#13: Armageddon (1998)

Director: Michael Bay
Sci-Fi, Thriller
2h33min; PG-13

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

For all of its flaws- and they are legion- Armageddon is one goddamn hell of a film. Mostly critically annihilated the film was ripped apart for its rapid fire editing and this is one of the major problems. While the film’s visual effects suck ass by today’s standards the sense of spectacle is still very much there. Armageddon is very much one of the most American films ever made. The most recent film with such a deafening sense of patriotism is 2014’s American Sniper but that is not nearly as entertaining.

This is perhaps the most entertaining film that Michael Bay- the man responsible for Bad Boys II and the Transformers series (robots fighting freakin’ robots!)- has ever made. It certainly contains the best acting, particularly from Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler, and logically makes more sense than pretty much anything else that Bay has done. As mentioned before the editing is a constant problem, not in how it is done but in how long Bay takes with each moment. The film is already so long that there is practically no time to let moments breathe. The action moves at breakneck speed and by the end I thought I had watched a 3 hour picture. But it is a massively entertaining 3 hours.

If you don’t know- and get out from under your damn rock if you don’t- Armageddon delivers the harrowing story of a group of everyday oil men sent by NASA to drill a hole in the ass of an asteroid the size of Texas and deposit a nuclear bomb in it before the big space rock destroys Earth. Such good shit- and the best thing Aerosmith ever wrote music for. So many childhood hours spent singing “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” during the film’s credits come flooding back every time. Watching the film with my girlfriend for the first time was a revelation, as I had never considered this a sad film and yet she cried throughout the film’s climax as much as I do whenever Titanic rears its frozen head.

The acting in the film is both campy and serious at times and while many actors are only in the film for a little while the possibility of their deaths, and there are a few, is gut-wrenching to think of and that’s because the performances are so strong. Bruce Willis plays the tough guy you fell in love with from Die Hard onward and he’s held up by his interactions with his crew- an amalgamation of Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan and Owen Wilson just to name a few. Buscemi is a nut addled by “space dementia” and while it funny for a while it does get old fast. NASA- embodied by the almighty Billy Bob Thornton- sends along William Fichter’s Colonel Sharp as a contingency plan if the boys- “the worst thing in the history of NASA”- fail.

Armageddon is very much one of the most American films ever made.

The most genuine moments come from  A.J. (Affleck) and Grace (Tyler), both involving Willis’ Harry Stamper. Both of these scenes come back to back in the climax as Affleck cuts loose in a way we rarely see from him and Tyler shows off in her greatest role this side of The Lord of the Rings. There are really no other moments like these in Bay’s films and it isn’t a wonder that the film was the top grosser of ’98.

You may never see more American flags in a film than here. The jackhammer frequency with which red, white and blue imagery is dispensed throughout the film is ridiculous- to the point that when characters are speaking in close-up shots there is usually an American flag or something like it out of focus behind them. Even the Russian cosmonaut (the always fantastic Peter Stormare) that the crew encounters later on can’t stand to go back to Earth because otherwise his countrymen will consider him less of a national hero than the men who stay behind to defeat the asteroid.

She is very mighty and appears to be almost sentient and angry as the boys edge foot by foot to completing their mission. Spinning through the vastness the patch of space rock where our heroes have made their stand is subject to rock storms, earthquakes and seismic eruptions along with the razor sharp glass-like metal that is everywhere. Such an environment seems unbelievable and makes for an unbelievably thrilling and entertaining journey. While Armageddon is flawed and possibly considered by many to be a shit stain in cinematic history, few films possess a moment as timeless as this.

 

 

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