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Mike Wilder brings you movie reviews. Each week a Selection of reviews for new releases and older films plus movie comparisons.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A tale of two films and one plot: Part 1: The asteroid is coming

A tale of two films and one plot
Over the years, film studios produce some amazing and original films. But occasionally, studios produce similar films at the same time. This doesn’t happen all the time but sometimes films with almost identical plots are made and released very close together. But in these circumstances, is it worth seeing both films? Is the more expensively made film always the best? And do the stars of the film make a difference? I decided to go back and watch some examples of these back to back. Starting with whatever film was released earlier and comparing my viewing experience.
Part 1: The asteroid is coming
Date of US release
10 May 1998
5 July 1998
UK/US Rating
A giant asteroid is heading for Earth. If it hits it will wipe out all life on the planet. A team of experts are sent to the asteroid in an attempt to destroy it.
Budget (Estimated)
Lifetime gross
Chart position of the year
Academy award nominations
Academy award wins
IMDb rating

What a great way to start off. Two great disaster films. The first released was Deep Impact, directed by Mimi Leder. This film focused more on the human side of the disaster. The film’s stars were Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, Jon Favreau, Richard Schiff, Dougray Scott, Blair Underwood & Denise Crosby. The film is also produced by the legendary director Steven Spielberg. The main focus on the film was on Elijah Wood as Leo Biederman. He plays a student who is the first to discover the asteroid. He is one of the few people selected to be taken to a special bunker to escape the force of the impact while the rest of the world is left to die.
The second film released was Armageddon, directed by Michael Bay. This version of the disaster relied more heavily on effects and humour as the main focus of the film. The human side was also added but seemed like it took a back seat in the story. The film was also full of stars. It included Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jason Isaacs, William Fichtner, Peter Stormare & Keith David. Adding the producing skills of Jerry Bruckheimer and you have the makings of a great action movie. The film focuses on the characters of Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) and his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler). Harry owns a drilling company and he and his team are sent to the asteroid to drill down and plant a nuclear warhead deep inside to detonate and destroy the threat to the planet.
So which is better? The stats clearly show that Armageddon is the clear winner in every category even though it was released after Deep Impact. But for a viewing experience is it really better?
Armageddon is clearly the more entertaining of the two. It is full of humour and fun. The cast seems to have a great time making the film and it shows in their performances. The film is just bigger in almost every way, from the effects that are impressive to the larger than life cast. The focus is on action, and the action is amazing. But this is also where the film fails in respect to Deep Impact which is more grounded in the human side of the disaster where the focus lies almost entirely. You feel more of a connection to the characters, you can put yourself in their position and relate to the situations they find themselves in. It is hard to do this with Armageddon as it is full of larger than life characters and situations. But it does manage to inject an emotional side to the movie and as with the effects and the actors, the impact is huge. The final scenes with the loss of main characters have reduced many viewers to tears.
While the films are both very enjoyable to watch and extremely well made there has to be a winner. This was a hard one to decide on. While I am a huge action movie fan and Armageddon ticked all the boxes for me, Deep Impact surprised me with the realism and moving performances of the cast. Téa Leoni is especially good in this, probably my favourite performance of hers.
So who won?
This time the stats are correct. Armageddon wins but only just!

Coming Next Month

Part 2: Terror in deep water

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