Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Versus #1: "The Time Traveler's Tumble In Toon Town" Doc Brown Vs. Judge Doom

I've reviewed a couple of Vs. movies lately, and it inspired me to introduce a new segment that I've been planning to do for a while now. It's called Versus (naturally) and the idea is a twist on the old comic book arguments about who would win between this or that superhero if they ever got into a fight, but focused instead on classic (or sometimes not so classic) cinematic characters, specifically those played by the same actor. Basically, we take two characters from two different films that were played by the same person, and have some sort of similarity or thematic link that would make a fight between them interesting, posit a scenario in which their two worlds might crossover, and then hash out the details to figure out who would come out on top in a fight to the death.

First up, something I sort of inadvertently alluded to in another post, and the match up that made me want to do this in the first place, a face-off between two seminal fixtures of my childhood that each inspired me in their own way, one to dream of what might be, and the other to fear members of the judicial system, both played by oddball character actor Christopher Lloyd. That's right, it's -
Back To The Future's Doctor Emmett Brown 
Who Framed Roger Rabbit's Judge Doom

Okay, here goes. As always, the first step in this process is to figure out just how these two combatants' lives might intersect. Typically, this involves attempting to justify both of these characters existing in the same universe, or failing that, how one might travel to an alternate universe where the other exists. Given the massive disparity between their two worlds, the second option obviously makes more sense in this case, especially considering that one of our characters, being the owner of a time traveling Steampunk train, is naturally going to be somewhat nomadic. So, I think we have to have Doc Brown traveling to Toon Town.

Now, another wrinkle in this game is determining when in the respective timelines of these two characters this battle takes place. Naturally, since Doc Brown survives the Back to the Future series, there's no reason not to treat this as his continuing adventures (assuming the cartoon series to be non-canonical), however Judge Doom is another story. Since Doom dies at the end of his movie (and the graphic novel in which he is resurrected is not being considered here), ordinarily we would have to assume that this took place before the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That being said, once again the presence of time travel provides us a special circumstance to play around a little. For the purposes of this series, we always assume that once the battle commences, the proceedings are in essence a divergent timeline where either character can potentially live or die, whether they did in their prospective movies or not, regardless of whether time travel is involved.

So here's the set up as I see it: Doc Brown is experimenting with the creation of divergent timelines, essentially trying to devise a means of traveling in time without altering history by simply bouncing from one alternate reality to the other. His first test sends him to Hollywood, 1947, but something goes terribly wrong. His new reality warping engine tears a hole right through the space time continuum and completely fucks over the laws of physics, resulting in not just the creation of another timeline, but one in which fictional characters are given form and live among humans. In effect, his meddling creates the world in which Toon Town is able to co-exist with 1940's America. His arrival in a world now merged between live-action and cartoon is unintentionally public, appearing on the tracks of San Francisco in a grand flourish that re-ignites the city's passion for commuter rail travel, and summons the unwanted attention of the sinister Judge Doom!

Okay, so we got the face off set, now we have to figure out their relative strengths and weaknesses. On Doc Brown's side, obviously we have the Time Train, though for the purposes of this bout I would have to assume it is unable to travel considering we have to keep him in one place for the fight. Still, I always imagined that train as something similar to the TARDIS, bigger on the inside with compartments that extend on into infinity, which could prove to be an advantageous setting for him should he be able to lure Judge Doom onto it. Also, even apart from the vehicle he came in, Doc Brown is a super genius and a bit of a mad scientist who, if the garbage powered time car is any indication, is quite good at improvising solutions based on the technology available around him. Imagine what he could do with technology derived from cartoon logic. Granted it might take him a bit longer to get used to the altered physical laws, but if anyone is crazy enough to make it work, it's Doc motherfucking Brown.

Now Judge Doom on the other hand, while not quite a genius on par with his opponent, is cruelly intelligent, and is in effect a living cartoon, which gives him only one weakness, The Dip. For fairness sake, let's assume that this takes place at a time when he has already invented the solution, though even then, Doc Brown would have to learn of this or develop it independently before being able to use it to his advantage. Additionally, being a cartoon allows for an almost limitless offensive potential, especially if one is evil enough to use it creatively, which Doom certainly is. Beyond his own physical prowess, Judge Doom has also established a network of villainous toons, as seen in the weasel gang, available to come to his aid, and we have no way of knowing just how extensive this network is for him to draw from for assistance.

So, who do I think would come out on top? Well, that depends. At least in the beginning, Doom will have home field advantage, and he'll have the added benefit of being indestructible until (or unless) Doc Brown is able to figure out his weakness. Doom's cadre of cartoon henchmen allow him to fight without even revealing his true nature at first, though I imagine it will come out eventually as it did in the film. That being said, if Doc Brown can get Doom onto his Time Train, which would no doubt be his primary goal, that advantage switches over to him, and even if he can't stop Doom via the Dip, there's always the possibility that he's amassed something in his various travels that could prove an adequate substitute. A cartoon character may be functionally immortal, but that means nothing if you can trap him in the void between time, endlessly spinning out into perpetual nothingness, and we have to assume Doc Brown has the means to do this.

One assumption I've been making is that Doc Brown's Wild West family stayed home for this trip, so as not to come to any risk should the experiment fail. If that is the case, I ultimately think Doc Brown has the edge. If however this is not the case and the family decided to use this as a vacation to 1940's Hollywood, than I think that just might tip the scales in Doom's favor, as it gives him a whole group of potential hostages. I see Brown's children lured away by Doom in cartoon form, capturing the unsuspecting kids and using them as bait to bring Doc Brown out on his terms. This, to me, seems to be the deciding factor, and the plausibility of the Brown family's involvement in these events is what I'm saying the final outcome hinges on. On the one hand, they may not have a house they've settled into in one particular time and may live on the train. On the other, it seems irresponsible for Brown to risk his family on trips like this. Still, considering his many travels with young Marty McFly, it technically isn't out of character, so I have to lean towards the family being present, which gives the edge to Judge Doom for the win.

Think I'm an idiot? Well, let me know in the comments if you think I got this one wrong, and feel free to suggest more epic battles of cinematic supremacy as well. Remember, the rule is that the two characters must have been portrayed by the same actor. Other than that, the sky's the limit.

Until next time.
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