I'm a sucker for disaster movies. As for "Armageddon", I can see why a lot of people dislike Michael Bay films, he pretty much represents the current state of Hollywood big-budget mainstream movies. However, I like to think I'm not a "film snob" who automatically hates anything that Michael Bay does just because it is big-budget Hollywood fare. Yes, most of his movies are shallow exercises in corniness; unrealistic, garish, obvious and over the top. The style over substance argument is a valid one. But it is foolish to write off any movie strictly because of where it comes from. And sometimes they turn out to be a lot of fun, and very entertaining. Besides, disaster films just have an inherent corniness built into them, as the all time cheese-fest "Titanic" proved (James Cameron gets a free pass, he's still a genius). Truly, since the "Airport" and "Towering Inferno" movies from the 70's, isn't this really what we should expect from disaster flicks?
Probably so, and such is the case with "Armageddon", one of the ultimate hokey-but-fun disaster movies ever. I often have to remind myself to judge a movie for what it is, or more to the point what it is meant to be, not for what you want it to be. And using that logic I was able to really enjoy this movie. First of all, you have to admit it's just a fascinating subject. Yes it's been done before (no less than in the same year with "Deep Impact"), but I can never get enough asteroid/comet stories. They set up the impending doom nicely here and Billy Bob Thornton is excellent as our NASA guide to the end of time. There's very little scientific explanation of the asteroid/comet threat on screen, but they throw us enough bones to get into the story.
The problems with "Armageddon" lay mostly with the characters. Most of them are kind of annoying. But some of them are very likable (Billy Bob, Bruce, Owen and Will Patton mainly). The special effects may not have been realistic, but they're still great to look at. Lots of corny dialogue, but amazingly there are some genuinely tender moments that pull at the heartstrings as well. The kid with the toy space shuttle, that got me. They didn't really focus much on the social effects of such an event, instead opting to make it an adventure film about dudes landing on a comet. Which is fine, although some of the sequences did drag. And its hard to keep track of all the minor disasters that occur while these guys are trying to stop the big disaster. The biggest problem of all, of course, is the fact that oil-diggers would never replace astronauts on a mission like this. But again, turning part of your brain off is key to appreciating movies like this.
"Armageddon" works because it's fun escapism, that's what it's supposed to be. Not every indie film is a "gem", just as not every heavily marketed studio movie is complete crap. Big budget Hollywood still manages to pump out a decent movie now and again. And once in a while a few breakthrough and distinguish themselves from the parade of trash that the idiot studio execs green-light. If you've forgotten this or gotten too "film school cool" to remember, go back and watch "Die Hard". As for comet movies, if I had to choose, I liked "Deep Impact" a little bit more, although it had issues too. Overall, "Armageddon", despite its problems, is still worth seeing.
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