Movies of 1998 Bracket Game: Armageddon Vs. Deep Impact
1998 is right in the middle of an era in cinema that I have great affection for. The success of former video store employee Quentin Tarantino had been hugely influential and motivated a general expanded interest in independent film and in the value of both movie trivia and the expertise of your local hole-in-the-wall movie rental clerk. Many of the bigger studios had scrambled to put together projects and promote filmmakers who would help to bolster their street credibility and make them seem in tune with the times. While at moments this resulted in some movies that only had the markers associated with the sort of stuff they thought we wanted to see, but none of the genuine connection with the material that had made it interesting to begin with, I’d say the overall result was positive. Creative and idiosyncratic efforts were more likely to get the green light, and I consider that to be a good thing. At the same time, we were still getting a lot of very mainstream movies with pretty varied results, which served to remind us both of the value of earlier studio approaches and of the corporate malaise that independent films were in part a reaction against. It was a fine time to be a movie fan.
Today we’re looking at an example of the trend of copycat movies in which a theme or story idea is practically identical in two films released around the same time. Another example I could have gone with was A Bug’s Life and Antz, but that would have meant leaving out the more deserving Mulan, so this is our one copycat matchup. Let’s take a look!
But first, join in congratulating Out of Sight for getting the drop on Ronin in yesterday’s match. Commenters appeared to have a real attachment to the Elmore Leonard adaptation and they voted to send DeNiro packing.
What is there that can be said about a movie that I have gone out of my way to avoid seeing for the last twenty years? The one-two punch of action trash that is director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer was already well known enough to me that I was pretty sure which asteroid movie I was willing to give my seven bucks to (that’s about right for 1998, right?) I hadn’t really cared for Bay’s Bad Boys or The Rock, and I consider Bruckheimer’s Con Air from the previous year to be one of the most unpleasant movies I’ve ever seen pretending to be an audience-pleasing action romp. No way was I giving this pair money just so they could torture me for two and a half hours. I’ll give Bruckheimer credit where credit is due based on his role in bringing the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie to the big screen along with stuff like Remember the Titans and Beverly Hills Cop, but if you balance those against Coyote Ugly, Days of Thunder, Pearl Harbor, Kangaroo Jack, G-Force, and the remainder of the Pirates movies, I think we can all agree that the guy owes us an apology. Michael Bay has gone on to curse us with the Transformers movies as a director/producer and nothing of any discernible quality when producing anything else. Critics generally thumbed their noses at Armageddon upon its release, with Roger Ebert naming it the worst movie of the year – – so of course audiences made it the second biggest box office hit of the year. Sometimes we really don’t deserve nice things.
with Touchstone preparing to release their own asteroid disaster movie in July after hearing about Deep Impact, the folks at Paramount had to depend on two things to bring in audiences: Their movie was being released first, and their movie looked to have more prestige. Let’s detail some of that second point there. Steven Spielberg had plans to direct a film on the topic based on Arthur C Clarke’s novel Hammer of the Gods, and when Richard Zanuck and David Brown approached him about with a similar idea to remake the movie When Worlds Collide, he agreed to merge the two projects under his new company Dreamworks SKG. Although Spielberg didn’t end up directing Deep Impact, the movie was still able to attract several respected performers for its cast, including Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall, Maximilian Schell, Vanessa Redgrave, and James Cromwell. Add a score by James Horner and you’ve got what looks like a relatively prestigious film. Unfortunately, audiences don’t go to disaster movies in hopes of seeing something respectable, and critics sensed that Deep Impact was a pretty mediocre movie when it came down to it, giving it lukewarm ratings at the best. Despite this, it might surprise you to know that Deep Impact was actually pretty successful at the box office, sitting at number one for two weeks and ranking number eight for the year overall. Box Office Mojo has no report of the film’s production budget, which might indicate that it didn’t end up making a big profit, but hey, they got my seven bucks (we’re going with seven dollars for a movie ticket in 1998, ok guys?)
Which world-destroying asteroid movie do you want to move on? Vote here and tell us about it in the comments section!