Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has had a rough time, treated to a hefty slew of negative reviews and a sudden drop in viewers over its opening weekend. Oddly enough, despite the cool premise highlighted by the title, the Son of Krypton and Caped Crusader spend limited time facing off against one another. With too many cooks in the kitchen, there is too much conversation and not enough action.
In its defence, many action flicks with two forces fighting one another are shallower than an inflatable pool in a drought. This list leaves off the worst of the worst (Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever) because there is just so very little to discuss. Instead, the list focuses on the craziest, most ambitious ‘VS.’ flicks that immediately come to mind.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Director: Robert Benton
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry
Beating Apocalypse Now for Best Picture, Kramer vs Kramer is a sweet and thought-provoking father-son story. The plot, based on Avery Corman novel of the same name, revolves around workaholic advertising executive Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman). After his wife (Meryl Streep) leaves him, Ted and their son, Billy (Justin Henry), work together. The film honours its simple premise, becoming a more light-hearted, up-beat Best Picture than most. With Hoffman at the height of his powers, and Streep an up-and-coming beacon of charm, the film combines a touching family story and gruelling courtroom battle. As the titular conflict continues, Ted’s undying love for his son turns him from soulless provider to giver.
The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
Director: Milos Forman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, Edward Norton
Most of the time, truth is stranger than fiction. This tale of a pornography magnate taking down the system is certainly hard to believe. Like many biopics, the plot discusses how one man can truly make a difference and be heard over the masses. Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson) grows up around women, working in a brothel at 10 years of age before rising up the ranks. Creating multi-million-dollar publication Hustler, he, along with hot-shot lawyer Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton), face backlash from varying religious and anti-pornography institutions, the law, and crippling disease. This biopic swings for the fences, pulling us into Flynt’s peculiar world throughout its slow-build narrative. Fighting for free speech and expression of all kinds, these real-life events are rude, crude, and oddly inspiring.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mark Webber
Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) applies his wacky, nostalgia-driven style to one of contemporary geek culture’s kookiest graphic novels. Lead singer Scott (Michael Cera) must fight new love Ramon Flowers’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) seven evil exes with an array of video-game powers at their disposal. Highlighting the transition between geek and popular culture, this action-comedy embraces the weird, whimsical, and whiny in twenty-somethings everywhere. Featuring a slew of pop-culture references, fun characters and pacey sense of humour, the film offers plentiful surprises with repeat viewings. Shot by Matrix cinematographer Bill Pope, the fight sequences combine visceral CGI with stylish choreography in some of the decade’s best set-pieces.
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Director: Ronny Yu
Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Kelly Rowland
Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and Friday the 13th’s Jason Voorhees remain two of modern cinema’s most iconic and scariest antagonists. Both key to the 1980’s horror/slasher chaos, the possibility of a showdown took the world by storm. Sadly, the final product is a true nightmare of blockbuster-sized proportions. Kicking off with an alliance, the movie is a goofy, bland horror-comedy creating a lot more unintentional laughs than intentional chills. The kooky side of Freddy and a lunkhead version of Jason lumber through a cheap, ineffectual final product. Stuck between the original audience and teenage crowd, the movie has all the subtlety of forty-something screenwriters trying to fit in with millennials.
Alien vs. Predator (2004)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Sanaa Lathan, Lance Henriksen, Raoul Bova
Similar to Freddy vs. Jason, 2004’s Alien vs. Predator throws two horror icons at one another with harmful, uninteresting results. Since bringing the two mythologies together, the video games initially captured the chills and thrills that title promises. Setting up a useless ‘pyramid in Antarctica’ conceit, the human characters exist simply to make stupid decisions and get sliced up by the movie’s two powerful, antagonistic factions. Instead of capturing the magic of Alien, Aliens, and Predator, the first of two failed AVP attempts pits a swarm of xenomorphs against only three big-bad dreadlocked creatures. The result left audiences yearning for more, delivering a limited amount of action, Paul W. S. Anderson’s uninspired style and a never-ending scourge of plot-holes.
Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)
Director: Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert
Central to DreamWorks Animation’s extensive slate of blockbusters, critical and commercial flop Monsters vs. Aliens signalled the studio’s inherent lack of creativity. Kicking off a string of flops during the mid to late 2000s, the movie checked every family-feature cliché off the list. Burying the central idea, a cast including Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, and Kiefer Sutherland made for distracting casting choices. Similar to almost everything DreamWorks Animation has pumped out, the movie’s underutilised voice cast is forced to slog through a paper-thin story, annoying characters, and unfunny gags. I have not seen it since its 2009 release. However, judging by most DreamWorks movies, it ends happily with a dance number to a hit pop song.
Images courtesy of Fox Columbia Film Distribution, Hoyts Distribution, Columbia Tristar Films, Umbrella Entertainment, Universal Pictures International, Roadshow Films, New Line Cinema, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animations