Two versions of ''War of the Worlds'' debut -- The Tom Cruise version is competing with a straight-to-video release by ''Outsider'' costar C. Thomas Howell

The world will end twice this July 4 weekend. Tom Cruise faces apocalyptic competition from his Outsiders costar C. Thomas ”Ponyboy” Howell. Cruiseâ??s version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds hit theaters June 29 (see review on page 45), while Howell’s was released straight to video June 28 (distributor Asylum marvels at the ”coincidence”). Here’s a comparison.

CRUISE dashes from pricey set piece to pricey set piece. HOWELL, no doubt due to budget considerations, runs around the same tree several times and cries. CRUISE totes a daughter, played by Dakota Fanning, who lights up the hellscape with her uncanny precocity and floodlight eyes. HOWELL gets separated from his kid (real-life son Dashiell HOWELL), who, like Fanning, seems to have been made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. CRUISE has a hot ex-wife, played by international sensation Mirando Otto. Yeah, the Aussie looker from The Lord of the Rings. HOWELL has a hot wife played by international sensation Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots. Yup, Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots. It’s. . .international. And she’s naked for the first few minutes. Just. . .naked. What were we talking about again?

CRUISE Right, right. Um. . .there are absolutely no antidepressants in this film. HOWELL None here, either. It’s 100 percent uncut depressing. He kills aliens with a rabies vaccine!

CRUISE faces down a giant tripod. Lives hang in the balance. HOWELL lands facedown more than once, carefully trying not to upset the tripod on which the camcorder is precariously balanced.

War of the Worlds
  • Movie
  • 117 minutes