Rating: Oh, this gets a C-.
Summary: NASA hires oil drillers to fly to an asteroid, drill a hole, drop a nuke, destroy said-asteroid, and save the world. Yes. Not even going to give you more of a synopsis in the body of this review because that’s literally what this is.
In honor of July 4th, I wanted to watch a very American movie. You know, explosions, a beefy hero, implausible exposition dumps, preferably directed by Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich, awkward parent-child relationships, lots of American flag shots in slow motion, a wannabe rock soundtrack, the works. Armageddon was on Netflix and so that won. Apparently, it also came out June 30, 1998, so I paid a lot more homage to this movie than it deserves.
Because dude. This movie is bad. It’s so bad, it’s good. You will either love or hate this movie for how bad it is. There are so many bad movies that just work for the right reasons. Armageddon is right up there with Con Air: it’s a classic 90’s movie that’s not very good, but it has some entertaining moments, mostly due to the bad parts being so good at being bad. And yes. Both have Steve Buscemi. (You know the only reason this movie doesn’t get a D? Steve Buscemi.) As I wouldn’t watch Jurassic World to learn about dinosaurs or Gladiator to learn about ancient Rome, no sane person would watch Armageddon to learn about space. This is, at best, shallow entertainment and shouldn’t be seen as anything else except:
AMERICA IS THE BEST AT EVERYTHING AND THE BEST AT SPACE AND ALL OTHER COUNTRIES DON’T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT SPACE BECAUSE AMERICA CAN HANDLE IT. WE CAN TRAIN ANYONE TO BE AN ASTRONAUT IN 15 DAYS, OUR ASTRONAUTS MOVE AT LIGHTNING SPEED IN SLOW MOTION, ALSO WE CAN TRANSPORT NUKES ON SPACE SHUTTLES. PEACE, JUSTICE, AND BRUCE WILLIS, AMEN.
I remember this movie when it first came out and I was a kid, too dumb to notice anything wrong. Man, tough dudes defeating an asteroid!? It was badass. Everyone bought into it. Nobody cared. I mostly still don’t care. Today, I think the endearing factor mostly has to do with the chemistry of the cast and characters- it’s basically a bunch of blue collar dudes smacktalking government officials and saving the world in the process. I see the appeal and I find it appealing.
Watching this 20 years later, it hasn’t aged well. I’m not sure if it’s because the TV we were using was HD or whatever, but it kind of looks like Mortal Kombat-esque effects. And it’s a lot of male posturing. And all of America is rural farm country. But the 90’s, amirite!? I wouldn’t go into this expecting anything else but a laughable good time. Few movies made it out of that decade. I regret none of them.
Mostly, I never regret Bruckheimer/Bay collaborations because that’s basically how we got Hot Fuzz. Thank you thank you thank you. Going off that, I will say, the pacing of the movie generally works and this is probably due to Bay’s staple of fast editing and camerawork. Something as boring as a board meeting is given a sense of urgency. Ridiculous, yes, perfect, no, but most of it works in the context of this movie.
So what are the redeeming moments, you ask? Everything, because it’s all hilarious. I won’t even get into the scientific inaccuracies because that would be way too easy. All of the close-ups of people yelling and sweating. Liv Tyler has all-access to NASA despite being nothing more than a sales rep for the drill company. Bruce Willis balancing a ton of accents- he goes from New York, to… Southern? Texan? Southwest? Ah, f*** it. Bruce Willis using blue collar language to put uptight government officials in their place. Ben Affleck whining about not being trusted when he doesn’t display any sort of intelligence or insight. We get a shoehorned romance that mostly revolves around daddy issues and really awkward animal cracker foreplay. That’s right. Also, someone calling Jason Isaacs “Mr. Wizard” pre-Harry Potter. That was a bonus.
I will say- the cast is the best part of this because they are clearly having a really good time. It’s like Ocean’s 11 in Space. Even though they are thinly developed, they do feel like familiar people and the chemistry between them is genuine. I like casts that know when to not take the material too seriously. And despite that and the ridiculous nature of this movie- there are some solid acting moments. As much crap as Affleck gets nowadays and as much as his character whines in this, he gets a few good moments. Billy Bob Thornton probably has the best performance in this movie and lends it the more serious tone at the right parts.
Also, Liv Tyler is an angel. Everyone, leave her alone.
Somehow it all comes together in a purely enjoyable mess. It’s definitely not the epic film I remember from when I was a kid, it’s just entertaining for different reasons. Regardless of how bad or inaccurate Armageddon is, I won’t ever feel guilty about liking it. Sometimes, you just need a good laugh.