Armageddon (1998)
November 6, 2022 12:22 AM - Subscribe

After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas will impact Earth in less than a month, NASA recruits a misfit team of deep-core drillers to save the planet.

When an asteroid threatens to collide with Earth, NASA honcho Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) determines the only way to stop it is to drill into its surface and detonate a nuclear bomb. This leads him to renowned driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), who agrees to helm the dangerous space mission provided he can bring along his own hotshot crew. Among them is the cocksure A.J. (Ben Affleck), who Harry thinks isn't good enough for his daughter (Liv Tyler), until the mission proves otherwise.

Danielle Solzman: Apparently, you can teach drillers to be astronauts but not the other way around. When it comes to discussing the film’s synopsis, this is all you need to know. The screenwriters don’t appear to look up whether or not blowing up an asteroid is scientifically possible. Narrator: It’s probably not.

You can’t help but feel for Billy Bob Thornton. The actor, who stars as Dan Truman, stands out from the rest of the cast. Thornton plays it straight while humanity depends on these knuckleheads to save the day. He really deserves better–at least he got justice with an Oscar nomination for his role in A Simple Plan later that year. But hey, at least he gets to recite lines like “Well, our object collision budget’s a million dollars, that allows us to track about 3% of the sky, and beg’n your pardon sir, but it’s a big-ass sky.”

Ann Hornaday: Thornton, Affleck, Tyler, Owen Wilson, Buscemi and his sidekick from "Fargo," Peter Stormare, are all gifted actors, but even they can't overcome Bay's constantly moving camera, nonsensical editing and hyperbolic music. They were cast not to inhabit characters but to strike a series of iconic poses, so the ersatz emotion won't be diluted by something as complicated as a performance.

There are things to like in "Armageddon." The New York scenes are good (a "Godzilla" joke is funny, and the sight of a fireball crashing into Grand Central Terminal is breathtaking), and Buscemi and Wilson give humorous, human-scale portrayals within the coloring-book lines that define their characters.

In response to the inevitable question: "Armageddon" makes "Deep Impact" look like a chamber piece; at least Morgan Freeman made shorter speeches. And "Armageddon" sure could have used a plucky female reporter to suss out that whole Manhattan-meteor-shower thing; it isn't until much later, when Southeast Asia is destroyed by a piece of asteroid, that people sit up and take notice that something's amiss.

Jeanne Aufmuth: Go ahead, manipulate me some more. Please. More slick close-ups of chiseled faces. More mind-boggling effects. More gut-vibrating sound. More of those tearful reunions designed to bring tears to my eyes. And more of those throwaway lines that make me laugh until it hurts. If it's in the name of pure cinematic pleasure, please manipulate me some more.

posted by Carillon (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
At the time this came out, I was 10 and loved this movie. I thought it was so awesome, and my dad cried at the end and it was just amazing. I certainly don't disavow those feelings, but with time my sincere appreciation has dulled. I hadn't heard the Ben Affleck distrack for one. But more broadly, I think it says a lot, I enjoyed this as a kid but there's not a lot more to investigate. Certainly Bruce Willis' character has some issues, his protection towards his daughter is very patriarchal and more towards purity rings than helping support her. I loved the lines about what do we get out of it, but now as an adult who pays taxes, that scene plays way into right wing bull shit about taxation=theft, and all that nonsense can go to hell.
posted by Carillon at 12:27 AM on November 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

In 5-10 years the big studios will probably make movies by having somebody sit down at a keyboard and type a prompt, like, "Spectacular action movie, lots of explosions, lens flares, trendy filters, boobs and ass shots." And then 45 seconds later the computer will output the whole thing, ready for distribution. The results will be incredibly stupid and unwatchable, a mix of macho BS cliches and AI gibberish. They'll be the worst movies ever, but they'll make money.

Michael Bay movies feel as if this has already happened.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:02 AM on November 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Apparently, you can teach drillers to be astronauts but not the other way around.

Shut the fuck up Ben.

It's been suggested that NASA use this film in training engineers, asking them to identify the many impossible things that happen in the movie. It's been suggested there are 168 items identified, but the internet doesn't seen to have the list.

Here's a different list of errors.
posted by biffa at 1:22 AM on November 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

It's weird because I'm not normally a negative guy, and also am not generally prone to fits of strong emotion, but I hate literally every single thing about this movie.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:43 AM on November 6, 2022 [10 favorites]

In early 2001, I flew across the Pacific twice in two weeks. JAL, for its inflight entertainment, was at that time in the twilight zone between the 20th-century “here’s a movie at the front of the cabin” and the modern “here’s fifty streaming channels.” So each seat had a seatback screen in front of it and there were a bunch of channels, each showing its content on a loop. Ten or twelve channels were in Japanese (and my Japanese is pretty basic) and four were in English, so I went for these.

Four movies on offer: cancer romance Autumn in New York, jiggle empowerment movie Coyote Ugly*, football comedy The Replacements, and Armageddon. I had seen these last two in cinemas when they came out; the football movie has a much better cast than it really needs, and some curiously comprehensible game sequences, and the asteroid movie has a lot of explosions.

I actually at one point started watching Armageddon as I was curious to see if I could count the number of cuts. I gave up after reaching eleventeen thousand by the eight-minute mark.

Anyway, I have seen The Replacements several times and I look forward to the Fanfare page for it.

*It never fails to amaze me that the Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the source material for Coyote Ugly and the Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the source material for Eat, Pray, Loveare the same person.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:25 AM on November 6, 2022

My wife and I got married in the fall of 1996 and lived in apartments in Brooklyn. Summers could be insufferably hot without air conditioning, but we were young and insolvent and got by with fans and cold showers and going to the movies when it got too hot.

When we saw Speed 2 the previous summer, we thought we'd been able to handle the worst Hollywood had to offer. After seeing this movie, we went out and bought a window air conditioner.
posted by rikschell at 5:06 AM on November 6, 2022 [15 favorites]

Reverse drinking game: Take a drink every time a shot lasts more than five seconds.

Bonus difficulty: Only when it's not Billy Bob Thornton doing exposition.
posted by Etrigan at 6:12 AM on November 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

It never fails to amaze me that the Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the source material for Coyote Ugly and the Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the source material for Eat, Pray, Loveare the same person.

Gilbert's output has been so random and preternaturally uneven that I've half convinced myself she's not a real person and instead there's a writing collective called ELIZABETH GILBERT and they just publish whatever their selection committee hastily decides on during a wine-soaked annual meeting.
posted by mochapickle at 8:45 AM on November 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

A former coworker of mine and I had a running joke going about whether “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was a worse earworm than “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).”

I contended that the Mark Chesnutt cover of “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” is more toxic to human sanity than the Aerosmith version.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:29 AM on November 6, 2022

It's weird because I'm not normally a negative guy, and also am not generally prone to fits of strong emotion, but I hate literally every single thing about this movie.

Even the Space Madness?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:41 AM on November 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

If there's no jolly, candylike button for the History Eraser, it's not real space madness.
posted by rhizome at 2:14 PM on November 6, 2022

God, I hate this movie SO MUCH. I resent like hell the fact that it has a number of my faves in it (Jason Isaacs, Buscemi, William Fichtner...) and so I watched it even though I knew I would loathe it. It has what to me is still the worst line of dialogue I've ever heard, and somehow Fichtner managed to actually deliver it with a straight face (the shit about wanting to shake the hand of the daughter of the bravest man he'd ever known). If I could destroy every copy of it in the world with fire, I would.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:13 PM on November 8, 2022

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