Well, it was at a dead time in the morning when I left my home to fly halfway across this country to see ARMAGEDDON at it's world premiere. I didn't wake up yesterday morning, ya see, I hadn't slept at all. The site had been down due to a power failure over the weekend and I wanted to get an update up, so I typed the night away. At 0430 c.s.t. I went in for a cold shower to wake my ass up and get organized, I had a long day in front of me.
The mission that Mr Phelps presented for my acceptance was to travel to Orlando, attend the World Premiere of ARMAGEDDON and get a review up that night. Of course this would mean some 48 hours without sleep, which is probably going to mean you are all in for some fairly scattershot writing. (Like that's any different from the previous days).
Just 36 hours ago I didn't know where I was staying, what Hotel I was going to. A must have Fed Ex package hadn't arrived, so I was left early Sunday morning using my investigative abilities to track down the hotel. Using a variety of internet and telephoned sources I was able to trackdown the hotel with little to no problem. Soon after accomplishing this I received a call from Michael Bay's people confirming the information I had dug up. Problems like this I love. You see, the fact I didn't know, and within an hour I had figured it out... well it proved that the ol noggin was working in some sort of clockwork way.
Dad and I take our one bag a piece and hop in a yellow cab leaving my house at 0500 c.s.t. A godawful time when the clouds in the sky have that unearthly glow of non-line-of-sight solar rays. If I were in a Bruckheimer film, I'd be a military fella throwing his bags out of a transport bus, this dirty sky was a perfect backdrop to begin the journey.
An $8 cab ride later Dad and I were ready to embark in this our latest diving into the midst of the sky for the blind purpose of 'seeing a movie'. I'm very worried about seeing the movie. Why? Well, for over a year now I have been dying to see this film. I loved three separate versions of the script, from Hensleigh's pop-culture reference filled first draft, to the spit and polished version I would be seeing on screen later today. In addition I had been on set back a long time ago (you can read that at Harry's World) and that one visit gave personality to each and every paperbound character. Someone like 'Bear' could be such a completely empty and blahey character, but after I met and saw 'Big' Mike Duncan, well I knew he would steal the hearts of everyone searching for those characters, the small ones (or large ones) that steal films from the bigger named actors. He had a charisma, a peace, a coolness on set that was magic. The mere look on Steve Buscemi's face told me everything about him, the same with Will Patton's character.
So that brings me to today, the worried look upon my brow placed there by two of my best friends that hated the film, and a comment from Glen where he told me, "Actually Harry, I could actually see you not liking the movie."
That was never an option in my mind before Glen said it. He knows me real well, he can predict within a pindropping of how I'll react to films. Only two people I trust in the world didn't have a doubt how I'd react... Joe Hallenbeck and RoboGeek. The said the movie would grab my heart, my balls and my brain and tug like a Truckasaurus. Robo kept talking about soul and Hallenbeck kept talking of how cool it was. Cool and soul are two of my favorite words to hear in conjunction with a film.
As I arrived in Orlando, feeling a bit like the saluting zombie in Day of the Dead, Dad and I stumbled about for 20 minutes just trying to find a cab. Oh, this was going to suck. I could sense a mounting tsunami of bad incidents awaiting my every turn. A $40 cab ride later I arrived at the Wilderness Lodge at DISNEYWORLD. Knowing I would not get to partake of the rides, the themes or the world that is Disney was painful. I've wanted my whole life to come to Epcot and DisneyWorld. I also wanted to go to UNIVERSAL to see the Terminator 3-D ride. Tears evaporated from their ducts in the 109 degree heat.
The lodge was like a gigantic cartoon world right out of LAST OF THE MOHICANS, I could sense the incoming shells blasting the hell out of these gigantic logcabin walls that extended some 8 stories above me. The native american chandelier/animal skin thingees are cool. Giant totem poles. The first good sign of the trip.
Not long after checking into the room Dad and I had to leave the hotel and head for Cape Kennedy. We climbed into gigantic buses and headed out to the land of gators and manatees. The place where man is hurled into the void of space and it feels like the natural thing to do. On the bus we saw a making of ARMAGEDDON video that well was just a hype-fest. I didn't need to see this because I was finished with the hype, I had legitimate doubts and I didn't want to see some advertising firms slickly packaged 'me so orny, me love you long time' proposition, I wanted the damn film. Next (it's a long drive) they showed a CNN 'big shit hitting earth special' with Shoemacher/Levy talking about hunks of stuff slamming into our planet. It put me to sleep.
Dad soon woke me to show me we were arriving at the Cape. Rockets dotted the horizon, a full size space shuttle, it's booster rockets, the vehicle assembly building, the launch pad... In otherwords I was finally beginning to awaken from my doldroms. This is where it happens. Where man looks away from the surface of this slimey mudhole I call home, and heads out there. This is where every little boy wants to grow up to leave behind. This is where the last dream was pronounced that was so big, so grand, it captured the imagination of endless generations. From this spot to the moon, it happened here. God, that's cool. To see the places, to walk on the cement, to smell the salt watered air, to feel that wind, to look up and see where Challenger crushed my innocence. This is where it happened. Where dreams form and sometimes die, but never forever. To boldly go. For all mankind. Because it's hard.
