An asteroid with nothing to slow it
Will hit the earth unless we blow it.
Some experts, therefore,
Must destroy it before
The end of the world as we know it.

Don’t bother the National Guard,
The Navy Seals, or Scotland Yard.
What we need right now
Are the skilled and lowbrow
Who know how to dig and dig hard.

They’ve known ever since they began it
This mission needs real men to man it,
The tough and untried
With professional pride,
Emerging to save the whole planet.

MPAA rating: PG-13

Armageddon has pretty much everything you could expect from a Michael Bay film: cocky and attractive hotshots, semi-serious life-and-death circumstances, underdogs rising up for their moment of truth, special effects up the wazoo, and explosions, lots and lots of explosions. It’s a film that can be both written off as scientifically inaccurate baloney and enjoyed as unreasonably entertaining baloney. Essentially, it’s a beautiful disaster.

It starts out a lot like Gravity, with a space shuttle spacewalk being cut short by a storm of debris, or in this case meteoroids. NASA quickly investigates the recent rash of destructive meteor showers and discovers that the big Texas-sized mama of them all is headed for a direct collision that will undoubtedly extinguish all life on Earth (except cockroaches, of course). Mankind’s only hope is to bring in a band of drilling experts, blue-collar ruffians who would normally be the last people called in during a disaster but who have the know-how to drill through the asteroid’s surface so NASA can blow it up with a nuke. There’s the leader Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis); self-confident A.J. (Ben Affleck), who is in love with Harry’s daughter (Liv Tyler) much to Harry’s chagrin; the unhinged genius (Steve Buscemi); the faithful sidekick with family issues (Will Patton); the big muscle (Michael Clarke Duncan); the fat guy (Ken Hudson Campbell); and that other guy (Owen Wilson). Throw in Billy Bob Thornton as a NASA scientist, William Fichtner as the military astronaut leader, and Peter Stormare as a semi-crazy Russian cosmonaut, and you’ve got a star-studded blowout of a movie.

Most of these actors have gone on to serious dramatic roles, but seeing them all together in a film like Armageddon brings to mind the big disaster films of the 1970s. Like some of those (Earthquake, for example), it’s certainly an open question as to whether this disaster is actually a good movie. The science is borderline silly, the editing choppy, the dialogue often corny, and plenty of unrealistic clichés abound, including not one but two down-to-the-last-second countdowns. I, for one, thought that the surface of the asteroid was absurdly crystalline in appearance, unlike any actual space surface I’ve seen, and the title shows an annoying lack of Biblical knowledge, since Armageddon isn’t the generic end of the world but an actual place where a battle of armies takes place in Revelation.

However, these complaints don’t really detract from what Armageddon the movie is: eye candy entertainment on a big, exciting, not-to-be-taken-too-seriously scale. The race against time is engrossing, not because we deeply care about these characters, but because the stakes are so high that suspension of disbelief goes out the airlock in favor of simply enjoying the ride. All the actors fill their roles well, particularly Willis as the experienced and heroic leader, and even if many of them come off as caricatures, they look like they had fun taking part. While the editing is erratic during some of the action scenes, Bay taps into that primal satisfaction of watching things blow up, whether it be New York streets or the surface of a space rock. The most thrilling scene takes place in the ISS, when a fire breaks out—wait, this reminds me of Gravity too.

Armageddon fits into that half-honored genre of popcorn blockbusters, the likes of which critics deride and ordinary moviegoers pay to see in droves. Its flaws are self-evident yet oddly insignificant in the face of the overall package. While end-of-the-world movies have become grim and somewhat more realistic over the years, Armageddon is an example of a big, long, funny, appealing disaster.

Best line: (one of Harry’s drillers, as Harry is trying to shoot A.J. for sleeping with his daughter) “This is illegal, man.” (Harry) “I’m temporarily insane, Rock. It’s all right.”

VC’s best line: (Harry, listing his drillers’ demands) “Yeah, one more thing. Um, none of them wanna pay taxes again…ever.”

Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2016 S. G. Liput
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