DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
May Contain Spoilers!
Deep Impact (1998) and Armageddon Both fought each other for the crown of Best Asteroid Movie of 1998, but neither really triumphed on the whole. Deep Impact offered a more realistic and emotive take on the end of then world, with Morgan Freeman speaking from the Oval Office to reassure the nation and the world that “everything that could be done, was being done”. Then Michael Bay’s Armageddon came along and stamped all over its sand castle!
This is not thoughtful or successfully emotional, not for want of trying, but what it is, is unabashed entertainment. Maybe it’s a serious threat to Earth, and the maybe we should take the idea of New York and Paris being pummelled with asteroids more seriously, but where’s the fun in that?
Co-written, shockingly, by J.J. Abrams (Super 8 (2010) and Star Trek (2009) and Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Franchise), we have Bruce Willis and his ramshackle team of oddballs who are recruited to train as astronauts and drill a hole for a nuclear warhead to be placed near the core of an asteroid the size of Texas which is on its’ way to end all life on Earth. Obviously, they clash with the uptight NASA team but end up in space, where they destroy MIR in a ludicrous sequence and then land on the rock as it tumbles towards Earth.
With the clock ticking, everything goes wrong and sacrifices are made. The key factor here is fun. The plot is well conceived and written, but it is ultimately ludicrous. But ludicrous isn’t always a bad thing. In many ways the idea of an asteroid hurtling towards Earth maybe plausible and a real thereat but it’s also Science Fiction. And as fiction there’s no rule to say that you can’t just have fun with the idea.
The concept and logic of recruiting experts to drill on the asteroid is there, though the specific circumstances behind it are pushing the realms of it a bit far, but this is driven by a kinetic screenplay, paced by Bay who is never shy when it comes to explosive and spectacular action. Some of the effects are below par and there are moments were explosive set pieces seem to have been shoe-horned in, but there’s no doubt that for a 150 minute movie, this never lets up. It’s action from the opening frame with New York’s meteor showers to the (SPOILER!), Texas Asteroid’s final demise.
The performances are overblown, Trevor Rabin’s score is first-rate and the tone is different enough to take you by surprise. Often remembered as the film which flattened Paris, Armageddon is a classic, often quoted but equally as often sited as childish and ludicrous, it is all of the above. But to me this serves as one of the finest examples of pacing in modern cinema that I have ever seen. One of Bay’s finest films, though to many, that’s not saying much.