Blu-Ray Review: Armageddon

Armageddon is one of those movies so incomprehensibly over-the-top and ridiculously silly that it is impossible to take anything on-screen seriously.  When NASA finds out that a “meteor the size of Texas” is hurtling towards Earth with an 18-day window until total planetary destruction, they decide to send a hardly trained group of “the world’s best drillers” to the meteor itself in order to plant a nuclear bomb and blow it up from the inside.  What could possibly go wrong?

Needless to say, a lot does.  And almost none of it makes any sense.  However, if (and that’s a big if) you are the type of person who can watch a movie without applying any logic whatsoever, than Armageddon is a thoroughly entertaining epic.  However, if a film is required to make sense for you to enjoy it, than this is probably not the movie for you. 

As with every Michael Bay film, this is a loud, fast-moving film, perfect for those with Attention Deficit Disorder.  The camera is never standing still and Bay can’t get to his next edit quick enough.  Even the characters are over-the-top caricatures.  But all things considered, they managed to assemble a pretty impressive cast. 

Bruce Willis stars as Harry Stamper, the leader of this motley crew of roughnecks.  His daughter Grace is played by Liv Tyler, and in the first act, Harry finds out that she has been secretly sleeping with Harry’s best employee A.J., played by Ben Affleck.  This leads to a ridiculous set piece in which Harry chases A.J. around an oilrig shooting at him as the rest of the cast chases after.  This scene quickly establishes the nature of the film, one that feels almost as much like a theme park stunt show as much as a film. 

Once this motley crew is summoned to NASA and briefed on the situation, Harry insists on one last night of freedom for his crew as well as several “demands” including the right to never pay taxes again.  This all leads to the overly long and completely expected montage of how the group spends the last night on Earth.  Some of these sequences are quite funny, and most just drag on too long.  However, it is in these moments that we really get to know the characters, and start to appreciate just how entertaining this group can be. 

Without these moments on Earth, nothing that happens in space would really matter.  Yes, the movie is about saving the entire planet, but as an audience, we have to be able to root for the characters and not just the situation.  Once our crew blasts off, this becomes a very different type of film.  The action becomes more of a focus, but because we have spent so much time with these characters, there is more of a connection to the chaos happening onscreen. 

As with any film of this genre, there is a very predictable mix of humor, tragedy, and just plain spectacle.  The meteor itself is a fascinating location for several action sequences, and while it never feels like anything but a soundstage, it’s visually compelling enough to keep things interesting.  The screenwriters are able to milk a lot of drama out of the simple act of drilling through a combination of mechanical problems and eventual conflict among the crew. 

Navigating all these problems is Billy Bob Thornton as Dan Truman, the NASA director.  He makes the most of his role, and while his character occasionally feels like a device, Thornton brings a humanity the character desperately needs.  Thornton and Tyler sit out most of the film’s action sequences, but their interactions at NASA make them feel as if they are integral parts of everything that is happening.  They are tricky roles, expertly played.

This is the epitome of a summer blockbuster.  It feels a little dated now, but when it was released, the special effects were considered extraordinary.  The scope was huge, helping cement it’s place as an event film.  This isn’t an important movie, but it’s a fun one. 

Unfortunately, the Blu-Ray doesn’t do the film justice.  The only bonus features are the music video to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing,” and the theatrical teaser and trailer.  I was really hoping for a lot more material, as this seems like the type of production that could have had some really interesting behind-the-scenes footage.  The sequences of destruction are still impressive, and the sequences on the meteor are really fun.  The movie is definitely too long (151 minutes) and it drags a lot, especially in the first act.  But overall, I had a great time watching it, and I’m glad to add it to my collection, even without any decent features.

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