Summer action flicks are not really my thing, so I didn’t expect too much going into this movie. Besides, I’d already had my fill of smart, quality film this week with OUT OF SIGHT so I figured that I could watch just about anything without feeling too exploited. WRONG!! AMAGEDDON is just FUCKED!! There have probably been worse movies made over the past few years, but this is without doubt the worst one that I have actually sat through recently. The only thing that kept me in my seat was my responsibility to spread the word about this shit-bomb. I occasionally had to withdraw into myself and fantasize that I was someplace else. At one point I had a vision of an asteroid crashing though the theater ceiling, ending the audience's suffering for all time. Sigh…
It’s hard to be very specific when criticizing a movie that has so many problems. I would have to take a lot of careful notes and amphetamines and type for hours. I could rant for days about the silly science inaccuracies and dumb effects, but these alone cannot account for this bucket of shit. ARMAGEDDON has too many crippling problems in too many areas.
By now, everyone probably knows that plot centers around a team of offshore oil drillers sent into space to destroy an asteroid and save the earth. The opening narration by Charlton Heston did not inspire much confidence, but it was just the opening titles, right? Next, a lot of stuff gets blown up, jokes are made, and the token character development typical of this type of movie gets underway. The entire second half is spent in space, where the drillers work to save the planet from total annihilation. I’ll bet you can guess how it turns out. The film plays it by the formula all the way, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If the characters are developed properly, it can be an inspiring thing to watch. But ARMAGEDDON was not that kind of movie.
Watching the drillers’ planet-saving efforts simply has no magic. I think it boils down to weak or nonexistent characterizations. The drillers never seem to care about anything other than saving their own asses. They fuck around, bitch, and argue over nothing until nearly the last second. Now even though guys like that would never get sent into space if the entire Earth depended on it, this can still work in this kind of movie. What pissed me off was that they don’t develop beyond their selfishness. The total destruction of Earth virtually never seems to be of any importance to the drillers, and this is what ultimately ruins any chance for the audience to care about them. We never come close to seeing them as heroes because they never grow to care about anything other than their own petty concerns. The film had ample opportunity to redeem itself during the last third, but it failed. In the end, ARMAGEDDON was nothing more than a shitload of effects and noise.
Bay’s direction is extremely effective during the asteroid sequences. Despite my complete and total hatred for the characters, he still managed to put me on the edge of my seat. However, this appears to be the only thing that he knows how to do. The entire damn film feels like it was shot and cut by a crackhead.
The special effects are hit and miss. There’s nothing special here. The music is mostly 70’s rock, but there is an annoying overabundance of Aerosmith tunes. It’s just a little too fucking cute to have all these Aerosmith songs in a movie starring the lead singer’s daughter. Trevor Rabin’s score sometimes recalls Horner’s TITANIC, but it does the job. There were a couple of scenes where the score absolutely should not have been there, however.
Given the de-emphasis on characterization, there really isn’t much to say about the various performances. Everyone in this film has done better work. Bruce Willis does the standard Bruce Willis thing. Billy Bob Thornton does a decent job in his role a NASA honcho. Ben Affleck plays a dull-eyed pretty boy with the mentality of a thirteen-year old. Liv Tyler looks hot as shit, but she hasn’t got any more to do here than anyone else. Steve Buscemi has a lot of damn good one-liners, but it only makes you wish he’d spent his time doing a real comedy instead of this horror. Or it makes you wish that this horror had been a comedy.
Even though the drillers don’t seem to give a fuck about the rest of the world, the audience is still supposed to. By periodically running these stylish, global-village scenes that recall some kind of goddam fucking airline commercials, the filmmakers apparently try to remind us that the future of mankind is at stake. Why not just have someone in the movie care about it?
Yet another script problem is that while on the asteroid there always seems to be options to abandon the job and leave if things aren’t going well. LEAVE AND GO WHERE???? THERE WON’T BE ANY PLACE TO GO IF THEY DON’T GET THE JOB DONE!!!
Based on discussion among our group of five, I’d have to agree with you assessment that ARMAGEDDON really seems to polarize audiences. Glen mentioned that the woman behind him proclaimed that it was the dumbest thing that she’d ever seen while the two girls next to him must’ve chewed their fingernails to the quick. You’d have to survey a pretty large number of viewers to get handle on which way this picture is headed. People will see it simply because it’s in the theater. But there’s no fucking reason that they should rush out and pay full price to see it opening night. It certainly ain’t the greatest big-budget summer action picture that you could hope for. It might even be another GODZILLA.
This film is probably also going to suffer from the same kind of international problems that ID4 did. Plenty of American flags are shown flappin’ in the goddam breeze throughout the movie. There is also hell of a lot of other patriotic imagery, but patriotism is never of any importance to the story. There are also a number of scenes are just plain fucking xenophobic in content. These had a lot to do with my distaste for the film.
If you’ve seen INDEPENDANCE DAY, then you know what you’re in for. And if you liked ID4 then you will probably at least survive this one.