I saw Armageddon when it was released theatrically, and I have hated it ever since. Still, it’s been twelve years, and I was interested in seeing it again, just to make sure that it was as bad as I felt originally. So when I visited some friends last night, we put on their DVD version of it, and steeled ourselves for the masochistic torture.
My original impression was essentially confirmed. Armageddon is a blockbuster abomination in a fat-suit. A stupid, lumbering Godzilla of a summer movie, which should rightly make everyone in the audience put their hands on their heads and stomp around in radioactive agony and roaring confusion.
An asteroid the size of Texas is approaching Earth – a global killer. In one of the many, many contrived plot points, the only way to save Earth is to drill into the asteroid and nuke it from the inside. So Bruce Willis, a brilliant oil rig driller with a rotten temper and the maturity of a 10-year-old, is brought in to fly up to the asteroid and destroy it, and save the world. Using his entire unruly oil rig crew. The movie opens with him repeatedly firing a shotgun at one of his own employees, on his own oil rig, because said employee is involved with Willis’ daughter. The level of stupidity and total disregard for realism and responsible behavior, as you can see, is therefore established as very high indeed from the very get-go.
And it continues in the same vein. Lengthy scenes of idiocy with no relevance to the plot are interspersed throughout the movie in ways that can only make a discerning viewer groan. None of the science or the human behavior make the least bit of sense. I watched this movie in the company of a physicist, who at one point exclaimed that Star Wars is more realistic than this.
The movie is trying – and failing spectacularly – to be serious. It’s supposed to show a situation of extreme anxiety and peril where the entire world hangs in the balance. But there is never any palpable feeling of fear for the fate of the Earth, because a string of preposterous action scenes and “endearing” character portraits are unrelentingly thrown at you from all sides. As a result, there is simultaneously too much excitement (focused on the characters) and no excitement at all (as regards the movie’s alleged plot)!
The biggest problem with the movie is indeed that it is played straight. It is so ridiculous that it is almost a comedy, and it would have needed only a tiny adjustment in order to be a great comical adventure of campiness and self-satire. In fact, I’ll wager that all it would have needed was Dennis Hopper in place of Bruce Willis! Then we would have known that a movie like this was not intended to be taken seriously. Then there would have been an appropriately eccentric license for the main guy to behave so ridiculously, and we would have been able to accept the entire movie as an exercise in wackiness. As it is, however, Armageddon is awash with patriotic plattitudes, unnecessary and artificial action, insufferable romantic silliness and a total lack of any intensity about the fact that Earth is supposed to be in danger of annihilation.
Years ago, I originally rated this movie a 1 out of 10, which is the rating I reserve for movies I find offensively bad. Armageddon, to me, is the movie that exemplifies how not to make an action movie. Everything is over the top, and not a thing has been included to make the movie the least bit human and believable. Still, I am now adjusting my rating to 2 out of 10, because there are actually a few moments here and there which are not offensively bad – mainly featuring Liv Tyler and Steve Buscemi. And the production values are quite impressive in places, although the overall look of the movie is more messy than attractive. The main thing that makes me give it a better rating, however, is that, except for the small fact that it doesn’t have Dennis Hopper in it, it is almost a good Dennis Hopper movie!
I see Armageddon as the diametrically opposed movie to Deep Impact from the same year. In Denmark Deep Impact opened in May ’98 and Armageddon came along three months later. I loved Deep Impact. It had all the intensity and anxiety that Armageddon utterly lacked, and Deep Impact was also my first introduction to Téa Leoni, whom I considered a total unknown at the time. This made the high quality of Deep Impact that much more impactful for me, and it is absolutely one of my favorite movies from that year, deserving a 9 out of 10 rating from me. In comparison, Armageddon was, to me, the ultimate disappointment.
The DVD version reviewed here is a 2-disc version with lots of extras, but we only saw the movie itself. It’s probably a fine DVD release – or as fine as it can be for a movie like this.