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Armageddon

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

All-Reviews.com 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




Reviewer Roundup
1.  MrBrown review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie review
3.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by MrBrown
3 stars out of 4

For all the talk about their shared "the sky is falling" theme, _Armageddon_, about an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, can best be described as the opposite side of a coin shared by its counterpart, the serious falling comet tale _Deep_Impact_. That said, on its own, unique terms, the slam-bang _Armageddon_ is a reasonably satisfying summer blockbuster, with all the flaws and virtues that come with that label.

In addition to the "end of the world" theme, _Armageddon_ and _Deep_Impact_ do have another thing in common: successfully overcoming a setup that borders on the ridiculous. After a group of top government and scientific advisors determine that the only way to possibly prevent (yes) armageddon is to detonate a nuclear bomb inside the asteroid, NASA executive director Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) recruits expert deep-core driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis, inexplicably speaking in a wildly inconsistent drawl) and his crew to do the job. Of course, these drillers aren't astronauts, which means a slow-going hour-long passage in which the roughnecks undergo extensive training and evaluation for their outer space mission. A lot of what goes on, including psychological and physical exams and a side trip to a strip club, is supposed to be funny. But with the exception of a couple of one-liners dryly delivered by the always-entertaining Steve Buscemi (as horny geologist Rockhound), the comedy is merely tedious--just as tedious, in fact, as the setup of _Deep_Impact_, but in a different way, ineptly aiming for cheap laughs as opposed to earnestly setting up hokey, all-too-familiar disaster epic plot threads.

_Armageddon_'s light touch is just one in its long line of differences from its more grave counterpart. While _Deep_Impact_ was a dramatic treatment of a doomsday scenario, _Armageddon_ takes a gung-ho, action-oriented approach. Director Michael Bay (who appears fleetingly as a NASA technician) wastes no time putting the special effects dollars to work; before he hits the basic training lull, Bay treats the audience to a curtain-raising space shuttle explosion and a spectacular meteor shower in New York City. With this different angle comes a pivotal change of perspective, focusing on the outer space rescue mission as opposed to _Impact_'s cross-section of Earth dwellers. So, in essence, it can be said that _Armageddon_, with its scrappy crew doing their best to "fight the future," is a film about living, not dying, the ominous inevitability of which was the Earth-centered _Impact_'s main issue.

Ultimately, the difference between _Armageddon_ and _Deep_Impact_ can be boiled down to a fundamental one: male and female. As _Entertainment_Weekly_'s Lisa Schwarzbaum observed in her review, the touchy-feely _Deep_Impact_ was a "woman's action movie"; _Armageddon_, from notoriously testosterone-heavy producer Jerry Bruckheimer, is clearly one for the guys. In addition to all the full-throttle spectacle, _Armageddon_, like all Bruckheimer films, barely has enough time for the onscreen females. Liv Tyler is prominently featured in the marketing campaign, but her slim role is merely an amalgam of two cardboard female stereotypes: rebellious daughter (to Harry) and devoted girlfriend (to driller A.J. Frost, played by Ben Affleck). There is one female on the space crew, ballbusting co-pilot Watts (Jessica Steen), but, in typical Bruckheimer fashion, she's literally shoved out of the way at a critical moment.

So when _Armageddon_ picks up steam with the shuttle launch at about the one-hour mark, it is momentum of the hard-driving, Hollywood action sort that takes over, not the subtle, surprising poignance that _Deep_Impact_ eventually took on. Bay, as shown in his previous two films (also Bruckheimer productions), _Bad_Boys_ and _The_Rock_, is a crack action director, and he successfully generates tension and excitement from otherwise been-there, done-that situations such as the last-second disarming of a ticking bomb (complete with, as Roger Ebert terms them, an "RDR"--red digital display) and a narrow escape from an exploding complex. All of the mayhem comes bathed in Bay's trademark, music-video-honed visual razzle dazzle, heavy on the quick cuts and slow-mo moments, which keeps the proceedings interesting.

_Armageddon_ is a sturdy popcorn extravaganza; if only Bay and the writing crew of Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams, Robert Roy Pool, Jonathan Hensleigh, Tony Gilroy, and Shane Salerno were content to keep it that way. But, seeing they were telling a larger-than-life story (and perhaps swayed by the estrogen of producer Gale Anne Hurd), they decided to go for emotional content to match, with smaller-than-life results. While there is nothing here nearly as embarrassing as the laughably dreary "How Do I Live?"-scored reunion between Nicolas Cage and family in _Con_Air_, the general lack of subtlety in _Armageddon_ (and, for that matter, other Bruckheimer productions) prevent the conclusion, which is to supposed to be a profoundly moving, from completely convincing; the "human drama" comes off every bit as calculated as the effects.

Although two films are quite different, in the end the question will always be "Is _Armageddon_ better than _Deep_Impact_?" For me, it's pretty much a draw, but one that can be decided depending on what it is one wants to see. If it's drama, _Deep_Impact_; if it's action, _Armageddon_. I'd venture to guess that it's the latter quality most moviegoers would go for, and, consequently, the box office answer to the question would be an emphatic yes.

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