Friday, November 28, 2014

Fight Friday: Who Would Win?

Who would win in a fight, Batman or Darth Vader?  Chuck Norris.  "Who would win in a fight?" has long been a question sought to be answered by popular entertainment.  In the 90's nary an interview with Jean-Claude Van Damme would be missing the query, who would win in a fight between you and say Steven Seagal or Mike Tyson?  Hypothetical match ups like those are the excited small talk of school yard children and 40 year old businessmen alike.  The original UFC pitted fighters from various disciplines against one another to see which style reigned supreme.  Dark Horse Comics licensed sci-fi movie staples Aliens and Predator in the early 90's, producing several well received comic runs and eventually studio Fox released two films in the early 2000's.  A 1996 mini-series crossed the Marvel and DC universes where Captain America fell to Batman, Superman bested The Hulk, etc.  In 2003 Stan Winston studio veteran Sandy Collora forever changed the fan film when his Batman: Dead End featured the title character, nemesis The Joker then inexplicably an Alien and Predators locked in rain soaked, dark alley combat. 

Cut to 2014 where the fan film has gone professional thanks to advances in technology and distribution.  Collara himself was already a seasoned pro in the world of special effects and intended for Dead End to become a calling card for directing features.  Even with the fan approval of Dead End and it's follow up, World's Finest, which saw Batman take on Superman, Collara has yet to direct a mainstream film.  Collara did lay down the groundwork for others though.  Music video and feature director Kevin Tancharoen's $7,000 self funded Mortal Kombat: Legacy was picked up by Warner Brothers and given two seasons online.  Martial artist, stunt man and Street Fighter aficionado Joey Ansah co-wrote, directed, produced and starred in 2010's fan film Legacy which led to securing the rights from Capcom for a web series.  Said web series debuted and was reedited into a feature recently released on home video with a follow up is in the works.  Then there was the curious case of The Punisher: Dirty Laundry, an unsanctioned fan film featuring Thomas Jane in a vague sequel to the 2004 Marvel movie he starred in.  Accomplished  movie and music video director and former Steven Spielberg protege Phil Joanou helmed and again, an experienced crew was behind the scenes.  More of a way to say goodbye to the role after departing the lackluster sequel, Jane proved he was a true fan of the character while gaining some internet heat and rejuvenating Joanou's career.  The two recently teamed up on a feature for low budget genre maestro Jason Blum for a yet to be released thriller.

Today I just caught wind of a new kind of "who would win?" format that harnesses all the powers of comic conventions, fan films and YouTube: Super Power Beat Down.  The brainchild of father-son team Aaron and Sean Schoenke, SPBD asks audiences to pick who would win in a fight between two pop culture icons. Once the votes are tallied, the team goes to work writing and producing a short film where characters from various universes of movies, video games and comic books collide.  They've produced 14 episodes so far with the likes of Captain America VS Master Chief, Casey Jones VS Kick-Ass, Wolverine VS Predator and the latest, Batman VS Darth Vader.  It's an interesting package as we start in a comic shop where passionate fans discuss the match up followed by footage shot on location at various comic conventions where attendees and celebrities alike offer their opinions.  Then it's show time and we get handsomely produced but still very fan film feeling fight scenes.  Cap and Master Chief face off in a rocky and dusty canyon, Casey Jones gets dropped off by an awkwardly costumed Michelangelo in a funny bit before facing Kick-Ass under a bridge by the train tracks, Wolvie and the Predator throw down in the woods and in a creek then Batman attempts to rescue Superman but runs into Darth Vader on the Death Star.

The latest episode is by far the most polished of the half dozen I skimmed through today.  The ambition is immense as Batman jets to the Death Star, we get Storm Troopers, officials and of course a knockdown brawl utilizing The Force, Batman trinkets, explosions and frigging light sabers.  In this day and age of cosplay and replicas, the outfits for Bats and Vader were pretty impressive yet functional.  All of the episodes suffer slightly from stiff or forced acting from stunt men types but deliver pretty well choreographed scraps with each episode having a clear winner, usually by way of violent death.  It will be interesting to see where the Schoenke's go from here as their backgrounds are more in the fan film world versus professionals looking to branch out.  Until then, I'm putting my money on Ryu, Green Ranger is going down!

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