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Face-Off: Independence Day vs. War of the Worlds

Feb. 21, 2013by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face-Off, we put together an action filmed match up between the Die Hard franchise and the Lethal Weapon franchise. While I awarded the final verdict to the Die Hard franchise, our readers understandably showed an ample amount of love to the Lethal Weapon franchise, whether I would have went the same way after seeing A Good Day to Die Hard I am still debating inside my head.

This week, with the upcoming releae of Dark Skies (a film I'm actually quite interested in) on the horizon we've decided on an alien theme with what is to me the second best of Roland Emmerich's films in Independence Day vs. Steven Spielberg's serviceable job tackling the classic War of the Worlds. While neither have the seemingly more subdued nature of a film like Dark Skies, both are suspense filled alien-centric joy rides that I and a lot of other people had a blast with. But which did you have more fun with? Let's discuss!
Cast
Behold, one of the films that helped launch the living hell out of Will Smith's film career. Here he played primary that comic relief that succeeds in more than annoying the hell out of you the whole time, and made himself a believable badass that could take out these aliens. Jeff Goldblum is at his Jeff Goldblum best and Bill Pullman has remained one of the best on screen American Presidents ever. The whole cast had great chemistry together and this element is one of the things that kept me from being fully invested in future Emmerich disaster films, the absence of cast and characters that meshed so well together. Get Smith and Goldblum in another movie together, if not a sequel to this.
Two actors carried this film beautifully, Tom Cruise and a way younger Dakota Fanning. Cruise came and did what he did best and sold the desperation to survive the hellish scenario they found themselves in, while being an emotional wreck in having to find a way to gain a middle ground with his children, who weren't giving him a snowballs chance in hell. Later on, another great actor in Tim Robbins came in and gave a truly menacing performance as a nutcase survivalist who well...ultimately didn't see eye to eye with our hero. Cruise and Fanning were a great team and complimented each other well, which was crucial in a film that ended up having this small of a central cast.
Aliens
Different approaches to the menace here folks, and to me the grand entrance those numerous ships (which were amazing) made and the countdown that kept us insects of a human race in suspense for a while before the attacks was a more effective way to go. They proved to be way more menacing as well, what with the shields on the ship (and the lengths the humans had to go to to take care of it), the always dreadful Area 51 alien verbal communication scene, the aliens not being slouches in aerial warfare. Took a damn nuclear weapon straight up their asses to ultimately do away with the lot, that's a far cry from bacteria I must say. Peace...no peace.
Now while both films alien visitors had the element of surprise in their own way, these bastards had it even more so. When the tripods emerged they didn't just stand there for a while so we could admire their design, they got straight down to the disintegration business and we scurried like cockroaches. Not to mention the rapture-like horn blaring that emanated from the tripods and their funny little habit of harvesting human blood and tissue. They went along causing devastation for a good long while, but death from natural causes didn't lead to a conclusion as cinematically satisfying as that of Independence Day, but they were menacing and a formidable force indeed.
Soundtrack
David Arnold actually held his own in his legendary opponent for this match up, with great tracks that portrayed devastation, despair, destruction, triumph, and tragedy. Great musical moments as the ship is gearing up to attack and the result, the emotional demise of the first lady, and the victory track after Will and Goldblum disposed of the threat as the walked triumphantly to their adoring wives. Also, who could forget Arnold's patriotic work that complimented so nicely the President's memorable Independence Day speech? Yes, David Arnold provided us with another element that allowed us to be invested in this film...bravo sir.
