Welcome to Day 2 of the Mogadorian Fighter Challenge with Dan and Robison Wells! Yesterday, Tom Cruise’s character from WAR OF THE WORLDS triumphed over Joaquin Phoenix’s Merrill from SIGNS. Our second matchup brings us two heavy-duty action heroes: Will Smith in INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996) and Bruce Willis in THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997).
Dan: Let’s give Will Smith his props first: he is a jet fighter pilot, and he manages to outfly, with inferior equipment, an entire squad of aliens; he manages at one point to disable one without killing it, walks up, pops the hatch, says “Welcome to Erf” and punches the alien in the face. He eventually learns to fly an alien ship. He’s an excellent pilot. Bruce Willis is also an excellent pilot, flying that taxi through the big future city—
Rob: I would say that his piloting skills are weak at best. He escapes the cops, but in the process he smashes the crap out of his taxi and gets it riddled full of bullet holes.
Dan: Come on, though—if Will Smith was flying a taxi I don’t think he’d have done as well. He was flying an F-15, which is designed for combat, and Bruce Willis was just making due with the best he had.
Rob: But he was driving a taxi versus other people driving cars. Comparing cars to cars versus jet planes to alien ships, Will Smith comes out ahead.
Dan: Okay, so Willis isn’t as good of a pilot, but on the ground he far outshines Smith. He goes through two or three major gun battles, he uses grenades in very clever ways, he does all kinds of neat stuff. And he’s a great negotiator.
Rob: I don’t know who to vote for.
Dan: Let’s put it this way: Both manage to save the world from an alien invasion. Smith does it backed up by a massive fleet of pilots, one of whom is Randy Quaid in a crop-duster. Worse yet, the only way Smith can blow up the enemy ship is through some of the lamest hacking ever performed in a movie.
Rob: That’s beside the point; the crappy virus is not at issue here.
Dan: Meanwhile Willis saves the entire world—
Rob: No, the girl does. He just saves her.
Dan: But that’s why I bring up the virus, because for both Smith and Willis, their main job is delivering the payload. And Will Smith delivers the dumbest payload ever.
Rob: But we have to ignore the payload.
Dan: Does that mean we also have to ignore the sidekicks? Because Smith gets Randy Quaid the drunken crop-duster, but Willis gets Chris Tucker as a super-weird game show host from the future.
Rob: And don’t forget the opera singer. Anyway: my vote is for Will Smith.
Dan: So if the world was menaced tomorrow, you’d rather have the INDEPENDENCE DAY Will Smith defending it than the FIFTH ELEMENT Bruce Willis.
Rob: Yes I would. Partly because Will Smith is awesome, and partly because I hate THE FIFTH ELEMENT so much.
Dan: That’s because you’re dumb. But I might have to agree with Will Smith here, because when you compare the two menaces they fight against, a bunch of little toady guys led by Future Redneck Gary Oldman doesn’t really stack up against five billion high-tech tentacled space monsters.
Rob: I would also say that when they’re in the middle of what they do best, Smith is a butt-kicking superhero and Willis is just trying not to die. He does the everyman thing very well, but he’s always on the verge of being blown away. But when Smith is at his best he’s totally rocking it.
Dan: Okay. You’re wrong, but I’m going to give you Will Smith because I don’t want to spend the next week of my life arguing about it. But I’m going to cash that chip in later.
Rob: It may or may not be cashed.
WINNER: Will Smith
Previous Match: Joaquin Phoenix (SIGNS) vs. Tom Cruise (WAR OF THE WORLDS)