Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Friday Five – Identical Movies

Today, Mirror Mirror, a comedic retelling of the Snow White fairy tale opens (which looks pretty awful).  Interestingly enough, another Snow White movie, Snow White and the Huntsman (which looks pretty cool), opens in a month and a half.  At first glance, it seems odd that two movies based on the same story are being released around the same.  However, given that different movies have different development timeframes, sometimes two very similar movies are released at the same time.  Most of the time (as I suspect Mirror Mirror/SW&TH is) it is purely coincidence.

For this week’s Friday Five, I thought it would be fun to look back at identical movies that happened to be released around the same time.

Deep Impact/Armageddon (1998)
Released two months apart, these disaster flicks both featured an asteroid slamming into the planet, a surprisingly all-star cast, and a nearly identical point-by-point narrative outline (including a hero sacrifice).  Both films also contributed to a brief resurgence to the disaster genre in the late 90s.  It is very doubtful that anyone was ripping anyone off here since the idea of an asteroid hitting the planet is hardly that original.  However, the stars aligned for these two films to be put into production at the same time.  I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if there was some internal rush by the filmmakers to get their movie out first.

As an interesting side note, Deep Impact was the more profitable of the two movies, but I’d argue that it is largely forgotten now, whereas Armageddon is still popularly remembered (though, I suspect that has much to do with it being directed by Michael Bay and revitalizing Bruce Willis’s career).

Dante’s Peak/Volcano (1997)
Before asteroids were going to kill the Earth, the Earth was going to kill the sky.  These volcano films (both featuring a scientist who knows better than all, his love interest, and a threat which is never solved) are best left forgotten.  Hell, they flopped at the box office, so it is unlikely anybody saw them.  I will grant the movies this, while Volcano took the ID4 route and had their threat destroy LA (yes, the movie actually proposed the idea the LA was built on a giant volcano), Dante’s Peak had its setting in a more rural, mountain town environment.  However, different settings are not enough for it to be a different movie.

The Losers/A-Team/RED/Expendables (2010)
In summer of 2010, we had a barrage of tongue-in-cheek action films about a rag-tag group who get framed by their employers.  All of them were fun in their own way, and each had their own twist to them to make them stand out.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the filmmakers knew of the other movies, and didn’t fully realize that the core subjects are basically the same.  However, when looking at the movies, it is hard not to notice the glaring similarities.  In fairness, these films all began development at very different times and, like The A-Team, some were in development hell for a long, long time.  I bet some of the filmmakers looked at the other movies and thought that they’d have the year to themselves.  Oops.

Then again, Stallone, probably saw those movies were coming and said, “Eh, who cares?  I want to make a movie with my friends.”

The Prestige/The Illusionist (2006)
Because 2006 felt that one film about turn-of-the-century magicians wasn’t enough, two came out within a two month timespan.  Since the Internet would burn me alive if I suggested that director Christopher Nolan ripped someone else off because his film came out second, I won’t go there (in truth, he didn’t).  This is another one of those strange coincidences that happens.  Honestly, given the subject matter, I’m surprised that one studio didn’t position their movie further away.  Perhaps they figured that if the success or failure of one would hinge on the other if there was a longer gap.  In the end, both movies were very entertaining with a fairly engaging mystery (although The Prestige takes a bizarre left turn into science fiction in the third act, and The Illusionist completely Source-Coded).   Both films were modestly successful at the box office and are largely forgotten now.

Antz/A Bug’s Life (1998)
The first time Pixar and Dreamworks go head-to-head…and it is the same movie.  This looks bad for everyone.  Honestly, the two movies are not that alike.  The plots are very different; they just happen to both feature insects as their protagonists.  I suppose, it is a little stranger in hindsight considering that Pixar and Dreamworks are the biggest names when it comes to animated family films today and that they would make a similar movie at the same time.  Both are now power-horses and don’t need to spy on each other.  Back then, though, they were still “start-ups” with their animation department and happened to hit on a similar idea.

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5 responses to “Friday Five – Identical Movies

  1. CultureCast-Z March 30, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Nick, great write-up. I’d like to comment on each individual comparison, offering my thoughts along the way.

    Deep Impact/Armageddon (1998)
    I am almost certain that Deep Impact was rushed into post-production to be released in the early summer (I think it was the first summer weekend movie of 1998). And I agree with you that it is much better than Armageddon, but not as remembered as Armageddon.

    Dante’s Peak/Volcano (1997)
    I actually saw both of these on pay-per-view because my dad was still a cable repair man and we got free movies on ppv all the time. Neither of them are very good, but I enjoyed Volcano a bit more. There are a few great scenes in that movie, like when the guy jumped into the lava to save someone’s life. That scene kinda stuck with me because of how terrifying it was (and in a PG-13 movie too!). Dante’s Peak I remember being somewhat terrible, but at least entertaining. I thought Brosnan was lousy in it too. At least Tommy Lee Jones was ok in Volcano. And yes, both flopped (and pretty hard). I remember a lot of hype around Volcano specifically. I think it opened a few weeks before The Lost World.

    The Losers/A-Team/RED/Expendables (2010)
    The only one in this bunch I don’t care for is The Expendables, which we’ve talked about ad nauseum already. I really like The A-Team. I hated it at first, but it was because I went into it with the wrong mindset. I gave it a second shot and now I fucking love it. In fact, it may be the most purely entertaining movie of 2010. It’s a shame it fizzled at the box office, because what I’ve read about the proposed sequel sounded really cool, and I thought the cast had amazing chemistry. The Losers was another box office dud, but I actually enjoyed it a ton. It suffers from Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s lack of charisma, but it’s a fun little movie. I took Sandra to see this on our second date too, so that’s pretty cool.

    The Prestige/The Illusionist (2006)
    I’ve never seen The Illusionist, but I quite like The Prestige, sci-fi plot twist and all. Really surprised the whole steam-punk subculture never jumped on this film. Seems ripe for that territory.

    Antz/A Bug’s Life (1998)
    Never saw Antz and only saw A Bug’s Life once, and didn’t really care for it even then. To me Pixar’s hot streak began with Toy Story 2, which is an almost flawless movie. Seems like it may have ended with Cars 2 fwiw.

    A few other examples that didn’t make your list:

    Paul Blart: Mall Cop/Observe and Report (one of the most underrated movies of the ’00s).
    Saving Private Ryan/The Thin Red Line

    • CultureCast-N March 30, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      Oh, I completely forgot about the mall cop flicks. I actually considered SPR/TTRL, but I felt they came out far apart to really be considered same-time releases. Plus, rescue war movies are kinda a dime a dozen. I also forgot Kick-Ass/Super. Then, like-movies come out more often than I think anyone realizes.

      You should check out “The Illusionist”. I somewhat refused to see it for quite some time (mostly because I’m not much of an Ed Norton fan). I “inherited” the movie from my mom (who loved it and was pushing me to see it), and I was wonderfully surprised. I’d argue it is a stronger movie than “The Prestige”.

      • CultureCast-Z March 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm

        Saving Private Ryan came out in June 1998 and Thin Red Line came out in December 1998 so I really think it does qualify. There were all kinds of arguments about which was the better film at the time, though history has obviously favored Ryan. I still like The Thin Red Line a lot, and actually consider it one of the most beautifully shot films of all time.

  2. Señor Spielbergo November 25, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    I’ve put together a new podcast that talks about just these films, starting with Volcano/Deep Impact! Our website is http://www.doppelfeature.com and on iTunes it’s https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/doppel-feature-movie-vs.-movie/id570591802

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