Oz the Great and Powerful (2012) vs. The NeverEnding Story (1984)

March 7, 2013 Eric Volkman

Let’s exit Earth for a while and travel to colorful lands distant from our own. Our contestants in this Smack are a pair of big-budget fantasy epics adapted from popular books. Hailing from storm-wracked Kansas is our challenger, Oz the Great and Powerful, a reimagining of one of the most beloved family films of all time. In this new version, our focus has shifted to the title character, a two-bit carnival magician with a grand stage name. He’s transported to the vibrant land bearing his name and gets thrown into a civil war among several bickering witches.

Flying in from Germany on a giant talking dog is The NeverEnding Story, in which a lonely young boy borrows and reads a book described by its seller as “unsafe.” And we all know what happens when a little boy reads an unsafe book, right? Of course — he gets dragged into the proceedings himself, which in this case means a fight between a fantasy kingdom and a scary black void that threatens to engulf that happy society. […]

Stalking the Wild Hobbit

December 4, 2012 Bryce Zabel

I have seen “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and at the risk of bringing down the wrath of dwarves, elves, orcs and even Gandalf, I have to say that I prefer our own Robert Anglim’s Smashup version, “Wild Hobbits” (below).

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a brilliantly mounted film that from a production standpoint must have been a terribly complicated thing to accomplish. But it seems to be too much — too many stunts, too much wall-to-wall swelling music, too many hangs from the cliffs, etc. I agree with the Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy who called the film “a bit of a slog.” […]

The Walking Dead (AMC) vs. Falling Skies (TNT)

March 7, 2012 Bryce Zabel

There’s just something about ragtag teams of extended families trying to get by after an apocalypse. It feels like a particularly American fantasy — that when the chips are down, we’ll all put aside our petty differences, realize what’s truly important and come together to kick some ass, whether it be Nazi or Commie or even alien or zombie. The point is that our melting pot really doesn’t get cooking until the heat is applied and the burner’s on high.

These two series are flagship action pieces for their respective networks — The Walking Dead came first on AMC, followed within a year by Falling Skies on TNT. The former has its second season finale this Sunday and the latter comes back this summer for its sophomore year. Both are in their prime when it comes to the life of any TV series — enough of a run to fix some early mistakes but not so much as to render the week-to-week predictable. […]

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011) -vs- Near Dark (1987)

November 19, 2011 Nicole Marchesani

Being a vampire used to be a heck of a lot easier. Dracula would suck his victims bone-dry, lure a beautiful woman to his castle, where he would turn her into a creature of the night to live with him forever, and that was that. No worries, no angst, no regrets. Nowadays, vampires have souls. They struggle to control their inner urges to feed on human flesh, while they cling to whatever’s left of their humanity. One thing remains the same, though. Vampires have always been and continue to be smoking hot. […]

Conan the Barbarian (2011) -vs- Conan the Barbarian (1982)

August 20, 2011 Eric Volkman

WHAM! This is the heaviest of heavyweight Smackdowns. In this bout, we pit two behemoths against each other, 2011’s Conan the Barbarian remake and its lower-tech but equally brawny 1982 predecessor of the same name. Both are based on the enduringly popular book series by young pulp writer Robert E. Howard, and are set in a quasi-medieval world full of sword-swinging marauders and evil sorcerers. Conan is very much in the first camp, raised and trained from birth to be a tough, brutally effective warrior. As a result, he grows into a muscular mass of human being, personified by bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-king of California Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first film, and the brooding, immense Jason Momoa in the remake.

Both of these movies, then, bring hundreds of pounds of lethal fury to this Smackdown. The ring will thunder, the arena will shake. True to their natures, both films will shed gallons of blood. Which Conan will stagger away with the victory? […]

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011) -vs- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

July 15, 2011 Eric Volkman

One finale to rule them all! Two beloved (not to mention lucrative) film franchises come to an end with these offerings and, more momentously, face each other in a Movie Smackdown of truly epic proportions.

The stakes in the two stories are similarly high, with heroes who’ve had the odds gradually stacked against them to the point of near-impossibility for success. In The Return of the King, the spirit of the evil sorcerer Sauron — in the form of a fiery, all-seeing Eye — lives and schemes for total victory against our vulnerable protagonists. Meanwhile, in Potter-land, Team Harry has to mount a quick and effective defense against Voldemort and his army, who are on the brink of completely taking over the magic world, destroying Hogwarts and killing its good students and faculty.

The sword-wielding, ring-bearing humans, hobbits and elves of Peter Jackson’s ultimate Rings face off against the spells and talismans of Harry and his young wizard pals. Which side will prevail? […]

Where The Wild Things Are (2009) -vs- The Wizard of Oz (1939)

October 18, 2009 Sherry Coben

Both films adapt difficult and brilliant works of children’s literature and manage to exceed any expectations, evoking and exploring themes only hinted at in the original texts. Both films achieve a technical excellence and rare beauty that thrills and ignites our passion for storytelling on the silver screen. Both films accurately capture the complicated and often overlooked dark sides of childhood; adults see what they want to see and recall what they want to recall. Children can seem to them simplified little people, easy to control. Children feel their feelings deeply and powerfully though; the less they are seen, the more powerfully they ache to be seen clearly. Attention deficit is the usual diagnosis when children misbehave; children want to be seen and heard and attended.
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Superman Returns (2006) -vs- Batman Begins (2005)

May 8, 2007 Beau DeMayo

The 70s-80s Christopher Reeve Superman and the 80s-90s Michael Keaton-Val Kilmer-George Clooney Batman were many things, but one of them was not realistic. They were comic book films made by studios that thought superheroes were still best when served up just a little bit silly. This was ironic because the actual comic book adventures of these two heroes were getting grittier every year and the problems and conflicts more and more adult. Still, we had to get to the 00s of the 21st Century to see studios wise up to the idea that audiences wanted more — they didn’t want to escape so much as they wanted to immerse. Batman Begins kick-started an entire new look at the franchise that was wildly successful followed by Superman Returns the next year with a more mixed critical response. Now Batman is nearing the end of its proposed trilogy and Superman is getting a re-re-boot. That’s a story for later; right now, let’s look at these two monster-sized franchises and see which new beginning did the best job.
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