I began tearing up. When I see the gator swimming to eat a crane in the canals, I begin to see the side I've never seen on CNN, this NASA takes place not in a static lifeless enviroment, but right here beside nature. Gopher turtles, cranes, gators and manatees. A gigantic Bald Eagle nest atop a tree. This world is nothing like you would imagine. We get taken much closer to the launching pad than any 'tour' would let you, and with each step I feel the loss of that 6 year olds' dream I had of going up there. To see the planet in it's entirety with my own eyes, to feel light... just once, to fly with pixie dusts and happy thoughts... This place is magic.
We arrive at the premiere. Red carpet cuts into the grey and green world of Cape Kennedy, an unnatural element in a naturally unnatural enviroment. A media armada on one side, stars and folk on the other. E.T., Access Hollywood, Telenoticias, Telemundo, Brazil, Japan, Germany, the world watching. God I hope the movie doesn't suck. To have seen the promise of my dreams of long ago in these big ol buildings, these tanks of liquid hydrogen and oxygen.. and then to see a sucky movie. Well, I couldn't stand that, but I was fully prepared for it. Dad and I left that bus and walked the carpet. 3 or 4 times I was captured for interviews, that was cool, but really.. I just wanted to take my seat. I wasn't in the mood to schmooze, my charm energy was left 6 hours ago. So I pass Michael 'Bear' Duncan, Ben Affleck, etc.. and I just head to my seat. Top row aisle. Great seats.
I'm tired, I want the movie to start, I want to be infused with the energy Hallenbeck had when he saw this film. I wanted to blossum forth from the film, but I was ready to wither. Dad kept announcing the celebrities to my ear as they entered. Cuba Gooding Jr, Coolio, Keith David, Trevor Rabin, Jessica Steen, Steve Tyler and Aerosmith, Ben Affleck and Ms. Paltrow, Jonathon Hensleigh, Bruce Willis, Bruce Springstein, Billy Gibbons, Peter Stormare, Will Patton, Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, J.J.Abrams, Jesse Alexander, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Michael Duncan, Michael Bay's mom, tons of NASA dudes and Owen Wilson. Then there was all the babes, lotsa babes. I really wasn't into the scene this time out. 32 hours of no sleep was catching up. Then I realized that our row was the row that Buscemi, Bear, Stormare and crew were sitting at. And the beautifully stunning Jessica Steen was sitting beside me.
This was beginning to get long though. The film was running 30 minutes late, when finally the doors closed, the lights went down, and the only sound was the rustling of the tent caused by the massive influx of air conditioned air.
Then the Bruckheimer logo arrived signaling the departure from the world of regular living, and I knew this was going to be a film wholly belonging in the universe that Simpson & Bruckheimer co-created way back with TOP GUN. What is this universe I speak of? Well...
THE BRUCKHEIMER UNIVERSE OF FILMED STORIES...and ARMAGEDDON
I love this universe. This is a place where sweat drips in slow motion, where sunsets are always golden and have helicopters chop chop chopping away. This is a place where establishing shots are aplenty. A world where the main characters don't usually do things for logical reasons, in fact logic isn't really important because this is the world of mythic heroes. People that walk in a varied set of frame-controlled speeds. Skies have filtered colors, the dialogue is ultra-cool and the explosions are 5 to 50 times larger than any rational person could believe. Guns never run out of bullets, and people fire them when they shouldn't. It's a universe where the heroic males leave the fair maidens behind clutching their hearts upon a sunset pedestal and with a hushed exasperated look upon their brow, wispy wet eyes following the hero off to fight the inevitable demon that'll doom us all. Until now this demon has always been a variation of man against man in the Bruckheimer Universe, but here in ARMAGEDDON we finally had Man against Nature. The world resting in the careful balance, a balance that noone but the most improbable could save. And aren't heroes always the improbable ones?
Gary Cooper's SGT YORK wasn't the tough as nails killer he needed to become to kill the Kaiser's men all those decades ago. No, he was a concientious objector, a religious man that would not take another's life. A man whose skill for hunting turkeys turned him into the deadliest man of World War 1. So it is here that the world calls upon men who wouldn't walk an old lady across a street, the type of people that never do it in the missionary way. Yeah, they're the dirty types, the oil riggers that take their paychecks and piss them away on low brow white trash pipe dreams at a crap table, a tatoo parlor or a whore house. They aren't the types you would look in the eye, but they are the types that don't run when death comes knocking, and death is a big damn hunk of ice, iron and shit I don't even know what was.
