Armageddon

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

7 November

 

 

The Ensisheim meteorite hits Earth, 1492

On this day in 1492, a large meteorite landed in a field outside the walled town of Ensisheim, in Alsace (present-day France). The flaming passage of the meteorite through the sky was visible from over 150km away. It was one of the earliest instances of a meteorite fall on record. The stone can still be seen today in the town’s museum, though it is now nowhere near the original 127kg it weighed when it fell – the locals, having dug it up from a metre down in the soft arable land, started prising chunks off it as keepsakes, before the local authorities stepped in to claim it for King Maximilian, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III and known, depending on who he was trying to impress, as either King of the Romans or King of the Germans (he was later also Holy Roman Emperor). Such an event was obviously an omen, and Maximilian soon arrived in person, consulted with the stone on a man-to-stone basis, before he too prised off a couple of chunks, one for himself, one for his friend Archduke Sigismund of Austria. He then ordered the meteorite to be chained down, lest it make good its escape using the same celestial force that had brought it hence. But what did this messenger from the heavens portend? Before long Maximilian and his council had determined that the meteorite was a good omen, and augured well for the upcoming wars with France (Ensisheim was at the time part of Further Austria) and Turkey.

 

 

Armageddon (1998, dir: Michael Bay)

Armageddon is the first example by director Michael Bay of what has become a recognisable genre. In the Michael Bay film a lot of money is spent destroying things in the most spectacular way possible, often at the expense of coherent characters, plot or dialogue. Pick your way through Pearl Harbor or the Transformers films for evidence. There are entire websites devoted to putting forward the proposition that Michael Bay is the worst director who ever lived. But I’m going to stand up for Armageddon, and here’s why. Yes, it’s a big, noisy, spectacle about a group of oil-drilling guys (and a token woman; always with the token woman) who head off into space to nuke an asteroid “the size of Texas” before it crashes into Earth. But, unlike Bay films since, it actually spends time with the guys. We get to know and like them (much as we got to know Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in Bay’s previous film, Bad Boys). It helps that the guys have faces that tell half their personal story – Bruce Willis (tough), Billy Bob Thornton (wildcat), Ben Affleck (prettyboy), Steve Buscemi (ker-ay-zee), and so on. It helps even more that the screenplay is co-written by JJ Abrams, who took a background working on smallish films about human feelings, rather than industrial hardware, and projected those hopes and fears into the sphere that was to bring him the big bucks – sci-fi adventure. True, Armageddon is loaded with cheese – the tension between Willis and Affleck, the former the father of the girl (Liv Tyler) that the latter wants to marry – is several kilograms of ripe Brie on its own. But it’s also loaded with self-sacrificing heroics which for all their corniness somehow just work. And for all its faults it has a swagger and a mad glint in its eye which made the other asteroid film of that year, Deep Impact, look as inert as an old 1970s disaster movie.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Michael Bay when he was still good
  • JJ Abrams’ breakthrough into sci-fi and action
  • Bruce Willis in one of his first “dad” roles
  • The locations, the space suits – the real Nasa deal

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

Armageddon – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Armageddon”

  1. This movie is my ultimate guilty pleasure. It's inane, manipulative, has hyperactive cutting, a ton of glaring inaccuracies (pointless to even discuss or debate), and probably 29 other glaring faults. And why in every dramatic slow-mo emo shot are there 3 helicopters flying in unison overhead? What's the point of having 3 helicopters flying really close together? Who cares! It looks cool. If one day I am having a heartfelt talk with my daughter, I hope there are 3 helicopters flying overhead to really 'bring it home' (and Aerosmith performing in the background.)

    Despite it all, I still love watching this movie. Anytime it is on TV I can watch it 'til the end. Bruce Willis does a great job doing his Bruce Willis 'thing' (smart alecky tough guy), and the supporting cast is really great. Steve Buschemi in particular gets the best lines. An awesome assortment of ragtag castoffs (spitting funny one-liners) must save the world- who would have thunk it?

    I think Armageddon was actually conceived by suits in a studio office (no really, I read that in a magazine), which is I guess another strike against it. Yet only a bunch of suits could come up with a 'high concept' like this (so high it's basically a parody by itself.) And only a director like Michael Bay could make it. He's far more suited to these types of movies, rather than big historical epics like PEARL HARBOR (which I really, really disliked.)

