Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

Dominic Corry: Cinema's greatest clashes

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Opening in cinemas next week, the new blockbuster Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice is founded on the dramatic appeal of two titans of popular culture coming to blows.

As perfectly represented by the ever-quotable Vern (Jerry O'Connell) in Stand By Me, this is the kind of hypothetical throwdown that has long been a staple of school yard discussions about larger than life heroes, so there is a certain fundamental childhood appeal to the concept.

Dawn of Justice has an especially high standard of face-smashing to build on, considering the epicness of the city-destroying finalé fracas between Superman (Henry Cavill) and Zod (Michael Shannon) from the underrated Man of Steel. I drank the Zack Snyder Kool-Aid a long time ago, and I can't wait to see what he does with a larger DC world and the implied expansion of scale.

It's tempting to see the existence of titan-vs-titan films like Batman v. Superman and the upcoming Marvel film Captain America: Civil War, which pits the Star-Spangled Avenger against former ally Iron Man, as simply the latest comic book trend to be adopted by blockbuster Hollywood. But of course cinema has its own shady boxing promoter-esque tradition of throwing two established badasses into the ring together, which we shall briefly celebrate here.

We shall also attempt to establish the victor in each circumstance. So consider yourself spoiler-warned.

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943)

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943). Photo / Getty Images
Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943). Photo / Getty Images

Universal Studios were early pioneers of the currently-proliferating trend for bringing characters established in individual films together (a trend the studio is currently feverishing re-embracing), and this is arguably the most famous of their team-ups, which brought together the two most iconic horror actors of their time, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. (respectively).

I guess the word 'versus' was a little impolite back then, or at least reserved for use in the description of contemporaneous real-world conflicts. Subsequent Universal horrors without "meets" or "versus" in the title often involved more than one classic Universal monster, and by the 1950s, comedy duo Abbot and Costello were folded into the 'shared universe', setting up the now barely-threatening classic monsters for re-invention by iconic British Horror studio Hammer, who licensed the characters from Universal.

Victor: The Wolf Man's animalistic agility is a nice counter-balance to Frank's simplistic brute strength, and both monsters get decent blows in before both being swept away by a flood. Boo! Rematch!

King Kong Vs. Godzilla (1962)

Toho, the legendary Japanese studio behind the Godzilla films, were also fans of titanic clashes and they licensed the rights to Universal's giant monkey for this man-in-suit classic, the success of which lead Toho to market many of their subsequent films as monster wrestling main events, with Godzilla taking on a variety of opponents, including a robotic version of himself.

With the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot and the high hopes for the upcoming King Kong prequel Skull Island, a new King Kong versus Godzilla film is currently being planned by blockbuster factory Legendary. Which is pretty awesome.

Victor: Kind of a stalemate - both monsters tumble into the ocean, then Kong surfaces and swims away, and Godzilla turns up in a bunch of subsequent movies.

Sylvester Stallone Vs. Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man (1993)

In the late '80s and early '90s, when the be-muscled action hero was king, the big stars never appeared in each other's movies. They were simply too expensive. When Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone all "invested" in a restaurant chain together, a young movie fan could only dream of the prospect of such titans appearing against each other in a film.

Which is why I felt so traumatised by the unfulfilled promise of The Expendables movies. It also explains why it was such a big deal that Wesley Snipes and Sly Stallone went at each other in this futuristic semi-classic. The poster certainly emphasised the showdown, making it the hottest prospect for action star-on-action star action since Tango & Cash.

Victor: Despite the insane typing skills displayed by Snipes' Simon Phoenix, he is ultimately demolished by Stallone's John Spartan.

Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)

Although not without some entertainment value, this mid-range horror felt more like a last resort for tired characters than the showdown we'd all been waiting for. There's genuine promise in this idea, although both characters will likely endure further reboots before facing off again.

Victor: Jason decapitatites Freddy, who's disembodied head then winks at the audience as Jason carries it away. So...neither?

Alien Vs. Predator (2004)

 Battlefield Earth: Aliens and Predators face off over who is boss of the planet. Photo / Supplied
Battlefield Earth: Aliens and Predators face off over who is boss of the planet. Photo / Supplied

By the time this film came along, the notion of combining of these two modern movie monsters had existed for over a decade in the Dark Horse Comics series, which took some steam out of the idea. A not-terrible-film that is only ever really celebrated for not being as terrible as it could've been, there is more fun to be found in Paul W. Anderson's film than its historical reputation would suggest. I mean, it's not great, but it's not terrible...

Victor: Allied with the human characters, the Predator wins this round. Although the film's tagline "Whoever wins, we lose" proved all too prophetic when the dire 2007 follow-up Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem arrived.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Vs. Vin Diesel in Fast Five (2011)

The game-changing Fast Five upped its entertainment value considerably by making contemporary cinema's two bulkiest ball-busters fight each other. Diesel's Dom is all street-hardened fisticuffs while Johnson's Hobbs counters with Krav Maga-style grabs and holds before getting his kick on. All in all, it's a pretty impressive brawl. One mirror and two walls are destroyed, and there's an elegent double internal defenestration.

Victor: Both dudes get their hits in, and after his second journey through a window, Dom gets the upper hand but stops short of caving in Hobbs' face with a wrench, ensuring they will end up as friends.

Ash Vs. Evil Dead (2015)

This New Zealand-shot TV show delivered on the promise of a long-rumoured-but-never-very-likely fourth Ash-centric Evil Dead film, and has to be one of the coolest things ever made in our own back yard.

Victor: Obviously it's an ongoing storyline, but that season one finalé didn't look to great for humanity...

What are your favourite movie throwdowns? Are you amped for Batman Vs. Superman? Comment below!

- NZ Herald

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Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things movie.

A film critic and broadcaster for fifteen years, a movie and pop culture obsessive for much longer. Favourite films: The Lady Vanishes (1938), Ace In The Hole (1951), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Vertigo (1958), Purple Noon (1960), Emperor of the North (1973), The Parallax View (1974), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), Aliens, The Three Amigos (1986), House of Games, Robocop (1987), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Talk Radio (1988), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Midnight Run (1989), Metropolitan (1990), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Dazed and Confused (1995), The Game (1997), The Last Days of Disco (1998), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Primer (2002), Drag Me To Hell, District 9 (2009), It Follows (2015) and The Witch (2016). See more at www.TheGoodInMovies.com.

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