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One is the loneliest number, it takes two to tango, but is three a crowd? We all know that modern Hollywood is more or less devoid of unique ideas, but one would think rival studios could, at the very least, resist the urge to each unveil a nearly identical film within months of one another—wouldn’t you?
2012 will soon witness such an occurrence with March’s comedic Snow White revamp, Mirror, Mirror, joining this Friday’s gritty Snow White reimagining, Snow White and the Huntsman. It is not only a question of whether or not the market can support two movies carrying such a similar story, but simply if we want two damn movies with the same plot. With the battle looming, Player Affinity will run down 10 other epic cinematic showdowns between one flick and its evil cinematic twin (or in some cases twins).
Jesus Christ Superstar vs. Godspell vs. Gospel Road
The Showdown: To my knowledge (or lack thereof) the last straight-up Jesus feature was Mel Gibson’s 2004 religious blockbuster The Passion of the Christ. Even though Passion collected an exorbitant $611.9 million worldwide, I think 1973 has it beat due to volume and sheer oddness. In 1973 we didn’t only have three movies about Jesus and the gospel, we had three musicals about the Jesus and the gospel. If only we’d had some Technicolor Dreamcoats in there, too.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” All three of these films are musicals through and through, but their narratives remain somewhat distinct. Superstar chronicles the final days of Jesus, Godspell is told through the view of St. Matthew and Gospel Roadis a musical tribute to his entire life—if you care.
The Victor: Full disclosure: I’ve seen none of these toe-tapping (?) features but it’s too much of a bizarre occurrence to omit. Thusly, I shall trust in the views of others. Gospel Road is a musical narration by the man-in-black himself, Johnny Cash, chronicling the life and death of Jesus and remains as little seen as it seems to be completely forgotten. Godspell seems to be regarded a little more favourably (it is currently “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes) but it’s Superstar (the name says it all) that is hailed as the best and scored an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score.
K-9 vs Turner and Hooch
The Showdown: Two detectives on an important case are burdened with a drooling four-legged friend who just may have the key to solving the big one. K-9 and Hooch are far from the first (or the last) police procedurals to incorporate animals into its story, but when two comedians (Jim Belushi and Tom Hanks, respectively) attempt it in the same year (both while near the height of their popularity), its clear someone screwed the pooch.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” The gimmick for both of these films is damn near identical but, for what it’s worth, K-9’s story about some sort of Lassie-esque, near-super intelligent dog is far stupider than that of Turner and Hooch’s. You see, in this outing, Hank’s character adopts the dog after his owner is murdered in order to help him find the killer…way more realistic!
The Victor: Interesting point: both of these movies carry the exact same IMDB score (5.7), though that’s not to say that particular similarity is a deserving one. Hooch benefits from Tom Hank’s presence, who trounces Belushi 10 times out of 10 when it comes to acting talent. Not to mention, the more tongue-in-cheek tone of that movie plays more effectively on the worn buddy cop genre. Bull Mastiff trumps German Shepherd in this one.
The Abyss vs. Leviathan vs. DeepStar Six
The Showdown: Ahhh…1989, not only the year of the clashing canines, but also the year or the deep sea “alien” movie. Though, when the modern equivalent is Battleship, I could go for a detour back in time.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” The Abyss and DeepStar Six both focus on an underwater mining crew and all three movies incorporate some underwater base camp but, however, that’s where the parallels cease. The Abyss took a very meditative, existential approach to its alien flick, with the ET’s possessing motives rarely seen in these types of movies. Leviathan and DeepStar simply toss a mythological sea monster and a giant, prehistoric scorpion, respectively, into the mix.