I have to be careful not to let myself get carried away with John Williams praise because next thing I know I'll carry on the subject of him into the next category. Williams didn't let Spielberg down with his work on War of the Worlds I'll tell you that much, with a score that was more unsettling than that of Independence Day. Despite the destruction going on in Independence Day, there was a fun tone to the film via the comedic relief...none of that was present here, and that was reinforced through Williams' score. Nothing more so than the subtle cue when young Fanning sees those bodies floating in the water, that bit alone earns Williams the victory in this particular battle.
Effects
This film ultimately ended up requiring about 3,000 special effects for what needed to be done. While some computer generated effects were use, most of the production consisted of the old-school method of using miniatures. Buildings, city streets, aircraft, landmarks, and monuments were created. The alien ships were also among what the team built, including a 12 foot version of the mother ship. Production designer Patrick Tatopoulos designed the films kick ass aliens, building 8 foot suits packed with 25 tentacles. This blend of CGI and practical effects ends up looking great, still works, and should be used for more films in the future. Hopefully if Emmerich throws together a sequel, he uses the same approach.
War of the Worlds was another film that blended CGI effects with that of practical effects. The tripods were designed by ILM to resemble aquatic life forms, namely jellyfish. Plenty of CGI and practical blends occured including live action "dust" mixed with the CGI ray assimilation . As well as the digital birds that had a tendency to hover around the tripods. The use of great lighting came in during the scene in which Ray's family is attacked in the minivan...Coleman lamps, oil lanterns, flashlights, and Maglights were among those used. Reportedly the hardest scene for ILM to construct was the Bayonne Bridge sequence that required the most blend of CGI and live action elements, the film required a total of 500 CGI effects. It all definitely looked beautiful.
Overall
Independence Day takes the cake for me on the re-watchability factor due to it mastering many elements that make it entertaining. The cast and the characters they portray, the comedic moments, the terrifying moments, the emotion, the patriotism...it's just an all around great fun time. We get two great central actors in Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum who are all the charisma you need, and of course effective extra terrestrial villains that make you damn near sh*t your pants on more than one occasion. It's ridiculous, it's over the top, it's fun, it's entertainment. The visualization of that ship emerging from the smoke, and the calm before the attack are cinematic shot that will stick with me forever. Give us a sequel.
I liked War of the Worlds fine the first time I saw it, but it's a film I grow more fond of with each viewing. Spielberg knocked it out of the park once again with this if you ask me. The gut wrenching performances from the liked of Cruise, Fanning, and Robbins. The unbelievable menace of the tripods (up until their goofy demise) and the terrific score once again from John Williams. We get a different breed of storytelling here that I'm in the mood to watch on certain days, dreary and dreadful with a sense of hopelessness. It was an impressive job from all involved, and while not my favorite Spielberg or alien themed film, it holds it's own and I believe H.G Wells may have been a proud papa.
Independence Day
So there you have it folks, two very entertaining alien films of a very different ilk. Independence Day to me is the DVD I'd reach for if you put these two movies in front of me. It has all the elements that made War of the Worlds as good as it was with some lightheartedness sprinkled in here and there for the sake of variety. But I know never to count on the appeal of War of the Worlds to some viewers so now is that time to let us know your thoughts on the matter. Strike back below.

