Same plot, same year, different title. Sound familiar? For decades war has been waged between opposing film studios releasing similar-themed films within a year of each other, vying for audience attention with near-identical storylines just to get one over the other. 2013 has already seen three battles. First there was the horror spoof (Scary Movie 5 vs. A Haunted House), then the future-set apocalyptic sci-fi (Oblivion vs. After Earth). Finally, and most obviously, came the White House actioner (Olympus Has Fallen vs. White House Down). These films may usually have big names and even bigger budgets, but generally there can only be one victor, whether it’s critical or commercial, or both (A Haunted House, Oblivion and Olympus Has Fallen coming out on top in the respective face-offs).
However, there have, on occasion, been some complete mismatches. 1988 saw Tom Hanks’s Big totally obliterate any knowledge of the other child-adult body swapping comedy, Judge Reinhold’s Vice Versa. And you may not even have known that Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves had its own competition in the form of Patrick Bergin’s Robin Hood in 1991. Who are Judge Reinhold and Patrick Bergin you ask? Exactly.
Others were only loosely connected but nevertheless still garnered comparisons – 1998’s The Truman Show and EdTV for example, both foreshadowing the rise of reality TV. Although that was never really a contest either, Jim Carrey making sure of that.
There are also rivalries where both films fell into obscurity because they were, to put it politely, both utter rubbish (2006’s Ultraviolet vs. Aeon Flux and 2009’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop vs. Observe and Report). You even get almost ones; Oliver Stone’s Alexander bombing so badly that the competing studio decided against making Baz Luhrmann’s proposed take on the great man.
So whether its win, lose or draw, here we take a look at the top ten most memorable studio clashes:
10. The Illusionist vs. The Prestige (2006)
These two 2006 films about magicians were well-received, but The Prestige had Batman and Wolverine whereas The Illusionist had The Hulk.
Winner: The Prestige
9. 1492: Conquest of Paradise vs. Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)
Really a triple threat match if you include the awful Carry on Columbus to mark 500 years of the discovery of the Americas. All three were disastrous flops, 1492 being part of the low period of Ridley Scott’s career – and it shows.
8. Dante’s Peak vs. Volcano (1997)
Released at the height of his Bond powers, Pierce Brosnan powered Dante’s Peak to box office glory, leaving Volcano in its lava-filled wake. Some parts couldn’t be taken seriously but that’s nothing compared to the ludicrousness of Volcano’s whole premise of having a magma bubbling under LA.
Winner: Dante’s Peak
7. K9 vs. Turner & Hooch (1989)
1989 was a dog eat dog year. While both centred on a cop reluctantly teaming up with a dog (Tom Hanks inexplicably getting a French Mastiff in Turner & Hooch), each film was surprisingly successful. But Hanks showed why he can just about act with anyone (or anything) and make them look good, unlike James Belushi who was lucky enough to have his canine co-star show him a favourable light.
Winner: Turner & Hooch
6. Tombstone vs. Wyatt Earp (1994)
Kevin Costner was the king of cinema until Waterworld sunk his ego. Wyatt Earp was a warning sign, his overblown epic losing the showdown to the all-star cast of Tombstone, in Val Kilmer’s arguably finest performance as Doc Holiday.
5. The Thin Red Line vs. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan was a visceral experience taking you onto the battlefield during WWII with such realism some people found it all too much. And that was only the first 10 minutes. On the other hand, you have Terence Malick’s comeback after a long hiatus, with stars clamouring to be part of his beautifully filmed take on the war in the Pacific. But Saving Private Ryan had some pre-famous parts; Vin Diesel, Paul Giamatti and Nathan Fillion (as the other Ryan) all popping up. It was the beauty and the beast of WWII films – they couldn’t be any more different. Ultimately they cancel each other with both directors being at the top of their game.
4. Battle Los Angeles vs. Skyline (2011)
This turned into a real-life clash off-screen as Sony’s Battle Los Angeles was released four months after Skyline. What caused tension was the fact that Sony had paid the visual effects company to produce their CGI, not knowing the owners were the Brothers Strause, who were working on Skyline at the same time. It didn’t matter in the end as they were both moderate financial successes – but we all know this doesn’t mean they’re any good. So in this instance, the bigger budget wins.
Winner: Battle Los Angeles (just)
3. Red Planet vs. Mission to Mars (2000)
Red Planet was the killer of Val Kilmer’s career – he practically left his leading man status on Mars after this. On the positive note, you get to see a young Simon Baker. However, with Mission to Mars, studios are still feeling the fallout from its extremely negative reviews and poor box office takings; John Carter originally had ‘from Mars’ in the title but it was removed as it was deemed bad luck (not that it helped). The films were as bad and as cheesy as each other, but Mission to Mars at least tried to be interesting with its wishy-washy philosophical ending.
Winner: Mission to Mars
2. Antz vs. A Bug’s Life (1998)
A disgruntled former chairman of Disney set up Dreamworks studio in response to a bitter feud, so it’s no surprise that their first film would be in direct competition. Thus, Antz burst onto the animation scene with a host of stars providing the voices, led by Woody Allen. But even with all the big names, Pixar’s follow-up to Toy Story was not to be messed with. Allen’s adult satire or Pixar’s kid-focused family affair? When it comes to talking insects, there can only be one winner.
Winner: A Bug’s Life
1. Armageddon vs. Deep Impact (1998)
Who doesn’t remember this titanic clash of cataclysmic proportions? The end of the world – twice over in one summer. Michael Bay was in his element with Armageddon, but Deep Impact had Morgan Freeman as the president. Both had unprecedented special effects of the world being destroyed. Both had the storyline of putting people on a giant meteorite hurtling towards Earth i.e. disregarding all forms of logic (expected now with Bay). Both were hugely profitable. Yet only one had Ben Affleck saying “I love you” to Bruce Willis. Armageddon wins it for creating one the most overplayed movie songs of all time. And it had a pretty good tagline too – “For love. For Honour. For Mankind”.
Let’s hope these epic battles continue.