The Victor: Actually sporting some pretty cool titles across the board, both Leviathan and DeepStar Six are still pretty blatant rip-offs of The Abyss. Likely, these knock-offs were squeezed in during the period between The Abyss’ pre-production and lengthy filming. Even though I may not be as keen on The Abyss as some, there is really no contest here. Cameron’s epic was nominated for four Oscars and the other two stand under 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Tombstone vs. Wyatt Earp
The Showdown: Ok, this one is a tiny bit of a cheat, as technically Tombstone came out six days before 1994, but for the purposes of this rundown, it’s more than relevant. Tombstone stars the likes of Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer as the gung-slinging lawmen who eventually find themselves at the O.K. Corral. Wyatt Earp is one such member, who later got a solo film in Kevin Costner’s Wyatt Earp, which, in addition to featuring that iconic showdown, chronicled a lot of other events in the man’s life.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” Well, if you like long-ass movies (three hours long) with more inane dialogue than gun shots, Wyatt Earp is for you. But, if you prefer a Magnificent Seven-style, moustached-men of valor action flick (though lengthy in itself) then Tombstoneshould be more your speed. Though being very much comparable, if one were to change the names of the characters, you could only draw broad parallels—these are features striving for a very different impact.
The Victor: Though I jabbed Earp for its length, the film has more than a few moments of inspiration and Costner is very good throughout. It’s just the gritty monotony of it all that becomes grating and, when contrasted with the high-energy lead-exchange of Tombstone, there isn’t much of a competition. Critics and viewers seem to agree as the results unfurl as such: 44 percent Rotten Tomatoes/6.5 IMDB for Earp and a 73 percent/7.7 IMDB for Tombstone.
Eerily coincidental tidbit of the day: The director of Tombstone, George P. Cosmatos, directed the aforementioned Leviathan.
Dante’s Peak vs. Volcano
The Showdown: With a name like Dante’s Peak, the Pierce Brosnan-starrer could very well be a romantic drama; a tale of love and loss between a man with terminal cancer and the fiery barmaid who changed his outlook on life—and he hers. Volcano, on the other hand, is about…uh, a volcano. Not much room for creative interpretation there.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” Well, let’s throw out the obvious first: both these films are about a deadly, ash-spewing, sulphur-emitting, screaming people-melting volcano. The divide is that, in Dante’s Peak the film actually takes place at a volcano, whereas Tommy Lee Jones witnesses a monstrous, liquid hot magma-spewing beast popping up from the La Brea Tar Pits in the middle of L.A. in Volcano. Now, I’m no scientist, but…
The Victor: Volcano has its pulpy thrills to be certain, and Tommy Lee Jones is a great, atypical leading man, but the premise is just so silly and the instances of running from lava and the climactic battle of fire department vs. the molten rock is just so obnoxiously “rah-rah-mankind-take-that-Mother-Nature.” Dante’s Peak goes for the heartthrob star, but is a much more competently fashioned, tense disaster pic and provides more genuine terror than Volcano.
Deep Impact vs. Armageddon
The Showdown: Easily the most famous duo on this list, these “stop the asteroid” flicks debuted two months apart in the summer of ’98, both to mixed critical reaction, yet beefy box office returns. This was one of the rare instances where movies with near-identical plots were able to both ride summer movie season buzz to, dare I say, new heights.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” In addition to notoriety, the plot really does unfurl nearly point-for-point. Let me count (some of) the ways:
1) Asteroid headed for Earth.
2) The government’s plan to save the world is to detonate an explosive on the asteroid.
3) A heroic sacrifice is made to stop the hurtling hunk of minerals.
4) “Enough” asteroid hits the Earth to warrant some set pieces, but not enough to end life.
5) A main character tragically loses a family member.
6) New York City gets an ass-whooping.
The differences: melodrama and Frodo Baggins vs. explosions and Bruce Willis
The Victor: Those who enjoy both Deep Impact and Armageddonare few and far between—call me an enigma. I grew up watching both of these films on TV, catching them each numerous times a year. Despite their many overt similarities, they are hugely different in tone and general intention. Impact is meant to be cerebral and Armageddonis directed by Michael Bay—enough said. Both made money, both were critically maligned and both should be viewed with modest expectations. For me, it’s Armageddon by a nose.
