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Face-Off: Tom Cruise vs. Will Smith

04.18.2013by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face-Off we paid wonderful tribute to Harrison Ford by putting together a match between his two best characters in Indiana Jones and Han Solo. Indy took the final verdict in the article and with our readers, but that doesn't mean Han Solo didn't have his loyal followers. Many went as far as to call Indiana Jones their favorite movie character of all time, I can dig it.

This week, we'll be focusing on two big name stars who are starring in two sci-fi films of the same ilk: Tom Cruise and Will Smith. Our lovely planet Earth is a central theme in both Oblivion andAfter Earth , and while Smith seems to be taking a backseat in his film...I still think it would be interesting to dissect the careers of these two megastars. As performers and the roles they have chosen that's where our contrast will come in, but the overwhelming popularity Cruise and Smith have amassed over the years is where we'll be able to closely compare the two. I think this will make for interesting Face-Off. Let's discuss.
Acting Chops
Tom Cruise has brought his A game to every single role he's been in, to the point it's hard to pick roles to highlight. Eyes Wide Shut, Few Good Men, Interview with the Vampire, Magnolia, Rain Man, and Jerry Maguire are a few of the films I think of where I feel Cruise has particularly been able to shine. He knows when to downplay a performance and he knows the appropriate moments to bring the intensity, which he is great at. I think the best example and the biggest compliment one can give Cruise is the initial reluctance Anne Rice had when the role of Lestat went to him, and upon seeing the performance showered him praise. He lets his talent speak for itself. Extra points for Cruise's great comedic moments in Austin Powers Goldmember and his brilliant turn in Tropic Thunder.
Six Degrees of Seperation. Legend of Bagger Vance. Ali. Pursuit of Happyness. I Am Legend. The first half of Hancock. Seven Pounds. These are films, whether you like them are not perfectly showcase Smith's considerable acting ability and provide some heart-wrenching scenes. His scenes that show his mind is unraveling in I Am Legend get me every time, the ending of Pursuit of Happyness is a great performance, his down and out performance in most of Hancock is underrated. Will Smith is a great actor, we can see glimpses of that as far back as a few episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air...episodes that dealt with drugs, gun shots, and absentee fathers. The latter is some of his best work actually.
Filmography
Let's just get it out of the way and say there is no way in hell Cruise isn't taking this category. From classics like Risky Business and Top Gun, to quality franchises like the Mission Impossible films, Cruise sure knows how to pick em. Cruise is one of those actors that I respect for making interesting choices in his career to go with roles that will appeal to the masses. I'm looking at you Eyes Wide Shut, Vanilla Sky, and Magnolia. Cruise has had what I feel were duds, wasn't a big fan of stuff like Knight and Day and Valkyrie...but thankfully the good has FAR outweighed the bad.
Will Smith has had a couple films that I wish I could forget, but for the most part he has racked up a pretty impressive resume himself. Highlights of Smiths career? Fresh Prince of course, Independence Day, Bad Boys 1 and 2, Men in Black 1 and 3, Enemy of the State, Ali, I Am Legend, and the Pursuit of Happyness. Smith has taken some chances here and there, but he's been less in your face about it than Cruise has. An upcoming ensemble project Smith is involved in entitled Winter's Tale sounds interesting, here's to hoping Smith's best work is still ahead of him. Until then, not a bad resume Smith...I don't know about you lot but I've enjoyed a lot of it immensely.
Drawing Power
All throughout the 90's at the peak of his popularity Cruise has been on numerous lists ranking him among things like Most Beautiful People, 100 Sexiest Stars, and Power 100 lists. His star seemed to fade when we started seeing more erratic behavior emanate from Tom, but any publicity is good publicity and it did nothing to negatively affect his performances. Me personally, and I'm sure this is the case for many is that I will go into anything Tom Cruise is in with a smile on my face, he's that charismatic on the screen. In 2006 Japan also declared they would hold an annual "Tom Cruise Day" in honor of him making more trips to Japan than any other actor, so damn awesome.
Will Smith is pretty much the box office darling in the particular match up. Eight films in a role featuring Smith grossed over $100 million dollars at the Box Office, followed by ten that earned over $150 million. On top of that, he's the only actor in which he has starred in eight consecutive films that opened at #1 in the Box Office...if that's not an indication of the mans star power I don't know what is. Men in Black 3 earned a total of over $624 million which tells me people still love to see Big Willie. Smith was lucky enough to capture everyone's hearts with Fresh Prince so his transition to film was nice and smooth, and he's maintained his staying power for years due to his natural charisma. I, and a lot of the public seem not to be over Will Smith yet.
Tie-Breaker
Tom Cruise has provided me with so many memorable moments in most of his movies that I will watch any film of his if it happens to be on TV. As I write this I want to go out and rent Collateral to marvel at that great performance again. Cruise is an interesting character off-screen but when he's jumping into a role he's always had it where it counts, even the films I'm not too fond of have been improved with his presence. I respect the man as an actor for the chances he's taken as far the work he's chosen goes, and the life risking things he's been willing to partake in to add to a films excitement. Mission Impossible has been that much more amazing knowing Cruise is really out there doing that sh*t. You can see dedication from Cruise in every bit of his performances.
Will Smith is just incredibly entertaining, plain and simple. His television roots and several of his films show his great comedic timing, and he's evolved since then to provide some great dramatic roles. What I've always liked about Smith is the great chemistry he's been able to create with virtually anyone he works with, the man can work well with anybody...what a pair he and Tommy Lee Jones have been. I think one of the things that keep Smith from winning this is he has more films in his arsenal that I never care to revisit, no reflection on Smith in particular but a few movies were just bad. But like Cruise, Smith can save any project he's involved with from being a total waste. He's charismatic, he's talented, and I hope to see a bit more of him in the coming years.
Tom Cruise
So there you have it folks, I am a big Will Smith fan but Tom Cruise has been a part of some truly amazing films and his resume is considerably more impressive than Smith's. That's what it came down to really, as Will can hold his own in the acting department I believe and one could argue Will is the bigger "star" but even that is subjective in all reality. I have a feeling most of you would agree with this verdict. Time to let us know, so strike back!

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 [email protected] with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

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