Face-Off: Independence Day vs. Armageddon

Last week's Face-Off column put a pair of modern action directors against each other, and you gave a slight edge to the style of Zack Snyder over disaster-master Michael Bay.

This weekend is the Fourth of July, generally one of the biggest weekends of the year for the North American box office. To celebrate the holiday, lets take a look at a couple of fireworks-filled patriotic blockbusters that helped turn the 4th into a huge moviegoing weekend: INDEPENDENCE DAY and ARMAGEDDON.

(Please note: Face Off is an opinion column. We're not using any actual science to prove or disprove anything. It's just for fun.)
Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Robert Loggia, Judd Hirsch, Randy Quaid, Vivica A. Fox, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Adam Baldwin, Brent Spiner, Margaret Colin, Harry Connick Jr.
Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, William Fichtner, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Stormare, Keith David, Jason Isaacs
Hostile extraterrestrials in city-sized spaceships invade Earth, and it's up to a ragtag group of survivors to save the world
A gargantuan "global killer" asteroid is on a collision course with Earth, and it's up to a ragtag group of oil drillers to save the world
Sneak into the alien mothership and use a magical Macintosh to upload a virus that will deactivate the shields of all destroyer ships and fighter craft
Land on the asteroid, drill 800 meters into its surface and plant a nuclear bomb that will split the asteroid in half and nudge the pieces past the planet
President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who gives a memorably rousing speech and then hops into an F/A-18 Hornet jet to personally engage the enemy fighters
Unnamed President (character actor Stanley Anderson), who frets over the size of the approaching asteroid, and later gives a stirring televised speech addressing the country’s courage and potential demise
Empire State Building (New York City), Capitol Records Building (Los Angeles), US Bank Tower (Los Angeles), White House (Washington DC)

(Note that some international cuts featured news footage of attacks on various cities around the world)
Chrysler Building (New York City), Grand Central Terminal (New York City), Eiffel Tower (Paris, France), Shanghai (China)
Area 51, an operational underground military blacksite containing an alien scout craft and its passengers
X-71 experimental military Space Shuttles codenamed Freedom and Independence (of course)
Zilch. Apparently everyone else in the world is sitting around waiting for Americans to figure out an effective method to defeat the aliens
Only if you count Russian cosmonaut Lev (Peter Stormare), who gets the Shuttle engine started in the nick of time by whacking it
Randy Quaid pilots his jet and malfunctioning missile into the super ray gun of the looming alien destroyer ship
Bruce Willis stays behind on the asteroid to manually detonate the nuke at the last minute and save the world
$817.4 million worldwide
$553.7 million worldwide
Roland Emmerich, who would later demolish chunks of the planet again in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, 2012, GODZILLA and WHITE HOUSE DOWN
Michael Bay, who continued down the path of grand-scale destruction and became the Golden Boy of the July 4th weekend with the TRANSFORMERS series
Both INDEPENDENCE DAY and ARMAGEDDON are prime examples of the modern summer blockbuster: big, loud and "accessible" (i.e., kind of dumb). ARMAGEDDON definitely put director Michael Bay on the path to bigger, louder and dumber (and increasingly jingoistic), but it also served as the catalyst that cemented him as a go-to guy for gigantic combustible July 4th releases.

But it was INDEPENDENCE DAY that really launched the trend of "event" movies and it remains an enduring July 4th fave, thanks in part to Whitmore’s spirited speech and unforgettable imagery like the destroyer ships' arrival and that amazing White House explosion. (Arguably, the most memorable thing in ARMAGEDDON is Ben Affleck using animal crackers to get in Liv Tyler's pants while her father sings on the soundtrack.)

Whatever your preference, both movies emphasize an America that can resolve any problem, regardless of how massive or ridiculous. Usually by blowing it up. USA! USA! USA!

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?



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