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...

Which alien film is your favorite?
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12:36AM on 02/22/2013

You forgot a category...

In the category of totally overt -the-top bullshit McGuffins...
WARNING SPOILERS...WARING SPOILERS...
ID4: They make it out of the mother ship.
WOW: Oldest kid runs over the hill, the entire hill line explodes in a fiery mash of flames, smoke, and smoldering bodies. Oldest kid beats Dad and sis to there Aunts house without so much as a singed eyebrow.
Bull Corn award goes to WOW!!!
In the category of totally overt -the-top bullshit McGuffins...
WARNING SPOILERS...WARING SPOILERS...
ID4: They make it out of the mother ship.
WOW: Oldest kid runs over the hill, the entire hill line explodes in a fiery mash of flames, smoke, and smoldering bodies. Oldest kid beats Dad and sis to there Aunts house without so much as a singed eyebrow.
Bull Corn award goes to WOW!!!
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7:14PM on 02/21/2013

No Contest

I hate these Vs. columns where a classic goes up against something more wishy washy. It's obvious that ID4 would win against War of the Worlds. I don't know a lot of people who hated ID4. I know a ton who've hated War of the Worlds. I enjoyed both. You should compare those films that are super similar, like A Bug's Life and Antz, Observe & Report and Paul Blart, Cop Out and the Other Guys. Maybe you have?
I hate these Vs. columns where a classic goes up against something more wishy washy. It's obvious that ID4 would win against War of the Worlds. I don't know a lot of people who hated ID4. I know a ton who've hated War of the Worlds. I enjoyed both. You should compare those films that are super similar, like A Bug's Life and Antz, Observe & Report and Paul Blart, Cop Out and the Other Guys. Maybe you have?
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-14
1:10PM on 02/21/2013

War of the Worlds

I thought Independence Day was dumb, even when I was a youngin' watching it in theaters for the first time. That first huge sequence of the aliens erupting from the street in War of the Worlds is better than anything in ID4.
I thought Independence Day was dumb, even when I was a youngin' watching it in theaters for the first time. That first huge sequence of the aliens erupting from the street in War of the Worlds is better than anything in ID4.
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12:12PM on 02/22/2013
Agreed. When ID4 came out I thought it was an over rated piece of garbage that was, by accident, left in the movie movie studio. I re-watched it recently because I thought perhaps I never really gave it a chance. Everyone talks about how great it is and nope. Still is boring, typical, and a waste of time. While the Tom Cruise War of the Worlds isn't great, it's really entertaining. It's still a fun movie to watch and a lot of really cool ideas in it. I do wish they would make a movie like the
Agreed. When ID4 came out I thought it was an over rated piece of garbage that was, by accident, left in the movie movie studio. I re-watched it recently because I thought perhaps I never really gave it a chance. Everyone talks about how great it is and nope. Still is boring, typical, and a waste of time. While the Tom Cruise War of the Worlds isn't great, it's really entertaining. It's still a fun movie to watch and a lot of really cool ideas in it. I do wish they would make a movie like the book though. I mean actually set in the time era of the book and just like the book. War of the Worlds book is an incredible piece of literature.
12:21PM on 02/21/2013

War of the World's Ending

Honestly I didn't mind the ending to that movie at all. I've read the book, and although the movie is pretty much completely different from it, the gist of the ending is basically the same. While I can't say it's so earth-shattering unique, it's just so different from any other alien disaster movies out there. Independence Day is a classic, so it easily gets the win here. But War of the Worlds is more modern, great action and acting, and smart directing by Spielberg.
Honestly I didn't mind the ending to that movie at all. I've read the book, and although the movie is pretty much completely different from it, the gist of the ending is basically the same. While I can't say it's so earth-shattering unique, it's just so different from any other alien disaster movies out there. Independence Day is a classic, so it easily gets the win here. But War of the Worlds is more modern, great action and acting, and smart directing by Spielberg.
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11:18AM on 02/21/2013

Both are wonderful

But independence day is a huge part of my childhood. I remember having a blast in theaters when i saw it for the first time. And President Whitmore's speech is one of the best ever !!
But independence day is a huge part of my childhood. I remember having a blast in theaters when i saw it for the first time. And President Whitmore's speech is one of the best ever !!
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9:14AM on 02/21/2013

