Armageddon (1998)

(In theaters, July 1998) It gave me a headache, it frequently didn’t make any sense, had some of the goofiest science ever and the worst editing I’ve seen lately, but Armageddon was definitely a perfect summer blockbuster. It’s the second “something’s going to smash into the Earth!” movie of 1998, but whereas Deep Impact was okay drama, Armageddon is slam-bang action. The goofs are innumerable and I could probably prepare a good hour-long seminar on “Physics Armageddon writers should have studied”, but you’re unlikely to be bothered with it: just consider it a caricature. Okay acting, spectacular Special Effects, adequate characters… Complete nonsense, but it delivers. One truly enjoyable brainless audiovisual stunner, just perfect for the 4th of July. I just wish for an extended director’s cut where they’ll use shots lasting more than three seconds.

(Second viewing, On TV, February 2001) Watching this on a TV screen with three year’s worth of hindsight is an instructive experience. Stripped of the hype and of the audiovisual pummelling prepared by director Michael Bay, the film proves to be better and worse than remembered. For one thing, despite all his problems with coherent editing, it’s difficult not to be impressed with the dynamism of Bay’s direction: moving cameras, beautiful framing, interesting setups, wonderful colors. Indeed, the first half-hour of Armageddon is a top-notch, A+ thrill ride, with what may be the most extravagant action scene yet put to film (the destruction of New York, with its orgy of exploding cars). It’s in the latter part of the film that things don’t go as well. While the script works well as a comedic action film, it never takes off when it attempts to build love scenes (the infamous “animal crackers” bit), drama (“That salesman is your father!”) or heroic sacrifice ([spoiler]) The last half-hour is not only far too long and repetitive, but the editing problems get worse (it’s virtually impossible to have a clear idea of what’s happening) and the script problems also deteriorate in unintentional ridiculousness that clashes more and more with the heroic tone of the film. At least no dollar has been spared to bring us the pictures (some of which only last a flash or two) and most often than not, the pictures are worth looking at, while they’re still on the screen.

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