Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Clarke Duncan
Among newer disaster movies, Armageddon is one of the best known. You’ve most likely seen it. A big hit at the box-office, this Jerry Bruckheimer production, helmed by Michael Bay, certainly doesn’t score many points for subtlety or realism. Nor is it very successful as a disaster movie.
The story gets going when it is discovered that a huge asteroid is headed right for Earth. A hit would, of course, mean the end of the world. The only way to avoid disaster is to blow the rock up with nuclear warheads. This requires drilling a deep hole in the asteroid, and it turns out that the world’s best driller is Bruce Willis, who works on an oil rig somewhere out at sea, and spends his spare time chasing Ben Affleck with a loaded rifle because Ben is making out with Bruce’s adult daughter (played by Liv Tyler).
Bruce reluctantly accepts the assignment to save the world, on the condition that he can use his own team. So the gung-ho band of rowdy, macho – and, in one cringe-inducing scene, harmony-singing – oil drillers are sent into space on two shuttles, along with a few proper astronauts. After stopping by at space station Mir, which of course blows up for some contrived reason, the crew – now joined by a half-crazed russian astronaut played by Peter Stormare - continues to the asteroid, where they prove that your average space shuttle is capable of maneouvres that would challenge a fighter jet.
What follows is a string of amazing adventures, stunts and mishaps that makes you kind of numb from the constant overload. After some political machinations and double-crosses that I don’t remember well enough to detail, it all culminates with the ultimate self-sacrifice when Bruce stays behind to detonate the warheads by hand, saving the world and making sure Ben Affleck can get back to Liv Tyler.
For a big-budget disaster movie, Armageddon doesn’t really deliver very much in the disaster area. Sure, there are a couple of shots of major cities being hit by space rocks, but these sequences are not really integrated in the story. I mean, we get the destruction of Paris over and done with in a matter of seconds, and no one seems to care much. Instead, Bay and company choose to focus on crazy action-hero antics, and shooting Liv Tyler with tears in her eyes while playing Aerosmith power ballads on the soundtrack.
Armageddon is big and loud and frequently moves from being just over-the-top to embarassing. While technically well made, it suffers from Michael Bay’s hyperactive style of editing, making some sequences very hard to follow (at least for yours truly). The cast features excellent actors like Steve Buscemi and Billy Bob Thornton, and I personally am a big fan of Bruce Willis, but none of them get anything but the most hollow clichés imaginable to work with.
I’ve said before that one shouldn’t expect a disaster movie to be scientifically accurate, but it helps if it isn’t downright ridiculous. It tells a story about a reality-based threat in a manner that makes you think of pure fantasy cinema like, say, Star Wars. Actually, a few space aliens wouldn’t feel that much out of place.