Armageddon (1998)

Originally Reviewed – 3/3/2012

In preparation for this review, I’m typing this from an underground bunker. Six hundred feet below the earth’s surface, hunkering down from an impending storm. Water is scarce, food is scarcer and despite the waning battery on my back up laptop, I remain defiant. A single light bulb hangs lightly from the cement ceiling and while I realize sunshine is just an open door away, once this is done, I can never go back. But I don’t care if this bulb burns out and I care even less if my actions cause a tidal wave of retribution. My resolve is firm and absolute. I know what I must do. Despite the poor reviews, critical panning and Michael Bay’s direction, I kinda like the movie Armageddon.

OK. I kinda love it.

Now, before the negative tides rise to swallow me, let me make one thing clear. This is a bad movie in nearly every way you can be one. This overblown tale of a group of oil drillers turned astronauts, led by cliché American name # 52 (Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper), is ludicrous. Harry and his band of misfits need to land on a speeding asteroid, drill a hole, drop a nuke and take off before the rock reaches the ominous Zero Barrier. If they fail? The Texas sized meteor will slam into our waiting planet, ending mankind as we know it. In the meantime, small bits of the asteroid destroy major cities, the cast members make tampon jokes and Liv Tyler falls in love with Ben Affleck. Obviously, all things in this film are exaggerated.

Armageddon, at the core, is a silly action movie and director Michael Bay follows every beat of the genre, including the bad ones. The script is silly, the editing is manic to the point of confusing and the moments where the film slows down are the points where I get a refill on my snacks. And yes, there’s even that God forsaken Aerosmith song that bleats through the film like a young child afflicted with the rickets. At nearly every turn, the critical portion of my brain screams to my irrational side, saying, “Stop watching this movie! Don’t you know The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is playing again on AMC”?

But I never listen. To me, the film’s biggest strength is the simple likability of the characters. And while I use the term loosely, the main cast is genuinely enjoyable, Ben Affleck aside. From Steve Bushemi as the sex crazed geologist to an affable Owen Wilson to the teddy bear charm of Michael Clarke Duncan, the cast is well chosen and seems like an offbeat family. Not to mention the film features the best bad Russian stereotype ever put to film in Peter Stormare’s mad portrayal of a society removed cosmonaut. While the situation the crew finds themselves in defies all semblances of logic and sense, it’s a nifty roller coaster ride featuring people you can easily care about it. Yes, these cookie cutter personalities never grow beyond caricatures, but they’re witty and enjoyable enough to pull you through the silliness.

But it’s not just good casting that pulls Armageddon along. The film is injected with a genuine sense of fun with a script just dopey enough for us not to care. The movie doesn’t try to be a scientific theorem on the destructive potential of asteroids. It’s a semi serious action flick that provides explosive set pieces involving quip happy protagonists you can easily root for. Unlike Bay’s other film atrocities, Armageddon manages to be camp you can care about, even if you completely forget the experience five minutes after the screening. If you need a dumb movie that somehow, someway draws you in, Armageddon is an easy choice. And if you really like it, head out to the weeds of East Rutherford, New Jersey. Walk three hundred paces south of Giant’s Stadium, turn left at the Texaco and head for a small, windowless shack in an abandoned parking lot. Knock three times and come on in. There’s plenty of room down here in the bunker.

Score – 70%

About Bill Tucker

Jersey based and New York bred, Bill Tucker is an author of film reviews, short fiction and articles for variety of sites and subjects. He currently blogs for The Austinot (Austin lifestyle), the Entertainment Weekly Blogging Community (TV and film) and (retro gaming). He's also contributed articles to Texas Highways magazine. His favorite pastimes include craft beer snobbery, gaming and annoying his friends with random quotes from The King of Comedy. You can check out all of his literary naughty bits at View all posts by Bill Tucker

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