Copernicus said the film was an insult to every thinking character in the film, that these people were made out to be evil. Wrong. These 'evils' were in a dire situation, Billy Bob Thornton is not evil, not incompetent, he just needs an expertise that he was not prepared to have on a moment's notice. Throughout the film the Copernicus 'evils' are shown to have soul, doubts and fears. There are no evil people when the end of the world comes, there are no athiests, there is only humanity. The time when all the silly arguements vanish away, except for the people that are still alive, and that's the team sent up to 'solve' the problem.
Would I entrust the whole existence of mankind in the hands of these people? Yes. Because for this moment, for this mankind saving mission, James Bond isn't what you need, Albert Einstein said you drill, so ya drill, end of issue. That's the case. All the what ifs, and the should ofs melt away, all of that is merely suspension of disbelief that comes with the Bruckheimer world. IF you do fret over these 'inconsistencies' then I hold it is upon your shoulders that the movie doesn't work. It becomes the viewers personal lack of association with the situation that has failed. To those that are loving the film, the end of the world is at hand in this film. And if you are a regular joe, who's never seen the inside of a church since he ran away from home 35 years ago, well the weight of this mission is joked about, the reality of the situation is avoided at all costs. Why?
Because when you begin to think that a single mistake means the life of the planet, you can't work at all. That pressure, the inability to 'use the force' 'prey to God' 'to reach deep within and make that which seems hopeless become a glorius victory' that becomes the horror. And that is what we see in the trained people, what we see in some of the riggers. In all, noone thinks they can just go home if it doesn't work out, each of them is willing to give the ultimate sacrifice, to draw the short straw, to leave the blue glow of earth for all time. And this film gets me for that exact reason.
The first time I cried in the film was when Billy Bob Thornton says, "For the last twenty years the U.S. Government has wondered why to fund us, let's give them an answer today." (or something real close to that) That got me because it was such a sad statement on the situation. That this asteroid was coming to take us all, and it's because we weren't funding the searches, because we weren't looking to the skies, but to our own petty problems here on earth, too preoccupied with blowjobs in corner offices than to look into the sky and see that it was falling.
Then there's the scene with Willis and Thornton where Willis can't believe he's the plan. Where he realizes that his belief in all that is NASA, that thing we each have, that the best of the best work there, that answers to all of earth's problems lay there, that that may not be so.. but only because we haven't given them the tools to solve them all.
The performances in the film capture me, each and everyone of them. Like OUT OF SIGHT was for the crime lovestory, this is for the action/adventure/sci-fi/love story. The dialogue I felt was snappy and sharp, the score was perfect. Trevor Rabin gave these men, these simple men that could never put a sunset into words, and he gave them a soul, he gave them the nobility they didn't know they had themselves.
I can't understand not loving this film, it's just not in me to grasp it. Just as I can't understand not loving THE ROCK or CRIMSON TIDE or TOP GUN. I love the fucked up world of a Bruckheimer production. That impossible is possible, that triumph, that rah rah patriotic Rockwellian world where bullets fly and the bad guys die. Nothing is ugly and everything has character, be it the sky or the water, it's all better than it looks at any given moment. The lens of a Bruckheimer production makes reality look better than it is. And I like that. I wish I could see the world through filters and altered f-stops and chemical heat color changes.
Michael Bay. So the hell what if he started in MTV. My first piece I wrote on Michael Bay as an individual was about someone on this set saying his nickname was the Prince of Darkness. I defended him, a man I didn't know, by saying,'I don't care if he's satan himself, if he makes a movie like the ROCK, well dammit I'm with him satan or no.' His editing style, the way he moves his camera, it feels alive, it feels kinetic, thrilling. Like something is happening. As for being able to follow his storytelling through his editing... I loved it. He used flash editing to emphasize the insanity of action in reality. So many moving things, so many objects to focus on, so many items, so many deaths... well that's the way action is, it isn't a steadicam or a tracking shot. It's a series of shots, a montage of images that flood around you. If you paid attention in Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN you would of heard why most people can't be a good gunslinger, it's because they can't focus within a maelstorm of activity. So if you get lost in the action, it's because you aren't Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis. It's because you are a regular person in the midst of that which is most irregular.
I'll see the film again on Wednesday, I'll stand in line for hours, I'll take my sister and I'll see her tremble and cry, a reflection of myself and many others. Not everyone will love it, but for those of us that do, don't doubt the motivations, it's not because we're paid, it's not because we went to DisneyWorld, it's because we loved the movie. And it's because of that that I won't talk of the Aerosmith concerts or my brushes with the famous, that's not what you'll get for your $8, and it won't be what I get for my $8 bucks either. But the comments I made for this movie are whole and real. After the film, Jessica Steen looked at me, my eyes dripping, my glasses in my hands and she said, "This is your first time isn't it? It got ya." and all I did was smile and say, "yup". It got me, I hope it gets you too.