Armageddon (1998)

One of the many aspects about filmmaking that Michael Bay never perfected is subtlety. None of his films are ever about the more quiet and inconspicuous moments in story and characterization. “Armageddon” as a whole is an often loud, bright, irritating and occasionally intrusive film that attempts to assault every inch of an audiences attention before ever managing to tell its story. It’s one of the many reasons why “Pearl Harbor” was considered a cinematic disaster. I’m horrified to fathom what would ever happen if Bay ever made a film about 9/11 or the Titanic.

“Armageddon” is one of the many apocalyptic science fiction films of the late nineties that dwelled on Earth’s potential to be destroyed by something beyond our control. And when we weren’t watching movies about earthquakes, volcanoes, and eruptions of the Earth’s core there were two separate movies about a meteor hitting Earth. We had the clunky but much more emotion ridden “Deep Impact,” and Bay accompanied that thud with his own fireworks spectacle of “Armageddon” which defies any and all logic and common sense about a disaster of this proportions and basically turns it in to an affair where we’re laughing and cheering when we should be frozen in our seats horrified at the impending doom coming from space. Even when the asteroid “the size of Texas” is on its way most of our inept and inadvertent heroes are spending their time clowning around, providing us with witty one-liners, and wasting every conceivable amount of time imaginable.

Meanwhile Bay creates one of the most polarizing and uninteresting love triangle in action cinema history between stars Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, and Bruce Willis. Affleck plays the charming AJ who is in love with his boss Harry’s daughter Grace. Tyler is Grace a girl who is on board her dad’s deep see oil rig because… well, because she’s his daughter and apparently she has nowhere else to be. I mean a young ambitious gorgeous young Caucasian girl couldn’t possibly have anything to do on land, right? Harry is so protective of his daughter he forbids AJ and Grace’s love with violent responses that we’re supposed to find hilarious, but border on demented. Meanwhile “Armageddon” basically paints its palette of a world that’s rah rah America, and rah rah Aerosmith!

What convenience Tyler’s dad happens to be singing the soundtrack that inexplicably became a hit in the late nineties? I digress. After being struck by a cataclysmic meteor shower (this is where Bay is able to display as many explosions as he possibly can in five minutes), NASA and the American government discover that an asteroid the size of Texas is about to strike the world causing another extinction event. In response and in a hurry, they recruit Harry Stamper and his ragtag group of likeable oafish deep sea oil drillers to land on the asteroid and blow it up with nuclear device. So when they destroy the asteroid what happens if it breaks down in to various medium sized chunks destined to destroy the world? Do they have back up oil driller teams to blow those up as well? How could a comet knock a massive asteroid out of orbit? What are the odds a comet would strike this particular asteroid?

Why didn’t NASA discover this massive asteroid decades ago? “Armageddon” quickly loses sight of its original premise and just turns on to an all out avalanche of explosions and bad dialogue never quite deciding if it wants to be a disaster film, a science fiction film, or an action film. So it opts for all three and never quite touches on either long enough to be even remotely effective. Instead it’s just messy and wastes a really good cast of character actors. “Armageddon” is such an awful spectacle that epitomizes every bit of dunderheaded storytelling facets Bay is so in love with. Director Michael Bay directs an irritating and utterly obnoxious spectacle that teams a cast of great actors against a gigantic CGI asteroid and is still about as entertaining as tooth decay. One of the most obnoxious movies of the Bay repertoire, this is a chore of a genre picture. And a pretty decent infomercial for Aerosmith.

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