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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Armageddon

Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck
Director: Michael Bay
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 150 Minutes
Release Date: July 1998
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action

Review by Walter Frith
2 stars out of 4

If you look up the term 'overkill' in the dictionary you will see a picture of movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer. His production company tries to top itself with each outing and 'Armageddon' is no exception. For a movie critic and in many ways it's the same for the general public at large, the film doesn't require a lot of thought, if any at all, and is meant to be a big budgeted, loud, extremely edited film with special effects that look like they're straight out of a comic book and the film's gothic design of a giant meteor is a glimpse straight into hell. One thing you have to understand in seeing a film like this (and it's something I've said over and over again and I'll always say it) is that it is beyond the realm of high brow criticism and deserves to be put in the category of happy medium. If you criticize the film too harshly, you'll look like a snob and if you judge it too well, you'll look like a fool. The genre of action films should be given a new category, that of 'expected action' film as you know what to expect as soon as you see the coming attractions.

'Armageddon' certainly aims to please and has more edits in a ten second span than any other film I've seen and corners are not cut in the special effects department. My harshest criticism of this film is that it doesn't require any big name stars because the film is so overwhelming technically that the biggest movie star in the world would get lost in the mix. And yet, the big names are there.

As the film opens, the narration is conducted by Charlton Heston, whose biblical past in films seems appropriate here as he describes an event of biblical proportions. We hear how a description of a meteor's impact 65 million years ago on Earth comes to fruition which allegedly wiped out the dinosaurs. Some theories I've read over the years tend to favour that that impact is now the Grand Canyon in Arizona U.S.A. Skip forward to the present day. A meteor the size of Texas is on a collision course with Earth and the only way to destroy it seems to be to land a space shuttle on it with a group of core drillers that will grind a hole in it, drop a nuclear explosive in it and break it up so that the concussion that follows will cause the remaining particles to miss our planet. I'm not sure that this would necessarily work but then again bad science is always a factor in films like this just as it was ludicrous to believe that Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum could fly that alien space craft into the mother ship in 'Independence Day' and upload that infamous computer virus to destroy all the surrounding ships hovering over the major cities of the world. Dumb? Sure. But embracing the idea of suspension of disbelief is as old as the film industry itself.

Bruce Willis stars as the best core driller in the world. He's an aspiring oil man and the first time we see him he's chipping golf balls from his off shore rig at a Greenpeace boat, filled with protesters who duck each time a golf ball comes their way and clangs off a beam just over their heads as Willis laughs. One of his crew (Ben Affleck) is having an affair with his daughter (Liv Tyler) and other members of Willis' crew (Will Patton, Steve Buscemi) work closely as his best friends. Willis is called in by a NASA chief (Billy Bob Thornton) who explains the impending doom and asks Willis to apply his core drilling skills and destroy the rocky menace. Willis agrees only if he can have his own men brought along and their training is a scene straight out of 'The Right Stuff' only it crosses with some slapstick and looks more like the wrong stuff and this scene is aloof. In reality, not all of these men would pass the training course to cut the mustard is taking a trip to outer space and this plot hole is about the silliest the film has to offer.

The most unusual character in the film is a Russian cosmonaut on board the space station Mir played by Peter Stormare. The 'Fargo' reunion is in this film. He and Steve Buscemi appeared in 'Fargo' and are in this film. You remember Stormare as the thug who didn't say too much in 'Fargo' and who eventually cuts Buscemi's head off with an axe and stuffed him into a wood chipper. Stormare even sports the same type of winter hat he had in 'Fargo' and I'm wondering if it's an in joke here. Ditto on the 'Pulp Fiction' reunion. 'Pulp Fiction' even gets mentioned in 'Armageddon' by one of the cast. 'Armageddon' has Bruce Willis and Steve Buscemi. Buscemi plays the Buddy Holly waiter in 'Pulp Fiction'.

The other giant meteor film, 'Deep Impact', released earlier this year is better than this film because it had the human element more tightly wound around it plot line and there really is no good reason why 'Armageddon' has to be two and a half hours long. There are too many silly scenes of corny dialogue and too much time is spent at the site of the meteor which doesn't look convincing but the film's saving grace is its eye popping special effects, booming sound effects and clever sets which tower over the entire production. Director Michael Bay ('The Rock', 'Bad Boys') never gives the audience a chance to breathe and a bit more subtlety would have been nice and while it is often said that less is more, 'Armageddon' is still good to look at and a treat to listen to and while the film comes out looking exactly the way the film makers intended it to, it can't be all that bad but it's a film you'll only want to see once.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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