DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Armageddon

Monday 26 April 2010


Armageddon (1998) dir. Michael Bay
Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare


By Alan Bacchus

Hell yes, I said, I like ‘Armageddon’ (As Alan gets pummelled by rotten fruit). I think there is a place for Michael Bay in cinema. And there is a place for 'Armageddon'. This preposterous high concept actioner, likely born from a night of heavy drinking wherein Jerry Bruckheimer, was likely dared into making a movie about oil drillers who fly into space, drill in a nuclear bomb and blow up an asteroid hurdling toward earth. I imagine the first draft likely appeared on a cocktail napkin from Spagos.

What the final film turns out to be from this one-liner pitch concept is Hollywood excess at its worst and best. Though it’s Michael Bay’s film, it takes a good producer to put together a film of such absurd magnitude to make it work. First of all, check out the number of writers involved: Jonathan Hensleigh, Tony Gilroy, Robert Ray Pool, Shane Salerno, and yep, J.J. Abrams. And with all the uncredited polishes involved, including a rumoured Robert Towne, it could be double that number. Such is the Hollywood way, the ability of a super producer like Jerry Bruckheimer to coalesce the writings of the cacophony of voices into a unified direction, however preposterous.

This film succeeded so admirably because it knew it’s audience and fine tuned it to hit the Red Stated Nascar bible belt demographic right on it noggin like that mole-wacker game in penny arcades. From the opening narration the film panders to the conservative right – hell, even NRA spokesman CHARLTON HESTON narrates the backstory – the death of the dinosaurs via a giant asteroid, which inevitably will hit earth at some point again in the future. It's characters are well-defined as working class American heroes surmounting their humble, classless or physically challenged meagre lives.

Billy Bob Thornton, for example, who plays 'Truman’, the NASA team leader and good ol’ boy with penchant for breaking down the complicated science talk into simple metaphors like ‘it’s about the size of Texas’ exudes the same George W. Bush naive charm. And the idea that a bunch of working class oil drillers saving the world and besting their ubermensche Astronaut equivalents and the academic elite is underdog screenwriting 101.

And for a pre 9/11 film the flag waving patriotism is as extreme as anything Hollywood has produced - a conscious we’re-number-one attitude we hadn’t seen since the 80’s when Hollywood had to dumb down its politics to Democracy-good, Communism-bad simplicity.

At every turn the film is remarkably consistent with this tone and knowing its target audience. 'Armageddon' actually benefits from this simplicity, never attempting to be more serious than the mushy emotions of it's characters - the journey into space serving to get the characters to confront their fears and achieve the latent potential which 'real life' has stunted for them, as well as to craft a good montage scene or two.

Michael Bay’s rat-a-tat style which extends from his music video visuals, to his hectic editing style, to his dialogue creates a rhythm of hurried pace allows us to skim over the implausibilities, clichés, bad lines, and overwrought melodrama and unnecessary rah-rah patriotism. So for good and bad ‘Armageddon’ is astoundingly ambitious and for the brash, amphetamine-style cinema-brain of Michael Bay, this film will likely become his defining film.

‘Armageddon’ is available on Blu-Ray from Disney Studios Home Entertainment


T.J. Hawke said...


I saw it in the theaters when I was 9 years old and I loved it then. Obviously now, I reconize the various flaws (and there are a lot of them)with the movie but I still enjoy watching till this day.

It has an energetic cast that provided the film with a lot of great energy (specifically Affleck, Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Peter Stormare & Michael Clarke Duncan)

Unknown said...

Good review Al,

I enjoyed it as well - despite its flaws. All of the cutback scenes to middle America Bible belt folks with their American flags flying was really cheesy but I was able to get over it an enjoy it for what it was.

M. Carter @ the Movies said...

Alan, you must NEVER be ashamed to admit you like "Armaggedon." I saw it in theaters and I've watched it approximately 813 times (it comes on FX every two hours these days). It's flawed and cheesy and the science is atrocious but it's F-U-N, and that's the most important thing. Bruce Willis is perfect for the lead, and I like to see Billy Bob Thornton play the straight man once in awhile.

Plus, I have a rule: I'll watch any movie -- ANY MOVIE -- with Steve Buscemi in it. I forgave him for "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry."

Alan Bacchus said...

Steve Buscemi on 30 Rock is a treasure as well!