Antz vs. A Bugs Life
The Showdown: Arthropod clashes with arthropod in this animated rumble in the jungle (even if that jungle is just your backyard lawn). The first DreamWorks Animation picture faced off against Pixar’s sophomore effort in an unfortunate battle of hotly trending upstart and unknown challenger.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” The parallels are unmistakable to be sure, but Antz and A Bug’s Life are very different beasts. Antz focuses on an internal struggle for power in the colony, whereas the characters in A Bug’s Life face an external threat from the villainous Hopper. Both do feature rather scary segments but I’d lean towards Antz as being the more mature of the two, from the imagery of the entire colony potentially being drowned to an early gory battle between army ants and some rather grotesque larva.
The Victor: Here is my one and only personal cop-out. I greatly enjoy both films and view them as a coupling of great animation rather than two features to be pitted against one another. From an outside perspective, A Bug’s Life made more money, but. believe it or not, Antz was better received by critics. As a whole, it’s fair to lean towards the Pixar entry as the overall victor, as they followed their film up with Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc., whereas DreamWorks responded with The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado.
Mission to Mars vs. Red Planet
The Showdown: And so here we are: the battle of the shite. At least in most of these match-ups there is an actual competent (or at least entertaining) choice; here we just get horrid, big-budget attempts to rebrand Alien.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” These Martian adventures both involve a crash-landing, a horrific discovery, a nearly identically-assembled crew (i.e. the token woman aboard) and insipid attempts at the philosophical. The only distinguishable divergence is the alien menace itself and, by the time either of those are revealed, we’re already bored silly or chuckling to ourselves.
The Victor: Ugh…I guess I would give a slight edge to Mission to Mars because it at least has a better sense of style, thanks to Brian De Palma and a stronger ensemble cast. When it comes down to it, both of these movies were panned by critics and flopped badly. They lost a combined $60 million and would become entries in a long string of Mars flops including Ghosts of Mars (which only made back half its budget) and two of the hugest tanks of all times: Mars Needs Moms and John Carter.
The Illusionist vs. The Prestige
The Showdown: As far as inexplicable pairings go, 2006’s magical duel is right up there. Not only do we rarely get mainstream period pieces, we never get movies about magicians, let alone two in the same year. This is also rare combo where both films can coexist without drawing immediate comparisons and are actually both great in their own rights.
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” Both of these gothic fables find a man of illusion using their knack for misdirection to combat a more material threat and personal rivalry, as well as featuring a left-field twist ending. The Prestige distinctly incorporates the realm of real magic (or, as you pagans call it, “science”) whereas Edward Norton’s flick, as the title suggests, is about nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
The Victor: I’m sure The Illusionist has its champions but you’ll almost always be getting a vote for Christopher Nolan’s interim Batman offering. Both were sleeper hits in 2006 and both received nearly identical Rotten Tomatoes scores. If two studios out there feel like they need to release two high-caliber period pieces side-by-side again. I don’t suppose I can be too upset.
No Strings Attached vs. Friends with Benefits
The Showdown: Ending on a raunchy note, these tales of frisky amigos even battled for the same title before the Ashton Kutcher-Natalie Portman vehicle switched it out for No Strings Attached. All four of the principle actors (a guy-girl combo in each) were coming off significant hits, so it was eyes on to see which of the R-rated rom-coms would come out on top (no pun intended).
“Share our similarities, celebrate our differences.” Let’s be honest, there aren’t any overt distinctions. The standard romantic comedy template made sure of that from the get-go (meet-up, hook-up, break-up, make-up, etc) and it really came down to the leads and the writing to make a distinguishable product, and as it turned out, it did for one more than the other.
The Victor: Even though Friends with Benefits was the second of the two to be released, it overcame its traditional roots (and bested its competition) with some saucy antics and the incredibly likeable pairing of Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Both this and Strings turned out nearly identical worldwide grosses and above-average reviews so don’t feel too bad for Kutcher and co. (they still got lucky).