Some movies fall from the same money tree, for better or for worse…
Sometimes the business of making movies can be a terribly derivative one.
Call it hedging their bets, call it a coincidence or call it plain cheating: over the years we’ve often been ‘treated’ to two movies in the space of a year that either cover the same contextual ground or are even based on the exact same intellectual property.
Now, whilst the box office potentials of these films are evidently going to be effected by each other, there’s nothing stopping both films being well received on their own merits. For example, Antz and A Bug’s Life, two films released in 1998, both concerning a plucky ant’s journey away from his colony with the purpose of seeking a sense of individuality, were both critically acclaimed. However, sometimes there is clearly just one outright winner in both commercial and critical terms:
Here are three examples of movie twins that couldn’t be any more different from one another, in terms of straight up quality:
Lincoln  vs. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 
In 2012, the popcorn munching masses of the cinemas were offered two very different representations of one of the most iconic American historical figures, from two directors who only shared one similarity in their vision: seriousness. It’s easy to forgive Steven Spielberg for the seriousness of his epic historical drama.
In the main role of Abraham Lincoln, he cast Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the most revered actors of our time, who only emerges every few years or so to uniformally stun audiences. The Tony Kushner-penned screenplay was based on the Pulitzer Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on Lincoln and his cabinet of rivals that he united to steer young America through the Civil War. It was considered a success, both commercially and critically, in addition it was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including the Best Actor accolade, which Day-Lewis took home.
On the other-hand we have Timur Bekmambetov’s effort, released 5 months earlier at the start of the summer box-office season. His adaptation, based on the Historical-mashup of novel of the same name, portrayed Lincoln in a similar serious light to Spielberg’s, with one major difference – this Lincoln moonlighted as a vampire hunter. Although the Russian-Kazakh director had found success with similar genre fare before, in the shape of 2008’s comic-book adaptation Wanted, he failed to inject his movie with any kind of levity – preferring to revere his fictionalised version of Lincoln rather than poke fun at the evident outlandishness of his situation.
The film not only bombed at the box-office, failing to recoup it’s marketing and production costs, but it was also savaged by critics. As admirable as his impression of the great man was, Benjamin Walker did not pick up any nominations for his performance and has struggled to rebuild his career since…
Chef  vs. Burnt 
Released just over a year apart from each other, both Chef and Burnt feature cooking professionals with anger issues who go about seeking redemption in very different ways. In Jon Favreau’s Chef, questionably named Carl Casper attempts to revive his ruined career by cooking with his heart and reconnecting with his family. This good-natured giant, played by the writer-director with grumpy but genial charm, sets out on the road in a food truck with his estranged son and best friend, discovering why he loved cooking to start with. What follows is a heart-warming comedy-drama that treats the senses to what can only be described as ‘food porn’.
On the other hand we have Bradley Cooper’s Adam Jones (more realistic but edging on the dull) who sentences himself to cooking a million oysters in a New Orleans bar after blowing his own career in Paris a year before.
Several industrial extractor fans would be needed to suck out the hot air from this self-indulged cook. Adam might feel like he’s served his time, but his destructive behaviour does not end with his self-imposed exile. Soon he’s back in London, ruining his friends’ careers and blowing his lid all over again. Cooper performs well, but when a character is this much of an ass, it’s really hard to care if he wins his third Michelin Star or not.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  vs. Captain America: Civil War 
In 2016, two movies were released, pitting some of the biggest names in comic book history against each other. If we were to judge these films on the merits of expectations alone, it’s safe to say that Zack Snyder’s BvS (that title is just too long to repeat) had the edge over the Russo Brother’s third instalment of the Cap franchise. When people think of superheroes, Superman and Batman are usually the first on their mind. In theory, the collision of these two heroes, a vision never before brought to the big screen, should have been a home run, but somehow Snyder found a way of turning this titanic idea into a gargantuan flop.
Dead on arrival, a huge opening led to a record-breaking drop in the second week and, thanks to poor word of mouth, the $300m production slowly limped past $870m after 12 weeks in cinemas. Meanwhile, Civil War, dealing with the moral and physical battle between the entire cast of the Marvel Universe, fared a lot better, both critically and commercially. Made for $50m less, the Marvel Studios movie made well over $1.1bn in 20 strong weeks of business.
The defining difference between these productions was in the tone of the final products. Although both movies dealt with serious issues (at least for comic book flicks), Civil War maintained a rollicking sense of fun, whereas BvS became quickly bogged down in weighty dialogue and overly-dramatic musical cues. If it weren’t for the surprise success of DC’s Wonder Woman this year, I’d be declaring the DCEU dead in the water, but the release of Justice League will be the real test of the franchise’s chances.