2013 In Review: Movie “Death Matches”
[Note: This kicks off this year’s Year in Review series. Check back each Tuesday from now until the end of the year for more]
Every year, there are movies that are, for one reason or another, very similar. Previously we’ve seen these “twin films” (if you will) with releases like The Prestige and The Illusionist or last year’s Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman.
This year is no different.
While I’ve admittedly stretched a few of these match-ups, I thought it would be fun to have a “Death Match” where I pitted two similarly-themed movies against one another and chose the best one. There are a few examples (White House Down vs. Olympus Has Fallen) I couldn’t include because I hadn’t seen one or both of the movies involved.
Here is what I did come up:
Connection: Animated sequels/prequels
Winner: Despicable Me 2
Reasoning: Although both of these movies are good (with neither being great), I am leaning towards Despicable Me 2 just because it introduced a little bit more. Since Monsters University is a prequel, it’s painted into a corner a lot more since we pretty much know how it’ll end because of continuity.
Connection: Coming-of-age dramas
Reasoning: I feel bad even picking a winner because both of these films are fantastic. However, Mud explores adolescence a bit deeper than The Way, Way Back. Tone-wise, they’re not very similar (Mud is much more serious), but both are winners when compared to most other movies this year.
Connection: Awkward comedies starring Paul Rudd
Winner: Prince Avalanche
Reasoning: This one isn’t even close because All is Bright never gets off the ground. However, maybe I should be lauding Prince Avalanche instead because the more time that goes by, the more I love this comedy. Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd are the perfect duo with the movie taking a deeper meaning than you’d probably expect. Prince Avalanche deserves a lot more credit than it ever received.
Connection: Apocalypse comedies
Winner: The World’s End
Reasoning: This is another tough one to call since both movies are supremely hilarious. U.S. audiences will likely find more to like in This is the End because they recognize the names, but The World’s End has a more cohesive story. Both are outlandish, don’t get me wrong, but The World’s End just works a little better.
Winner: Now You See Me
Reasoning: Although both use magic throughout their stories, Now You See Me and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone couldn’t be more different. Now You See Me is nowhere near a perfect movie; however, at least it has some semblance of a good story instead of just relying on name recognition.
Winner: World War Z
Reasoning: Like the above match-up, these two movies aren’t really that similar. However, if you had to choose a zombie movie, I think I’d give the nod to World War Z over the better-received Warm Bodies. World War Z has plenty of issues in the third act, but it’s a much stricter zombie movie compared to the almost-spoof-like zombie love story.
Connection: Non-fiction sports drama
Reasoning: 2013 hasn’t been a sports-heavy year…which is probably okay for most people. The two that do come to mind are both period non-fiction stories, though. 42 is special because it explores more serious issues, but Rush is a supremely exciting movie that has its own things to say about human nature and competition.
Reasoning: A tie? Really? Both Captain Phillips and A Hijacking have plenty to offer. Phillips is a more mainstream movie that is done-up all nice with a huge budget. A Hijacking, on the other hand, uses the small budget, intimate setting, and developed characters to explore a similar idea. Both are great, so…yes a tie.
Connection: Realistic space thrillers
Reasoning: In another close race, I had a hard time deciphering between the two great space movies of the year. Europa Report is special because it portrays space in a more realistic manner. However, Gravity does it just that much better. With the greatest use of 3-D since Avatar, I can’t go against Gravity.
Connection: Naughty teachers
Reasoning: While I previously couldn’t choose a winner because both worked so well, this is the exact opposite. Both A Teacher and The English Teacher show us teachers acting very naughty with their students, and both are pretty melodramatic and disgusting to watch.
Connection: Naughty teenagers
Winner: Spring Breakers
Reasoning: Spring Breakers barely pulls out the win in another despicable match-up. I honestly thought I would like both movies more, but I found all the characters to be uninteresting and unintelligent. However, Spring Breakers, once you look past the stupidity, does have a somewhat interesting thematic ending.
Connection: Non-fiction racial dramas
Winner: 12 Years a Slave
Reasoning: Another good match-up pits two true stories about prejudice, racism, and segregation. 12 Years a Slave ultimately takes the crown because it doesn’t shy away from the brutality. For a complex movie, it’s as simple as that.
Connection: Trippy drug movies
Reasoning: In the end, I like both of these movies quite a bit. My biggest problem with Side Effects is that it ends up being a movie about money over anything else. The drug aspect of the story seems to work a little better with Trance.
Connection: Original “tentpole” blockbusters
Reasoning: After Earth, had I seen it, could’ve also competed for this prize (although it wouldn’t have come close to winning). Elysium seems like the stronger of the two movies just because of the utopian aspect. However, Oblivion is still a strong runner-up, in my opinion.
Connection: Vin Diesel franchises
Winner: Fast & Furious 6
Reasoning: Not only was Fast & Furious 6 the best movie thus far in the franchise, but it was one of the better blockbusters of the year. Riddick – a movie I didn’t care for at all – seemed to fall into the same traps, while Fast & Furious kept me both on my toes and on the edge of my seat.
Connection: Superhero adaptations
Winner: Thor: The Dark World
Reasoning: “Meh” is the only way to describe this year’s superhero movies. Man of Steel had my curiosity more than the other films, but it also became one of this year’s biggest disappointments. I liked Iron-Man 3, The Wolverine, and Thor: The Dark World all about the same but found the least holes in The Dark World. If Iron-Man 3 hadn’t destroyed the Mandarin or The Wolverine had any scene that was spectacular (outside of the post-credits one), they would’ve jumped Thor. Alas, the latest superhero movie probably wins just because it’s fresher in my mind.
Connection: Popular book adaptations
Winner: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Reasoning: All three movies got slightly better as they released; however, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire really is no match for the others. Yes, it’s the “new kid on the block,” but the story is more cinematically adaptable compared to the others, giving it the upper-hand from the beginning.
Which movie “Death Matches” did I miss? Sound off in the comments below!
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