25 years ago, Hollywood's first Identical Blockbuster Movie Death Match arrived 5 months ago

25 years ago, Hollywood's first Identical Blockbuster Movie Death Match arrived

There could be only one winner. Or, in this case, two losers.

Through the years, there have been many Hollywood head-to-head cinematic battles, where two practically identical movies are released with a few weeks or months of each other.

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But truly, only one of them can be victorious.

2014 gave us Hercules (with The Rock) and The Legend of Hercules (with Kellan Lutz).

2013 gave us Olympus Has Fallen (with Gerard Butler) and White House Down (with Channing Tatum).

2011 gave us No Strings Attached (with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher) and Friends With Benefits (with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake).

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2006 gave us The Prestige (with Christian Bale) and The Illusionist (with Edward Norton).

2000 gave us Mission To Mars (with Tim Robbins) and Red Planet (with Val Kilmer).

1999 gave us Entrapment (with Sean Connery) and The Thomas Crown Affair (with Pierce Brosnan).

1998 gave us Armageddon (with Bruce Willis) and Deep Impact (with Robert Duvall), AND Saving Private Ryan (with Tom Hanks) and The Thin Red Line (with, well, everybody), AND A Bug's Life (with Dave Foley) and Antz (with Woody Allen).

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But, arguably the first year when movie-goers had to choose between two practically identical Hollywood movies was 25 years ago, when Dante's Peak arrived in cinemas on 7 February, 1997.

Pierce Brosnan was hot off his first outing as Bond in GoldenEye two years earlier, replacing the originally cast Michael Douglas in the leading role of a volcanologist who is convinced an eruption is imminent nearby a picturesque town in Washington.

Linda Hamilton plays the town's mayor (and also the local coffee shop barista) who believes him, but doesn't want to spook the locals without actual proof.

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But wouldn't you know it, the volcanologist is right, yet nobody believes his warnings until it's too late. Chaos ensues.

Behind the scenes, the movie comes from a director of some-very-decent-but-kind-of-all-over-the-place genre movies (No Way Out, Cocktail, Species, Thirteen Days, The Recruit), and a writer who had just come off the back of hit disaster movie Daylight a year earlier.

It turned out that Dante's Peak was an absolutely bang average disaster movie.

Critics hated it at the time (26% on Rotten Tomatoes), and audiences didn't flock to see it either – $178 million globally against a shockingly high $110 million production budget.

One thing it did apparently get mostly right, according to the US Geological Survey, is the science, as they stated at the time that "in many but not all respects, the movie's depiction of eruptive hazards hits close to the mark".

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That is not something that could be levelled at Volcano, a movie that arrived in cinemas two months later, on 25 April 1997.

In this one, Tommy Lee Jones is the director of the Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management, and he's informed by Anne Heche's geologist that a volcano is brewing under the La Brea Tar Pits.

Wouldn't you know it? He doesn't believe her until it's too late. Chaos ensues.

This one was born from a director of some very varied output (L.A. Story, The Bodyguard, Clean Slate) and a writer who would go on to much better things (Captain Phillips, State of Play) and some not-so-good things (Flightplan, Gemini Man).

Volcano was a bad, BAD movie, but it seemed to almost be aware it was a bad movie, which (A) actually made it more fun to watch, and (B) is probably why the critics went easier on it, landing with 49% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Commercially, it didn't do as well as Dante's Peak, but it also didn't cost as much – $123 million worldwide from a $90 million budget.

Normally, when these head-to-head situations occur, there is a clear winner. But in this case, you'd be hard pressed to find an obvious victor.

Except maybe for the people who wanted to see a really good disaster movie in the cinema during 1997. They'd have to wait for the two asteroid movies to arrive the following year...

Should you want to, Dante's Peak is available to rent on Apple TV, Google Play and Sky Store, and Volcano is available to stream on Disney+.

Clips via xCrink2 and MacPhoenix82