Armageddon' outta here
There has been a growing trend in cinema for many years to launch a big blockbuster movie where the basis of the plot is that the world faces impending doom only for the Americans to save the day with some far fetched idea. Movies such as "2012" and "The Day After Tomorrow" are two prime examples of this sort of the movie, but the one which stands out most in my mind is "Armageddon" starring Bruce Willis. It stands out not because it is the most realistic or engaging, far from it, in fact the whole premise of the movie is so ridiculous that I wonder how the writers came up with such far fetched ideas. The reason that "Armageddon" sticks in my mind is that it is a big budget production which whilst being stupid is amazingly entertaining with a mix of fun characters, great special effects, a huge dose of humour and whilst not the most realistic of plots it is one which keeps you watching once you disengage your brain.
When a huge meteor the size of Texas is spotted in the skies on course to destroy the whole world, the brains at NASA come up with a solution to save the day. Employing the services of the world's best deep driller, Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis - Tears of the Sun) and his team of men, they put them through a crash course in becoming astronauts in the hope of sending them into space where they will land on the meteor, drill a huge hole and plant a nuclear bomb. It's a dangerous mission and tensions run high especially between Harry and one of his men A.J. Frost (Ben Affleck - Hollywoodland) who has been romancing his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler - One Night at McCool's).
As already mentioned, the plot to "Armageddon" is in itself is as far fetched as they come and to be honest is so full of holes that you could be excused for thinking that Harry Stamper himself had been practicing his drilling skills with it. But then you wouldn't expect much more of a modern disaster movie, as the emphasis these days seem to be on entertaining the audiences with big effects and humour rather than tight, realistic plots. Despite being totally unrealistic "Armageddon" does a reasonable job and although not overly complex or dramatic it does keep you watching.
There are also several minor sub plots, many of them pretty irrelevant in relation to the telling of the main story such as a father leaving his estranged wife and son, but the one which does seem to tie in is one which revolves around a romance between Harry's daughter and one of his crew. Of course this is pretty predictable stuff and allows for the stereotypical farewell scene where are brave young man has to leave his loved one behind, but it wouldn't be a disaster movie with out this element. There lies the essence of what "Armageddon" is, it is a predictable disaster movie which does not attempt to bring anything new to this already packed genre, it just tries to do everything as well as it can, whilst not always succeeding. The same can be said about the dialogue which is littered with over the top, clichés which instead of delivering any real emotion or meaning are more comical than anything.
But whilst the plot and dialogue may not be of a high standard, the humour dispersed throughout the movie is in my mind what saves it from being a complete and utter joke. From the introduction to Harry Stamper, as we see him launching golf balls off an oil rig at some green peace protestors whilst saying he donates money to them every year, you know that the movie will be full of wise cracks especially with Bruce Willis in the lead role. Not that all these jokes work and at times you are left bewildered as to what the writers were thinking, but for the majority of the time the jokes are good and add a nice touch to a predictable movie.
What is really good is for 90% of the movie, it moves at a break neck speed not allowing you to think things through before they hit you with the next gag, location shift or special effect. In a way it is like a trailer for a movie where they pack all the most explosive bits together cutting out any real meaningful bits which may bore a perspective viewer, in this case of "Armageddon" is has very few meaningful bits anyway and is all about the action and adventure rather than anything else.
Of course all modern day disaster movies need a strong lead and in the case of "Armageddon" they have come up trumps with Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper. Easily mixing "Die Hard" style action with "Moonlighting" humour he is near on perfect for the role, my only issue comes when he has to deliver some actual meaningful dialogue, as he actually looks like he is laughing. To be honest, he probably was as the dialogue was so cheesy I would have struggled to keep a straight face whilst trying to deliver it. Adding to the mix you have the romantic pairing of Ben Affleck as Harry's top driller A.J. Frost and the gorgeous Liv Tyler as his daughter (Harry's that is). Whilst the romantic plot they have to work with is nothing but tosh, they at least manage to give the viewer some youthful eye candy, especially as the majority of the cast which includes Billy Bob Thornton, Will Patton and Steve Buscemi are not the most conventionally handsome of stars.
One high light of the movie is Rockhound played by the aforementioned Steve Buscemi, whose geeky appearance is at odds with the rugged muscular looks of his fellow oil rig workers, but whose one line gags are on par with the quick fire wise cracks from Willis. As you can see, there are a few big name stars in "Armageddon" and that is without mentioning Owen Wilson, William Fichtner and Michael Clarke Duncan to name a few more, but big names does not mean big performances and whilst no one really puts in a duff turn, there is nothing award winning about any of them either.
It may come as no surprise when you learn that "Armageddon" is the collaboration of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay who between them have made movies such as "Pearl Harbor" and "The Rock". Whilst they may not have had the best material to work with when it comes to the plot and dialogue they have managed to turn into a reasonable disaster movie which will entertain as well as make you inadvertently laugh. Although some of the special effects they use are pretty spectacular, likewise some of them are just too fake which is quite unusual seeing that Bruckheimer is quite a stickler for accuracy when it comes to his movies.
Of course you cannot talk about "Armageddon" with out mentioning that song, you know the one, "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith, The Rock ballad which seemed to be everywhere for at least a year after the movies cinematic release. Personally I hate it, but it is synonymous with the movie, I prefer the seemingly impromptu performance of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" which is actually sung by the actors themselves.
What this all boils down to is that "Armageddon" is predictable, cliché and full of holes not just with the plot but the dialogue and some of the special effects, but despite that I actually enjoy it. It is one of those movies where you can just sit back, disengage brain and enjoy the quick fire wise cracks, over the top special effects and simple plot. Add to this Bruce Willis who is in fine form through out the entire movie and you have a reasonable way to spend a couple of hours, although at 150 minutes it is quite long. Of course this is not going to be everybody's cup of tea but if you like action, blockbusters such as "The Day After Tomorrow" and "The Rock", then there is a good chance you will enjoy "Armageddon".