FROM THE VAULT: Armageddon
In a week that saw Michael Clarke Duncan and Neil Armstrong pass away, it seems only natural to watch Armageddon.
Directed by: Michael Bay.
Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer, Gale Anne Hurd, and Michael Bay.
Written by: Jonathan Hensleigh, JJ Abrams, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno and Robert Roy Pool
Starring: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, William Fichtner, Owen Wilson, Peter Stormare, Jason Isaacs, Charlton Heston, Udo Keir, Shawnee Smith.
Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer bring us an asteroid the size of Texas, hurtling towards earth, and unless Bruce Willis and his band of drilling roughnecks can explode it, all life on earth will be wiped out.
This movie is precisely as you would expect from a big budget Bay/ Bruckheimer movie. It has an unexpectedly brilliant cast, a daft premise, a fun script, an over-played chart topper, and a whole mess of massive explosions.
There are a lot of quite brilliant people involved in this movie, some of whom are veterans, while for others this happens quite early in their careers. Director/producer Bay has given us some of the biggest and dumbest action movies, the Bad Boys, The Rock and the Transformers. Producer Bruckheimer needs no introduction, as his movies are a genre to themselves. Hurd had given us the Terminators, Aliens, and the Hulks. Between the writers they have given us: Die Hard 3; Lost; Super 8; the Bournes; Alien Vs Predator Requiem; Outbreak. And then there’s the cast. The cast is amazing, filled with names, faces and “Oh, It’s That Guy”. Seriously. Check out the IMDb page.
And everyone does a great job. The expansive cast are all charming and very watchable, but this is a Willis movie and he carries it very well. He even passes the sweaty vest shaped torch on to the affable up and comer Ben Affleck. In fact, during Bruce’s big emotional final speech there is clearly nothing else of any importance happening in NASA, because his big blond mug is on every screen. He must be the star. And while, naturally, not everyone makes it to the credits, it is part of the fun of the movie trying to decide who bites it next.
A major strength of the movie is the writing. Admittedly, there are a lot of writers, but they all bring something to the picture. The premise is daft, but it is very fun. The movie opens with the destruction of New York, and raises the stakes from there, ruining worldwide cityscapes every once in a while to remind you. There are also a lot of funny lines, alongside weighty speeches, which can feel rather heavy handed at times. The characters are quickly and effectively established, and then they are thrown into the potential end of the world.
This movie had access to genuine NASA training facilities, which adds a lot of “realism” to the ludicrous situation. The use of Neil Armstrong’s legendary moonwalk footage is a very nice touch.
The training stuff is good, but goes on a bit. In fact, the whole movie goes on a bit, but more on that later. Once they safely get in to space things immediately start to go spectacularly wrong. But so many massive setbacks inevitably result in thrilling heroics and moving triumphs.
The movie looks cool, as do most of Bay’s movies. In fact, it looks like just about ALL his other movies. Blues and greys in NASA and space, contrasting with the vibrant reds and oranges of the rest of humanity, with liberal use of slow motion thrown in for gravitas. And then when stuff starts blowing up, it blows up real nice. This is a pre-Matrix movie, before CGI became so pervasive, so there are a lot of practical effects, and they look great. The sets are also very impressive, particularly the asteroid set.
AND THEN THERE’S THAT SONG
The soundtrack is pretty cool, with a fun selection of rock tunes (which is funny, as it’s a big rock that is the bad guy in the movie). And then there’s THAT song. Had I not heard it a million goddamn times it would be a cool and fitting tune, being the theme for Ben and Liv’s young love. But I have, so I was tired of it the first time it started. The score is quite good, though it can be a little overbearing at times, clumsily nudging you towards emotion and epicness using a big, loud, pointy stick.
So…The whole movie, in just about every aspect, is overblown and reeks of excess. No part of this movie is subtle. But that is the point. Why use 2 words when 3 words, in slow-motion, with a tonne of explosions going on in the background will do. It’s a long, loud and rather abrasive movie. And it’s brilliant.