Box Office Blockbuster Tourney: Round Three

So as explained before, we are playing a seeded tournament-style elimination game amongst each of the US domestic box office champion movies from the last 32 years.  Seeding was done via Rotten Tomatoes scores, with ties broken with Metacritic scores.  Three of our six judges will vote on each match-up of two films, with the winner advancing to the next round and the loser skulking off into obscurity, until we have our overall Champion!

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We are now in Round Three–having reduced our movies to the Elite 8.  Of those 8, the oldest and newest movies are the same as before:  Rain Man from 1988 and Black Panther from 2018.  These eight movies include seven films of a speculative fiction nature –one focuses on talking toys, two have wizards, one features space wizards, and three are about superheros–and none of those movies are the one with a “Something Man” shaped title.

You can read the full voting from Round One here and here, and Round Two here.

As before, victory is decided by the best of three votes from a pool of six judges, including me.  Whenever I’m voting, I tried to write up my votes before reading anyone else’s, but in this case some people responded to me before I could write anything myself.  I tended to list the other votes in the order that I received them, except sometimes I’d mix it up if the voting wasn’t unanimous in order to preserve the suspense.

Odd-Numbered Years Conference

1. Toy Story (1995)

vs.

5. Star Wars–Episode VII:  The Force Awakens (2015)

Ben: Of course I like Toy Story–it set a new tone for animation that everyone has been chasing since–maybe it was even the last big step forward that Hollywood animated films that Hollywood has had (possibly Into the Spider-Verse will do something similar, we’ll have to see).  But now, looking back, while it’s still good, it’s not exactly special any more, at least not for me.  Overall, I prefer The Force Awakens, even though it’s problems are obvious and well documented.  I’d just have more fun with it if I was watching it again today–with my the biggest disappointment really being just how badly the sequel did following up many of its setups.

My Vote:  Star Wars–Episode VII:  The Force Awakens

Josh L:   It’s a tough one. I had so much fun in The Force Awakens. I had seen and felt these same things before but it was fresh enough and nostalgic enough to elicit a satisfying experience. However I just can’t get away from the milestone of Toy Story for the industry:  the first computer-animated feature. But it didn’t just rely on that selling point. The characters and story brought to life the suspicions of every child that turns their back on a toy. A brilliant, original concept, superbly executed in its technical mastery and heartfelt characterization.

My Vote:  Toy Story

Bruce:  

Buzz Lightyear : Did you know my Laser also detects nauseous regurgitated fanboy remakes?! 

Woody : (looks at Buzz with mild disdain and rolls his eyes) That laser’s not real, besides the whole world already knew that. 

Run over, backed up, run over again while jumping up and down for the win!

My Vote:  Toy Story

The Winner: Toy Story

 

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2. Harry Potter & the Curse of the Deathly Hallows part two

vs.

3. The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King (2003)

Rod:  Come on, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2?  Talk about an overrated monstrosity!  And “Harry is a Horcrux”–it’s so-called shock twist is inconsequential and predictable, and not even worth discussing when compared to the shock of Gandalf and Bilbo showing up outside Frodo’s family door on the anniversary of getting wounded on Weathertop! Return of the King for the win!

My Vote:  The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

Josh M: I really enjoyed the Harry Potter book series. It started out as a light, fun little children’s tale with a magical wimsey reminiscent of The Hobbit. Later books matured along with the main characters, becoming darker and more complex as the series progressed. But somewhere along the way, the movie series seemed to have trouble keeping up. By the end, it felt like they were hitting all the major story beats but leaving it to the audience (and their familiarity with the source material) to fill in the narrative gaps.

The Return of the King is far from perfect. It shows some signs of the Jackson Overkill which more thoroughly infected his Hobbit trilogy. Still, the source material in this case is incredibly rich, and he gets enough of it right to create a substantial and satisfying conclusion to a great cinematic work.

My Vote:  The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

Pete: To be completely honest the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has been winning not due to it’s own merits, but the flaws of the opposing film.

The Return of the King conquest continues, for one more round at least.