ID4

In War Of The Worlds the whole scene where the Aliens first show themselves and Tom Cruise is trying to avoid being killed is rather amazing. The effects are spectacular. People just burnt to ashes. And then he's trying to escape and the whole highway is blasted. It is wow film making. Spielberg genius. That being said, after that it slows down and the more memorable parts of the film are creepy and depressing. Tim Robbins and Dakota Fanning give remarkable performances. But despite all
In War Of The Worlds the whole scene where the Aliens first show themselves and Tom Cruise is trying to avoid being killed is rather amazing. The effects are spectacular. People just burnt to ashes. And then he's trying to escape and the whole highway is blasted. It is wow film making. Spielberg genius. That being said, after that it slows down and the more memorable parts of the film are creepy and depressing. Tim Robbins and Dakota Fanning give remarkable performances. But despite all that, the movie is just too heavy to enjoy it. ID4 is a popcorn summer blockbuster. One could say it is THE ultimate blockbuster. Hollywood has been trying to recapture that ever since, (Transformers franchise, Roland Emmerich's other films, even the Marvel action films).
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9:08AM on 02/21/2013
Independence Day while serious, was more fun. Will Smith managed to make it an adventure, and even Jeff Goldblum helped to bring levity and character to it. It was thrilling. It is an epic good time that holds up with multiple character story lines. War of the Worlds was a very good movie. A very different kind of movie, it was serious and disturbing throughout. Tom Cruise did a great job with it. But it didn't have the layers, it was more of a horror type film, and less an adventure.
Independence Day while serious, was more fun. Will Smith managed to make it an adventure, and even Jeff Goldblum helped to bring levity and character to it. It was thrilling. It is an epic good time that holds up with multiple character story lines. War of the Worlds was a very good movie. A very different kind of movie, it was serious and disturbing throughout. Tom Cruise did a great job with it. But it didn't have the layers, it was more of a horror type film, and less an adventure. I'm going to agree that Independence Day was the better film, but take nothing away from War Of The Worlds, which I consider a great film.
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8:45AM on 02/21/2013

War of the Worlds

I love both, but Independence Day has not aged very well for me. And I find War of the Worlds to be more entertaining and with a better story.
I love both, but Independence Day has not aged very well for me. And I find War of the Worlds to be more entertaining and with a better story.
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8:42AM on 02/21/2013
Depends what you're after. Independence Day is a good laugh, War of the Worlds is more gritty (to the point of being morose). Both are worth a watch.
What bugged me about the War Of The Worlds remake, though, was that Cruise managed to take out one of the Tripods. Yeah it was a creative way of destroying one of them, but it goes against the whole point of WOTW which is that it's viruses that stop the aliens - that mankind's basically helpless against the onslaught and it's the tiniest of
Depends what you're after. Independence Day is a good laugh, War of the Worlds is more gritty (to the point of being morose). Both are worth a watch.
What bugged me about the War Of The Worlds remake, though, was that Cruise managed to take out one of the Tripods. Yeah it was a creative way of destroying one of them, but it goes against the whole point of WOTW which is that it's viruses that stop the aliens - that mankind's basically helpless against the onslaught and it's the tiniest of creatures that save us - not viruses and anyone with a bunch of explosives who can get one of the tripods to swallow them up. Regardless, despite both tackling alien invasion, they're not really that similar as films, so the face-off comes down to which sort of alien invasion do you prefer - explodey-romp with quips or thinly veiled diatribe on man's inhumanity to man (cause let's face it, Spielberg's War of the Worlds is pretty much another holocaust movie in b-movie pants). Independence Day says nothing much, WotW expresses sentiments not often tackled in major blockbusters. In many ways they're chalk and cheese (ID4 being the cheese I guess).
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8:41AM on 02/21/2013
ID4
ID4
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8:34AM on 02/21/2013
ID4 has more charm and while stupid, manages to keep it entertaining with a charming cast.
ID4 has more charm and while stupid, manages to keep it entertaining with a charming cast.
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8:13AM on 02/21/2013
Both movies have their ups and downs but they both also are very different films. On one hand, ID4, while destructive and lots of people die, is still lighthearted overall while WOTW is pretty much survive the alien attacks.
Personally, ID4 has more re-watch potential for me since I probably have seen it a dozen times now, but WOTW, only saw it twice and I don't ever get the whole "Let's watch War of the Worlds" thing happening so...ID4 wins for me. Not saying WOTW is bad, just not my ideal
Both movies have their ups and downs but they both also are very different films. On one hand, ID4, while destructive and lots of people die, is still lighthearted overall while WOTW is pretty much survive the alien attacks.
Personally, ID4 has more re-watch potential for me since I probably have seen it a dozen times now, but WOTW, only saw it twice and I don't ever get the whole "Let's watch War of the Worlds" thing happening so...ID4 wins for me. Not saying WOTW is bad, just not my ideal movie.
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7:49AM on 02/21/2013
I do enjoy WAR OF THE WORLDS but INDEPENDENCE DAY is just an absolute blast.
I do enjoy WAR OF THE WORLDS but INDEPENDENCE DAY is just an absolute blast.
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+5
7:19AM on 02/21/2013

