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Face-Off: Peter Jackson vs. Guillermo Del Toro

12.13.2012by: Paul Huffman
For last weeks Face-Off, we dedicate match to the Christopher Reeve era of Superman in a match between Richard Donner's first classic and its sequel. Though the sequel took the verdict, our readers stayed loyal to the original film. As I stated I loved both films and they'll always hold their special place.

This week, we're shining the spotlight on two legendary directors who are attached to some projects getting a whole hell of a lot of coverage these days. The fact that the trailer for Pacific Rim has officially hit the scene is just icing on the cake. Jackson and Del Toro have created their own distinct styles in the films they choose to make, and have even had their names attached to the same projects. Both these gentlemen have an impressive resume, but which is more impressive? Let's talk!
Early Years
I'm gonna focus on two classics that came from Jackson in his early career, as well as for Del Toro. The Jackson classics I speak of are so named Braindead otherwise known as Dead Alive, and Heavenly Creatures. It's hard not to love the bizarre, vulgar, gory, over-the-top comedic horror that Braindead presented us with. I saw the film for the first time a year ago and there are scenes in that bad boy that are unlikely to leave me anytime soon. Then came the stylish Heavenly Creatures featuring the always lovely Kate Winslet and an actress I've always adored in Melanie Lynskey. Loved the performances in the latter film the relationship between the girls was captivating and I loved the fantasy scenes. Two great outings for Peter Jackson's early days.
The two films I'd like to show some love too on Del Toro's side of things are two of his early horror films. The classic and well received Cronos and a film that Del Toro was unsatisfied with but I loved in Mimic. Cronos marked Guillermo's first collaboration with Ron Perlman and Federico Luppi. Long story short, if more vampire films were presented in such a way these days cinema would be in better shape. Guillermo continued his fetish for creatures that rule the night with Mimic, and it's one of the pleasures for me and a few family members and we watch it every October. So thanks for the memories Del Toro, you have a knack for your own vibe of horror and we love you for it.
2000s
In 2001, Peter Jackson took his first journey into middle earth with the first film in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. The trilogy was completed in 2003 with the final installment Return of The King sweeping three Academy awards including Best Picture. This series of films, while not appreciated by all, are cherished by many...whether you like the films or not, it's hard to ignore the level of ace filmmaking that went into these bad boys. The other big contenders in this decade for Jackson was a remake of King Kong, which I have to say was magical and often touching. In 2009 came the somber adaption of the novel The Lovely Bones, a win in my eyes for the films visual style and the performances from its cast, especially Stanley Tucci. When it comes down to it, Jackson has to get some love in this particular category for the LOTR trilogy alone.
The Devil's Backbone. Blade II. Hellboy & Hellboy II. Pan's Labyrinth. The Orphanage.

Guillermo has no Lord of The Rings trilogy to his name, but all the aforementioned films are classics in their own rights in my opinion. Hellboy and its sequel are well liked comic book adaptions and many fans believe a third film is warranted, get on it man! The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth, and the Orphanage are works of art...especially Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro has a wonderful talent for creature design, and it shined in a few of these films. As I said previously, Del Toro held his own against the resume Jackson made for himself throughout the decade.
Pick Your Genre
As mentioned earlier, Jackson's first few films were gems of the slapstick humor horror variety. From there Jackson has dabbled in straight up drama and has since dedicated a shitload of his career to fantasy/action. I cherish Jackson's loyalty to the fantasy genre because apart from the Rings and now Hobbit trilogy and a few select other films, it is sort of a dying drama like that of the western. All the elements and tones that makes a great fantasy is what made the Rings trilogy so loved by many.
Early in his career, Guillermo was going the route of a classic horror director...the man was producing some good horror flicks throughout the years. From then on Del Toro became the king of fantasy, with even more material to work with then the Rings trilogy. He has dabbled in the comic book film with the awesome Hellboy films, and strictly action with the upcoming Pacific Rim. As far as variety and the tone of the work these guys have put out, I have to give the edge to Guillermo here. The man feels like he has a distinct style.
Overall
Peter Jackson has evolved throughout his career, he has done what a lot can't say they've accomplished in churning out several classics without sticking within a distinct genre. I love his early films and will be as quick to re watch them as I would any of the Lord of the Rings films. People have their opinions on him stretching one book into another trilogy, but its a testament to Peter Jackson's talent and body of work that I have complete faith that when all is said and done we will not be let down. He puts passion into everything he does and it shows, whether you appreciate the material or not. Now that the Hobbit films are churned out, I can't wait to see what else he can turn into gold.
Aside from Blade II and the Hellboy films, to the casual moviegoer a lot of Del Toro's films have flew under the radar. I've loved about every film of Guillermo's that I've seen. Pan's Labyrinth is among my favorite films, and his horror films are some of the best out there. I love the dark worlds he created and the practical creature designs he's come to be known for. Not only does he have an impressive as hell resume, but he's co-written films for a franchise I've been praising Peter Jackson so much for. You trust Del Toro to make a quality film, you know that passion I attributed to Jackson? Yeah, Del Toro is another one who has that fire in his belly. I love the man for loving his art.
Peter Jackson
So there it is folks, Peter Jackson has not only given us one of the most legendary trilogies in the history of film, but his earlier resume is just as impressive for different reasons. When Peter tackles something, no matter what the material is, he shoots for the moon. Del Toro is an amazing director who I can't remember ever disappointing me...but if either of these men are going to come close to being immortal...it's Peter Jackson. But where do you stand? If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

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