My Vote:  The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

The Winner:   The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

 

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Even-Numbered Years Conference

4. The Dark Knight (2008)

vs.

9. Rain Man (1988)

Rod:  That Tom Cruise creature in Rain Man just looks plain silly, as opposed to Two-Face in the The Dark Knight who looks just awesome!

My Vote:  The Dark Knight

Ben:  It’s amazing to me that Rain Man actually is still in this competition.  It’s a good movie, but it was never a favorite, and certain isn’t particularly remembered today.  Meanwhile The Dark Knight is still a mighty piece of work, even ten years on, featuring my favorite Batman, my favorite Joker, my favorite Two-Face (by a long shot!), my favorite Commissioner Gordon, and more, and pulled together by one of my favorite directors.

My Vote:  The Dark Knight

Josh L:   Sorry Rain Man. I’ve got to go for Dark Knight. Apart from Star Wars it was the first sequel I ever remember seeing that was better than the first film. Expectations had always been met with disappointment in half-baked attempts to cash in on previous success, but Nolan surprised us by taking things to the next level and bringing integrity of story back into the industry.

My Vote:  The Dark Knight

The Winner: The Dark Knight

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2. Black Panther (2018)

vs.

6. The Avengers (2012)

Josh M:  The Avengers is great fun, not to mention a remarkable achievement. It brought together characters from several different and distinct movies, tying them all together into a great, glorious mess of interconnected movies. Other studios watched it happen, and drooled, but none yet has been able to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Black Panther is just one small part of that extended universe. And while I’ve never really followed the Black Panther comics, the movie stood out as one of the MCU’s best. For starters, it’s got some of the most wildly creative world-building going on. If a secret high-tech society were to develop in the middle of the African continent, with no Western colonial influence at all, would it look like the Wakanda we see in this movie? I have no idea, but it looks great. I mean, they ride armored rhinos into battle! And the story is engaging and well presented, as a people decides whether to remain secretive or to use their resources to help the outside world. It makes for a compelling injection of new blood and new vision into the MCU. But mostly, it’s got armored battle rhinos.

My Vote:  Black Panther

Pete:  I could type out a few paragraphs on what I don’t like about both films, and also write a similar length on their pros.

But The Avengers is arguably the biggest blockbuster landmark since Star Wars. Everything we’ve seen in the $100M film range has been directly influenced by it, and the implications of it’s existence (besides Mad Max, so far). The MCU owes it’s success to many small nuanced parts, as well as the first Iron Man, and other early, popular installations. But nothing represents that success quite as well as The Avengers, pulling off the extremely difficult job of making a product that by every right should be niche and turning it into something that ignites heated discussion between family members and friends every holiday season. As well as y’know, having a green monster, a man in flying metal, a Norse god, a really old guy, a girl with a mile long stare, a guy with no depth perception, Arrow Boy™, a fanboy, and Harry Dean Stanton working together, while not being too confusing!

My Vote:  The Avengers

Bruce:  Black Panther was a cool glass of water on a desperately hot day when it came out. I remember appreciating the different culture and world view from a superhero’s perspective. And Michael B. Jordan’s performance just kills it as the villain. But the Avengers is an action junkie’s delight–all throttle, hooting and hollering the whole way. Plus, the real difference between it and many of the other summer destruction busters is its refreshing sense of humor. Almost every joke lands on the mark.  Black Panther is just another “Puny God!” by comparison.

My Vote:  The Avengers

The Winner: The Avengers

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And we’re down to the Final Four!  Star Wars is now out of the competition and so is Harry Potter, but we still have two superhero films–one from Marvel and one from DC.  No big surprises here, but I was glad to see the back of Black Panther.  Rod’s comments might read strange, but that’s because he’s using some fake examples I sent out as templates.  He assures me they are his real votes, though.

The next set of match-ups will be:

Odd-Numbered Years Conference

1. Toy Story vs. 3. The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

Even-Numbered Years Conference

4. The Dark Knight vs. 6. The Avengers

Here we go here we go here we go!

 

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