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STUDIO: Touchstone Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 150 Minutes
* Aerosmith’s Video – “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”
* Theatrical Trailer
* Teaser Trailer
Drill, baby, drill….OR BE DESTROYED.
dir. Michael Bay
Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, William Fichtner, Keith David, Jason Isaacs
A “global killer” asteroid is on a collision course with Earth, and it’s up to a rag-tag group of oil rig workers led by Bruce Willis to save the planet from destruction.
There’s probably a wholly separate article to be written on this topic, but it must be said: It’s very weird watching this movie while we’re just now recovering from one of the worst environmental disasters this generation has ever known, thanks to careless off-shore drilling. The Blu Ray of this getting released on the heels of an absolute clusterfuck of human industry gone wrong does give one a moment of pause as to how much one can enjoy a film where an oil driller is driving golf balls at Greenpeace boats, the hotshot, handsome bastard we’re supposed to be rooting for is making the kind of mistakes that likely caused such a spill, and in fact ends up saving the day due to taking that risk yet again, and the lot of them are portrayed as barely contained cowboy sociopaths.
Then I remember this is a Michael Bay joint.
If he just read that paragraph, he is laughing his off. Possibly while getting a lapdance. On the roof of an Abrams tank. Going down I-101. After egging Megan Fox’s house.
Harry suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. He could ream A.J. out about the rig activity last night, he could find out why there’s a girl’s toe sticking out from the blankets, or he could ask how the hell A.J.’s penis was curved like an ampersand. All three of these options would change their relationship forever.
Armageddon‘s a clinically dumb movie, no doubting that. Asteroid up there. We’re down here. We kick ass. We bring kick ass to asteroid. Asteroid go boom. We win. We make the animal cracker sex to Diane Warren power ballads. Roll credits. That’s Armageddon.
However, to describe it more accurately, it’s also very much a blue-collar film. It’s about the hardworking men and women of our sacred flyover states doing what they do best; seeing an insurmountable, unknowable threat, walking up to it with an explosive device, throwing it a liquor soaked “FUCK YOU” and driving it off America’s lawn. The favor Bay does, however, is that the patriotism is a background element, albeit a loud, sometimes obnoxious one. Much as we hate to acknowledge it, he has created that rare breed of blockbuster where character and spectacle are 1:1. The action in this film is parallel to its people. And despite the negative readings of my first paragraph, the fact is, these are also insanely likeable people, cast to perfection, which is the film’s real ace in the hole.
Pop quiz: Despite the looks, only two of these men are genuinely concerned. One is actually thinking about finding a saddle and riding Michael Clarke Duncan around the set like a pony. See if you can guess which one, win a Spongebob doll.
If Michael Bay’s films have any strengths as storytelling, it’s that he wisely tends to eschew making his protagonists ciphers for the audience. We don’t want to be his heroes, but hang out with them, especially while they’re in so very far over their heads? Gladly. And especially for this film, where the action really just amounts to digging a big-ass hole in the ground, these characters being people we actually want to be around and want to succeed is crucial. The film still often saddles its cast with atrocious dialogue (“I got five words for ya!”) and utterly ridiculous implausible science and government decisions, but the cast goes all in with it, playing their characters loose, fun, yet earnest.
“You open pod bay doors, HAL.”
“I’m sorry Lev. I’m afraid I can’t d–“
“PAST’ ZABEJ, I SKULLFUCK YOUR MOTHER IN PUBLIC, YOU DON’T OPEN POD DOOR, HAL!”
“….opening pod bay doors. I’m….very sorry I said anything.”
It’s no surprise that Armageddon was such a giant hit. On the surface it’s a disaster movie, and that kind of film is an easy hundred million dollar cash grab at the box office by itself, but it’s also very much a primal story about working class men being charged to do something amazing, and tackling it proudly. That scene with Will Patton visiting his ex-wife before he goes up is the ultimate proof of concept there. He’s not sad in that scene, or frightened, or rambling on about the fate of millions. He just wants to let his son know he’s a good man, and maybe, if he doesn’t come back, he gave his son a gift. And he’s smiling. For comparison, consider the white-collar asteroid film (well, comet film, technically), Deep Impact, a film whose major sin was that our protagonists were upper-middle-class-to-rich, boring, self-obsessed dicknozzles. The world spends that movie piss scared, huddled up in suburbia, waiting. No one recoils in terror in Armageddon. There’s nothing but the will to fight this thing, and some deep-down good men going up to face it. There’s a charming lunk-headed warmth and passion to this film that the more socially conscious, serious disaster film doesn’t have, and that makes for an interesting academic dichotomy as far as the philosophy behind making such a film so closely rooted to the attitudes of its potential audience. It also just happens to make a more entertaining film.
If in the bullshit, Tea Party sense, our small towns and flat states are “real” America, Armageddon‘s a “real” American movie. It doesn’t overtly share its hideously misinformed politics, but the energy and ethos of that “real” America–one that takes pride in home, doesn’t back down from challenges and sacrifice, no matter the incredible odds–are all there. Occasionally, in real life, we need that primal reaction to a pressing situation, and it’s what this concept needs to form the basis of an entertaining film. Michael Bay just so happened to cast it extremely well, and shoot it extremely pretty.
Anything less, we get the rat-faced scorn of Tea Leoni for two hours.
Any way Arwen blows. Doesn’t really matter to me.
A couple of the lesser effects come off pretty ragged–a few of the shots of Earth in orbit look extraordinarily shoddy, and Air Force One looks like a a recolored outtake from Airplane!–but otherwise, the transfer is a thing of beauty. The opening meteor shower in Manhattan is the stuff demo reels are made of, but pretty much any daytime shot shows off how good this transfer is. Bay tends to bathe his night/space scenes in that metallic James Cameron blue that came off hazy in previous releases, but just looks cool here. The asteroid hitting Hong Kong is an amalgam of all things good here: deep blacks, rich, primary colors, and when the explosions start happening, the fine detail on the debris is damn impressive.
Second verse, same as the first, except there’s absolutely zero niggling moments of flatness here. The DTS-MA 5.1 track is a crystal clear, hostile, window-busting son of a bitch that hates you for sitting through Ben Affleck making out with that whiny chick from Empire Records in a NASA hangar, and wants to make your precious, fragile things pay for it any time something explodes, or shuttles whoosh through space.
Then, of course, there’s the bad news: All 50 of the gigs on this disc went towards the AV quality. Your only extras are trailers, and that anti-life equation commonly known as the I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing video. Anyone who was looking for an excuse to finally toss that stellar Criterion set, this ain’t it. However, it’s hard to say pass on this given the superhuman leap this disc takes on the AV front above its previous versions. Hell, just the fact that the film finally has an anamorphic transfer is worth a few bucks.