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!
We are now hitting Round Four–having reduced our movies to the Final Four. The oldest of those four movies is also the mostly highly rated: Toy Story from 1991. The most recent film is The Avengers from 2012.
As before, victory is decided by the best of three votes from a pool of six judges, including me. For the most part over this whole competition, I have assigned these judges to the films randomly (though obviously I made sure to assign them to films I knew they had seen). In this cases, all six judges have seen all four films, so the assignment was completely random.
Whenever I’m voting, I tried to write up my votes before reading anyone else’s. 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)
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Josh L: I’m a fan of Return of the King but again for reason’s I’ve explained previously, the fulfillment of Ed Catmull’s 20 year dream, conceived when CG was a laughable concept even for the special effects of a film, and realized with such integrity to story and character that it’s historic achievement was almost a side-note, is the winner.
My Vote: Toy Story
Toy Story – pros and cons
• Pros: Changed animation, great characters, captivating story…deserves the credit it gets in my opinion. Additionally, it started what became a great trilogy of films. It kicked off the Pixar cinematic universe (sorry Marvel, you were not the first. When it comes to Pixar ITS ALL CONNECTED! www.pixartheory.com)
• Cons: Inferior to its sequel, which did it all better in every way. It’s very much the “Star Wars” to Toy Story 2’s “The Empire Strikes Back”. I’m not sure there are other cons really?
Return of the King – pros and cons
• Pros: Manages to stick the landing on the audacious trilogy of films that really blew everyone away at the time. Some great acting by Sean Astin and many, many others (not Frodo sorry). More of Gollum, I think still the best CGI character ever. They did a fairly good job of hitting most of the great scenes from the book. Such an impressive and grand tale told on screen.
• Cons: Legolas slides down and elephants trunk. I think some of the good scenes I was hoping to see were actually only in the extended version? Elijah Wood’s overly sentimental acting/facial expressions. No matter how good this was, it was never going to measure up to the film in my head.
I think Toy Story has less flaws actually, but honestly, I think Return of the King and all the Lord of the Rings films had a harder hill to climb and are better films. I’d rather watch Return of the King any day of the week. It wins here.
My Vote: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Pete: It’s weird for me to try to compare these two films because I don’t really have opinions or brand loyalty for either. They are both just good, solid bits of film; and while I want to award the victory to Return of the King just for Eowyn’s “I am no man,” the victory in this round belongs to the whimsical and heartfelt fun of Toy Story.
It’s a finely crafted, well-written script, and Toy Story helped pioneer 3D animation, which is always a plus.
My Vote: Toy Story
The Winner: Toy Story
Even-Numbered Years Conference
4. The Dark Knight (2008)
6. The Avengers (2012)
Ben: I’d love to vote for The Avengers because it changed superhero movies and also changed action / adventure / science fiction movies in general, maybe not forever but certainly for the next 20 years or more, showing as it did just what was possible with these big budget blockbuster movies from a franchising point of view. But after consideration I have to say I still think of The Dark Knight as the superior film. The funny thing is, I actually like Batman Begins better, but that’s just because of where the attention in the film goes, not because it’s better made. The Dark Knight synthesizes the superhero, action, and crime genres in such an immersive way as to create an unforgettable experience. The performances, the staging, the music, and the storyline itself all come together with such expertise that there is little one can compare it to.
My Vote: The Dark Knight
Josh M: Now we come to a Clash of the Comic Book Movie Titans! Avengers is really quite the audacious cinematic undertaking — pulling together characters from several other movies and weaving them all together into a decade’s worth of interconnected storytelling. The first Avengers movie is great fun in its own right, and is the kickoff to something ultimately greater than the sum of its parts.
And yet. As comic-book movies go, The Dark Knight stands apart from the crowd. Not just a great super-hero movie, it’s actually a great movie in its own right. It doesn’t need ten years to tell its story — I’d argue it doesn’t even need the rest of the trilogy it falls into the middle of. As a single, self-contained film, it gives us the most compelling super-hero story put to film.
My Vote: The Dark Knight
Bruce: Nolan takes his mastery of story telling to a level most directors never achieve. And he’s pitted against a company man doing a fantastic job to say the least. But let’s be honest, he’s not allowed to draw outside the lines. Nolan on the other hand owns his vision top to bottom. The script has next to no interference from Warner Brothers; you can bet Whedon had Kevin Feige in his back pocket. Nolan’s cast have sold their soul to him and it shows in front of the camera down to the smallest part. Many of Whedon’s cast are very enjoyable but nothing memorable by comparison. With The Dark Knight every detail supports the experience or engages his audience on an emotional and psychological level, meticulously crafted to fit with all the other aspects of his story. None of this means Joss Whedon is some slouch. Bite my tongue, no way! He’s simply outclassed in every way here.
My Vote: The Dark Knight
The Winner: The Dark Knight
And so we have arrived at our Grand Final Matchup, the epic movie faceoff of a generation!
The Dark Knight
For this final round, instead of just limiting it to three votes, I’m going to ask all six of our judges to participate. If we end up in a tie, I’ll find a seventh judge to make the final call. I have someone in mind but I’ll wait to see if it’s necessary to call them.