Independance Day

I don't have an elaborated response to this. It was just fucking amazing to see these huge, larger than life ships, first appear over world's largest cities (though I would prefer some more international devastation on screen - Tokyo, London, Beijing, Rio, etc) and then destroying them completely. It was both horrifying and incredible to see.

Also the cast is way better in ID4. Sure, maybe you can point at some stereotypes, but at least they didn't have Justin Chatwin as that annoying
I don't have an elaborated response to this. It was just fucking amazing to see these huge, larger than life ships, first appear over world's largest cities (though I would prefer some more international devastation on screen - Tokyo, London, Beijing, Rio, etc) and then destroying them completely. It was both horrifying and incredible to see.

Also the cast is way better in ID4. Sure, maybe you can point at some stereotypes, but at least they didn't have Justin Chatwin as that annoying fucking brat.
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6:53AM on 02/21/2013

War of the Worlds for me.

The van/gun scene is awesome in it's bleakness depicting humanity's unraveling.

As far as Independence Day goes, despite Goldblum trying his best and Smith's practically jumping up and down yelling 'let me be a movie star', it's cornball tone has not aged well and is very hard for me to watch now.
The van/gun scene is awesome in it's bleakness depicting humanity's unraveling.

As far as Independence Day goes, despite Goldblum trying his best and Smith's practically jumping up and down yelling 'let me be a movie star', it's cornball tone has not aged well and is very hard for me to watch now.
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+7
2:31AM on 02/21/2013

Independece Day

While John Williams is my favourite composer, his WOTW soundtrack is ordinary.
On the other hand, the score for Independece Day I think is David Arnold's best work to date.
While John Williams is my favourite composer, his WOTW soundtrack is ordinary.
On the other hand, the score for Independece Day I think is David Arnold's best work to date.
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4:06AM on 02/21/2013
I agree! That fanfare just brings a giant smile to my face every time.
I agree! That fanfare just brings a giant smile to my face every time.
+0
1:32AM on 02/21/2013
I wouldn't call myself the biggest fan of Independence Day or anything, but it's heaps and bounds better than that pointless War of the Worlds misfire.
I wouldn't call myself the biggest fan of Independence Day or anything, but it's heaps and bounds better than that pointless War of the Worlds misfire.
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12:53AM on 02/21/2013
Independence Day for me too. War of the Worlds is too depressing. Independence Day is much more entertaining.
Independence Day for me too. War of the Worlds is too depressing. Independence Day is much more entertaining.
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12:40AM on 02/21/2013
I'm giving it to Independence Day as well. It's loud, cheesy and silly, but also immense, immense fun. War of the Worlds was grimmer and less enjoyable. I think it's one of Spielberg's weaker films.
I'm giving it to Independence Day as well. It's loud, cheesy and silly, but also immense, immense fun. War of the Worlds was grimmer and less enjoyable. I think it's one of Spielberg's weaker films.
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+0
12:39AM on 02/21/2013
Wow, great face off this week. I loved both. But in the end, I would have to agree that Independence Day wins out.
Wow, great face off this week. I loved both. But in the end, I would have to agree that Independence Day wins out.
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12:27AM on 02/21/2013
AWFUL VS. BAD........
AWFUL VS. BAD........
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