Armageddon, the second of this year’s death-from-above thrillers (the first being Deep Impact), has entered our atmosphere. And though it hardly fizzles out in the atmosphere, it is far from being a global killer.
Just to give you an example of the differing paces of Deep Impact and Armageddon, the former film detected the incoming comet with a roomy two years to spare…in Armageddon, the asteroid is detected with only 18 days to impact. To counter the threat, NASA creates a plan, gathers a crew, trains the crew, readies not one, but two Space Shuttles for the mission, and launches them all within that narrow window. You can tell realism is not the object here.
NASA head honcho Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thorton) realizes he needs a drilling team to plant a mega-nuke inside the asteroid’s belly. For some reason, even though the asteroid is “as big as Texas”, they only need to drill 800 feet to get to the very center. But in any case, they need a master driller to head the operation. Enter Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) and his team of overly colorful roughnecks.
Of course, where would the dramatic tension be without a pointless romantic subplot. This is provided by Harry’s daughter, Grace (Liv Tyler), who’s in love with Harry’s right-hand-man A.J. (Ben Affleck). Now, I have yet to become a fan of Liv Tyler, and have yet found no proof that she can actually act. This film gives no exception.
The one thing the film does have going for it is its special effects. The destructive shots as mini-showers pelt major cities are spectacular. Comparatively, the space scenes are nothing special, and even border on bland. The filmmakers seem to recognize this however, and periodically throughout the film they treat us to an intermission of another city being leveled. (Though, you begin to wonder why the asteroids only target urban areas.)
Director Michael Bay has been previously criticized for his music-videoesque directing style of constant motion and quick cuts. However, while not an appropriate style for all films, it certainly fits the action thriller. However, in Armageddon, the effects are a little more disorienting than in, say, The Rock. Particularly once you reach the asteroid where everything is gray and spiky, and everyone is wearing identical spacesuits. It simply gets difficult to identify the characters in the quick shots (a frustrating thing when death is involved).
The action sequences are exciting at times, though the film is hampered when it attempts to find a human villain. The military subplot that’s thrown in is just plain ludicrous. The action sequences never quite leave you completely satisfied, but you’re never bored either.
The acting in the film is par for the course. Most of the characters are one-dimensional quip machines…but they’re funny one-dimensional quip machines. Billy Bob Thornton strives for, but never quite reaches the level of Ed Harris’ similar role in Apollo 13. Bruce Willis handles himself capably, yet again, as an action lead, though this is far from his best character-driven work.
The wafer thin plot of Armageddon can’t hold up to any scrutiny whatsoever. Deep Impact may have been shallow at times, but at least it covered more of the bases.
Still, with its pleasing eye candy and the occasional moment of humor, Armageddon is not a total disaster. But then again, it doesn’t rank up with the best of escapist fare either.