional issues from] his recent [divorce/wife’s death/brother’s drug overdose].
The sad thing? I would still potentially watch that movie, if the special effects were good enough.
I can't help but wonder this, however; do people try to make these ripoff movies because they think that they're actually good, or because they think that they'll actually get made? Audiences don't really flock to see more cerebral SF movies like Sunshine, after all, but something like Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem can easily make $41 million domestically (Sunshine, by comparison, made just over $3.6 million in the US). Is bad SF the fault of the filmmakers or the people who go to see the movies?