    I read somewhere once that this movie is as close as Hollywood gets to pure cinema, in that it is basically completely divorced from reality of any kind. Is that good or bad? I don't know. I do think if you're going to ditch convention and any semblance to reality, you may as well go all the way. It's better than having something that is a confused mess that tries to be different things (Pearl Harbor.) There will be no 'it could really happen!' here.

    So after all this, believe it or not I am going to give this movie a big fat whopping 8. Why? Because IMO it unabashedly succeeds at what it tries to set out to be, whatever that is. That makes no sense, since I am basically saying by all logical accounts this movie may actually suck, yet I am giving it a 8. But hey I loved this movie.

  2. This movie seems to be a movie that many people love to hate. I don’t see why it has such a bad reputation. It is meant to be an Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi movie, and it definitely lives up to this. It is what it is. Many people have tried to compare it to Apollo 13, but that’s like comparing apples and oranges. They are entirely different fruit. Apollo 13 is based on a true historical event (Docu-drama), while Armageddon is an Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi movie. It has plenty of action and adventure, a lot of humor, and a bit of romance. Is the story realistic? Not hardly, but name ANY Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi movie that is. That’s why they call it Science FICTION… For those who criticize this movie, nothing will change their minds. However, if you HAVEN’T seen Armageddon, take a chance, watch with an open mind and try not to let all these negative reviews spoil your enjoyment of a really fun movie. Remember, a movie is meant to ENTERTAIN, and Armageddon does just that, if you let it!

  3. What did everyone expect when this film was released, i expected exactly what i got, stunning visual effects, good surround sound and plenty of action (and yes i expected the traditional dose of sentiment too)

    This movie is pure escapism fun, which has its place in my collection, movies like Independence Day and Armageddon are great fun to watch and as a bonus the characters weren't bad the script was reasonable and action was indeed plentiful. There were a great deal of laughs too (mostly intentional) anyone who hasn't seen this but just wants relax and enjoy a good (yet Shallow) action flick then this certainly fits the bill.

    For pure entertainment value i score it 8/10

    If this is for you then check out The Core and Independence Day, avoid the Day after Tomorrow and Deep Impact, there not really for action fans.

  4. People always seem to be flaming this movie left and right because it's stupid or long or it has no logic… Everyone has something to hate about this film but the movie wasn't intending to be 'Gone With The Wind'. This is the essential Friday night movie.

    Not Saturday Night but Friday Night. Sure, a lot of it is illogical and Michael Bay graduated in the MTV style of directing college but, at it's heart, it's just a great entertaining popcorn movie. Even Bay has admitted that was what he was aiming at. And for a popcorn movie, it's a very strong movie indeed. The acting is impressive with Bruce Willis making you cry for real in that last scene of his where he proves to be the ultimate superhero and he doesn't even have to say "yippee ki-yay". Ben Affleck is doing his nice hammy acting in this film but he gives a really genuine performance in a lot of the scenes. Liv Tyler is stunning and excellent as Bruce Willis' daughter and Ben Affleck's fiancee. Billy Bob Thorton has a nice little role at the NASA headquarters. Steve Buscemi is the best part of the film. Funny yet still a great actor, this is one of his best performances. Michael Clarke Duncan is light in his role as one of the astronauts / oil driller and Owen Wilson lights up the screen just like in 'The Royal Tenenbaums'. That's only some of the cast that I'm going to list and those are the most recognizable names in the list. The script by 'Die Hard With A Vengeance' scribe Jonathan Hensleigh and 'Roadkill" and upcoming 'Superman' writer J.J.

    Abrahams is fun and enjoyable with some real quirky dialogue and real funny bits. There are also some genuine moments of suspense and drama. The look of this film is obviously special effects orientated with the New York asteroid shower opening sequence and the destruction of Paris standing out. Of course, this film is just an enjoyable popcorn film and is actually deserving of it's place in "The Criterion Collection" of DVDs since it's that enjoyable kind of film that only comes along once in a while. But add to that the fact that there are some real sad moments and great acting in there and, there you have it, the perfect ingredients for a Friday night movie.

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