Courtesy Photo
145 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Rereleased: Wednesday, July 1, 1998
Directed by Michael Bay

Starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Will Patton & Steve Buscemi

This film is on the Worst of 1998 list.
'Armageddon' a tedious, tiresome explosion-fest embarrassment

After seeing "Armageddon," I've begun to reconsider my pedantic review of "Deep Impact."

Both films are built around saving the world from death by space debris, and "Deep Impact" may have been paltry in plot, but it was, in large part, about how people on Earth come to terms emotionally with their impeding doom.

"Armageddon" is about a bunch of monosyllabic grunts who go into space and blow stuff up.

It's the action movie equivalent of a porno flick: 145 minutes of back-to-back vignettes that each begin with inane, arbitrary dialogue, move on to an effects-laden adrenaline sequence (the bump and grind) and ending in a very large explosion (the "money shot").

Produced by Jerry "Kaboom!" Bruckheimer ("Con Air," "The Rock"), directed by Michael Bay ("The Rock," "Bad Boys") and starring Bruce Willis as an oil driller sent into space to sink a nuke into the core of a asteroid before it clobbers Earth, "Armageddon" is as close as Hollywood has come yet to a Sports Illustrated highlights film for action movie junkies. This is a test to see if studios even need bother with plot, logic or common sense anymore.

Assuming its audience is a little slow on the uptake, the movie opens with a high-tech history lesson about the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs. Narrated by Charlton Heston (I thought he was of the Creationist ilk...), it shows, with top-dollar computer effects, a cataclysmic global explosion while Chuck exhorts ominously "It will happen again..."

Cut to 65 million years later as a space shuttle gets pummeled in orbit (big explosion) and a meteor shower that went unnoticed by astronomers wipes out parts of Manhattan with rocks that inexplicably explode upon impact with postcard landmarks.

Playing catch-up, scientists soon discover a bigger boulder the size of Texas on a collision course with Earth and immediately helicopter out to an oil derrick in the Pacific to recruit Harry Stamper (Willis), expert hole driller, to fly into space and save the world.

Briefed by NASA and trained in a matter of days (insert music video sequence here), Stamper and his crew of roughnecks with cute nicknames stop off at a Russian space station to refuel and accidentally blow it up (another explosion) before crash-landing a pair of shuttles on the looming asteroid (another explosion).

Meanwhile, Stamper's impudent daughter (Liv Tyler) hangs out in a Houston control room with a surrogate audience of geeks and military types that will let us know when to ring our hands and when to cheer.

Grossly over-produced and over-scored, "Armageddon" is an assault on the senses as well as insult to intelligent movie-goers everywhere.

Full of false science (artificial gravity is invoked to avoid using weightlessness effects) and contrived subplots (Harry's best employee is banging his daughter), "Armageddon" drags terribly despite its breakneck pace while the oil workers break giant drill bits, argue with their astronaut pilots and disarm the nukes after the Pentagon tries to blow them up early -- all in an attempt to build false tension that might keep simple minds busy until the big finish.

In the mean time the explosion meter keeps ticking with rogue meteors taking out Shanghai and Paris in expensive computer-animated sequences.

Truth be told, I'm all for dumb, check- your- brain- at- the- door action movies when they're done well (e.g. "Desperado") and I had hopes for this picture because of its talented cast, including Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck and Steve Buscemi. But "Armageddon" goes way beyond dumb. This is a tedious, tiresome embarrassment and is without question the worst movie I've seen in two years.

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