Unlike past Battle Bracket contests, this year's Clash of Characters (vote now) didn't begin with seeded contestants — Military Times staffers and outside movie experts chose the field, and early matchups were based on character types and designed to pique audience interest.

For example, a first-round contest pitted Capts. Kirk and Picard against one another to find out the greatest military man ever to helm the USS Enterprise. Kirk won, although the real answer is probably this person. 

So with no seeds, there can be no favorites. At least not officially.

That said, two competitors have stood apart from the rest of the field throughout our search for the greatest fictional on-screen military character ever, and early results in our semifinal round haven't bucked that trend for a second.

Gunnery Sgt. Hartman ("Full Metal Jacket") and Capt. John Miller ("Saving Private Ryan") have opened big leads over Benjamin Martin ("The Patriot") and Darth Vader, respectively, as the semifinals reach the halfway point. Larger comebacks have taken place in our brackets in past years, but Mel Gibson's colonial warrior and the Star Wars saga's man in black each need late surge to avoid a ticket home.

Voting ends Friday at 3 p.m. Eastern. If you've already cast your ballot, head to social media and use the hashtag #BattleBracket to campaign for your semifinal favorite. 

Voting for the Clash of Characters final round will begin immediately after the semifinals wrap up and will be decided early next week. 

Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.

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