Armageddon Review

Asteroids are always threatening Earth. Just today, there were two that skittered on by like bowling balls rolling along the gutter. There’ll be five more in just as many days over the first week of May. We have nothing to worry about. Armageddon thinks not. Instilling within its audience is a fear founded by the dinosaurs. It happened to them; it will happen to us. Michael Bay tends not to disappoint when blockbuster blowouts are concerned. As he opens with the immediate destruction of Earth, narration rolling on saying “…it will happen again, it’s just a question of when,” you get the feeling this is not just a threat from the sentient powers beyond the stars, but from Bay too.  

As he blasts golf balls at protestors, Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) is cemented as quite a tough guy indeed. Within only a few minutes, he has threatened A.J. Frost (Ben Affleck) with a golf club and subsequently, a shotgun. It is mindless, but it both introduces us to our leading characters and their supporting aid but also sets out the father and daughter rift between Stamper and Grace (Liv Tyler). But this only works through consistent camera movement and strong writing. Suspension of disbelief is completely essential. If you are to take an oil rig team that are being shot into space to stop a meteor from destroying Earth seriously, then you’re simply not going to have a good time. Suspension of disbelief is not just crucial when engaging with Bay’s escapism, but integral.  

Still, Willis’ surprise that the best-laid plan the U.S. Government could think of is to fire him and his friends into space is rather reflective of Armageddon’s audience. My surprise comes from Willis appearing in a good film. This feels like his last, leading hurrah. His final action flick, and he caps a generation of moviemaking off with style. Each character, it must be admitted, feels too stringent. The montage moments that show the team and the camaraderie between them is, well, it dampens the spirits of the world-ending consequences they’re about to face. Having too many characters, none of whom are taken that seriously, is a rather difficult hurdle to leap over considering the heavy consequences, which are forgotten about swiftly. Jason Isaacs’ cameo suggests the need to drill, and we’re away from there. Udo Kier pops up to offer a hand in one of the many montage moments, which drone on and on. Still, once the film picks up the pace and these ensemble members start drilling and dying, we’re in for that Bay-oriented entertainment value. Roger Ebert once wrote that this is “…an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained.” He is not wrong.  

Why the line “he’ll be alright,” is often followed by disaster is simply a matter of tempting fate. Outrageous fun with a tightly cast ensemble is no harm at all. Thornton screaming in the control room, Affleck and Willis buddying up in space, sharing danger and sentimentalism as Buscemi, Stormare and Duncan flutter around in the background. A young Keith David shows up too, holding the camera for just a few passing seconds, but cementing himself as a tremendous performer nonetheless. This cast elevates Armageddon beyond what it should be, and thanks to Bay’s keen eye for entertainment, it is hard not to love those pockets of explosive brilliance. Destruction is not my cup of tea, there is something that does not sit well with me about the senseless exploitation of fickle human lives. Armageddon gets away with it though. Bay uses his explosives with such a generally grand effect that he circumvents morality. It is hard to have qualms with an asteroid. But Willis seems to have one or two issues with those he brought with him to stop it.  

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