Armageddon, directed by Michael Bay (The Rock), has turned
out to be Twister all over again a movie written around its
special effects, with no concern for facts, no credible characters, and
no emotional content except cheap sentimentality. It is impossible to count
all the plot discrepancies; the story is bulging with unrealistic events.
The only thing that saves it from being a total bomb is the effects and
John Schwartzman's elegant cinematography. He obviously thought he was working
on a serious film, and made it beautiful. But camerawork is not supposed
to be the star of the picture; the fact that it's the best thing in the
movie says something.
In a pretentious, sexist script written by a team of 10 (one woman, uncredited),
the U.S. government learns that an asteroid the size of Texas is approaching
Earth. If it hits, the entire global population will be wiped out
either vaporized by the blast or frozen in the resulting nuclear winter.
Using all their collective powers of reason, the all-male disaster committee
decides that the thing to do is send astronauts to land on it, drill down
800 feet, and detonate a nuclear warhead, breaking it in two.
Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) owns an offshore oil rig, and employs a
ragtag group of roughnecks including "A.J." (Ben Affleck), "Rockhound"
(Steve Buscemi), "Chick" (Will Patton), and his own daughter Grace
(Liv Tyler) among others. Grace has grown up with her father and his employees
because of divorce, and therefore has the dubious distinction of being the
only featured woman in the movie. She is currently dating A.J. against the
wishes of her dad, who wants "something better" for her, although
no one explains how he expects her to get it.
Harry is contacted because he is the best driller on the planet. He has
invented a super drill (carbide tip, no doubt), and the government team,
headed by NASA director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton), wants him to teach
a group of astronauts to use it. But he insists on using his own men
he doesn't trust anyone else and remarkably, this group of blue-collar
laborers all agree to accompany him into space to do the job. A few "real"
astronauts go along to fly the two shuttles, including Col. William Sharp
(William Fichtner) and a token woman who has less than five lines in the
movie. Everything that can go wrong, does, but despite all reason and all
the laws of physics, some of the above people actually survive.
This movie goes on so long that I was giving the door a longing gaze ½ hour before the credits rolled. Talk about overkill roller-coaster thrills are fine, but everything has a saturation point. The script reads like an overlong SNL sketch; the bungling Russian astronaut caricature reminds me of something from the '70s. Mostly it's too flippant for the subject matter, and the "serious" parts are pretentious and overdramatic. The romantic content is cloying and supersweet, and Buscemi is the only actor in the film who displays any kind of realistic human characteristics. His face constantly betrays his lack of confidence in the mission, as if he's always thinking, "How did I get myself into this?!" Come to think of it, maybe he wasn't acting. **½
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