Written by Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno, and Robert Roy Pool
Directed by Michael Bay
It seems like lately this has been on some cable station every day. Why do I know this? Because my husband insists on watching the cable cuts, commercials and all, despite the fact that we have the DVD sitting less than 5 feet from the television.
In 1998, two movies about an asteroid hitting the Earth were released. Of the two, I usually said I liked Deep Impact better. I don’t know if it’s just my senses getting dulled from all of the repeated viewings, but I’m beginning to like Armageddon quite a bit more than I initially did.
In an effort to stave off the impact of an asteroid the size of Texas on the Earth, NASA consults with an oil rig operator, Harry Stamper (portrayed by Bruce Willis), on the possibility of drilling into the asteroid and detonating a nuclear device from the inside. He assembles a team of misfits who just happen to also be highly-skilled drillers to accomplish the task.
Basically, that’s the entire story in that short paragraph. There are tons of small, side stories out of that one, such as that of Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) the NASA official who never realized his dream of completing a mission and securing a patch, or that of “Chick” Chapple, one of the drillers who’s estranged from his family and wants to see his son one more time and make him proud.
The story I’ve grown to like over repeated viewings is the triangle between Harry, his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler) and A.J. frost (Ben Affleck), who works for him. Grace has grown up around oil rigs her whole life, and many of the men under Harry have helped to raise her (apparently including showing her how to use a tampon). This gives the impression of Harry being a distant father, as many are, but it’s especially crucial when he’s her only parent. He’s the type of parent who doesn’t concern himself about the details of life, as long as the big picture seems to be all right. Still, she seems to have managed to grow up fine and is intelligent and well-adjusted. All this is blown apart when he realizes she and A.J. have a relationship and walks in on the two of them in bed.
Harry fires A.J., but of course he needs him for the NASA mission. What happens between the three of them during this time makes for a pretty decent story that grew on me. I appreciate the story much more now than I did the first time I watched it.
The special effects in this movie are truly amazing, and the real star of the film. The ones in space are really exceptional as a pair of shuttles must launch, then dodge meteorites to land on the asteroid and blow it to bits.
There are also some great shots of what happens when these meteorites make it through the atmosphere and hit the Earth. The impact of opening sequence in NYC is quite sobering, especially seeing Trade Center intact. I can’t remember viewing this scene in a long time, so either I missed it or it’s being deleted from a lot of the recent versions of Armageddon I’ve seen on TV. At one point a taxi driver callously says “Could have been a terrorist bomb…” Watching a meteor shoot right into one of the towers, seemingly right in the same spot the planes hit, and it greatly resembles the 9/11 footage.
New York’s not the only city that gets bagged, so there are scenes of decimation in Paris and Hong Kong that for me are more dazzling than sobering. What is it about the human psyche that enjoys seeing our huge cities destroyed on film?
There’s plenty of humor to counteract the serious and sobering side of the film. Valley Stream native Steve Buscemi provides most of it, between getting himself into hock with loan sharks since he thinks he’s going to die anyway to experience space psychosis, he seems to have the bulk of the comic relief. There are some pretty funny scenes when Harry’s crew is getting their physicals at NASA, as well as when they encounter the Russian cosmonaut who’s been in space for 18 months. There are also lots of suspenseful moments in this totally unbelievable story.
This was a perfect role for Bruce Willis. It’s as if they took John McClane from Die Hard and plopped him into an oil rig setting. He doesn’t do anything I haven’t seen him do before in this role, but I also can’t see anyone else portraying Harry. Liv Tyler is quickly growing to be one of my favorite actresses, and I think it’s her moments on the screen which really make this worth watching. The way she’s carrying herself as she’s giving a tour of the rig to foreign investors and speaking to them in their language, while at the same time carrying on an argument with Harry in English is a terrific scene. Ben Affleck is the same mediocre actor I usually think he is, no surprises there.
If you’re looking for some mindless entertainment, Armageddon fits the bill, although some scenes might be disturbing to people.
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