Round three of summer blockbuster bonanza continues with Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay once again bringing the explosions for Touchstone Pictures 1998 asteroid disaster film Armageddon. Strap in as we watch Bruce Willis try to dig his way out of the path of a planet killing rock.

The Movie

After a space shuttle is destroyed by a meteor shower, NASA learns that an asteroid the size of Texas is on a collision course with Earth. They decide the only way to save the planet is by drilling a hole deep into the asteroid to explode it from the inside out. They quickly find the best deep core driller in the world, and that man is Harry Stamper, played by Bruce Willis. NASA led by Dan Truman, played by Billy Bob Thornton, seeks Stamper’s help to train the astronauts for the mission to the asteroid. Harry believes that drilling is an art not a science. He has spent decades drilling all over the world, and to Harry that’s not something that can be taught in a few days. Stamper believes that he and his team of drillers are the ones who should go on the mission, and Truman agrees.

Harry’s crew of drillers, Bear, Rockhound, Oscar, AJ, and Chick, played by Michael Clarke Duncan, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Ben Affleck, and Will Patton, meet Harry at NASA and agree to participate in this very dangerous mission. While training, Harry and A.J. have unresolved issues that carry on throughout the film. A.J. and Harry’s daughter Grace, played by Liv Tyler, are in love with A.J. proposing before he takes off on the shuttle. Harry doesn’t approve. But they set their differences aside to complete the mission and hopefully save the world.

What follows is a fast and furious space mission that brings the shuttles to a Russian space station for a fuel stop where they meet the lone occupant, Lev, played by Peter Stormare. This being a Michael Bay movie, the space station blows up and Lev joins the mission to the asteroid. The most unqualified astronauts ever sent to space, rocket around the moon to intercept the asteroid. Landing on the space rock is no easy task, with one shuttle crashing, and a tough terrain to drill into. The team is fighting an uphill battle as the asteroid gets closer to Earth.

Pushed by Colonel Sharpe, played by William Fichtner, to follow a plan that Harry says is impossible, the group of misfit drillers and Air Force pilots work together to achieve the goal. Only one problem remains. The nuclear bomb that is supposed to be lowered down to the bottom of the eight-hundred-foot hole that was dug in the asteroid, is damaged and will only detonate if someone stays behind.  A.J. draws the short straw for the job, but Harry won’t let his soon to be son in law sacrifice himself.

The Best

Lots of things blow up. If you have a passion for destruction, then this is the movie for you. From Paris and New York, to space shuttles and derelict space stations, there are explosions everywhere. Even the title of the movie blows up in your face.

Billy Bob Thornton’s character is a stand-out in the film. Thornton plays his Truman as a gentle caring individual who didn’t have a weird backstory and supports and believes in his team. Thornton’s Truman was the guy you would want as your boss. He showed a willingness to trust others and would defend you even to the President of the United States. Dan Truman is the guy you want in charge at NASA during a crisis like this.

Of all the members of Harry’s crew, we learn the most about Chick. This right-hand man to Harry is a decent guy who tries to reconnect with his ex-wife and son prior to launching into space. Chick is the emotional heart of Harry and his crew, and Will Patton makes the most of his scenes.

The Worst

The dialogue and character development aren’t good. Liv Tyler spends most of the movie in the background. It’s almost as if her character was included in the film to soften up the all-male cast. Buscemi’s Rockhound is a brilliant man but is labelled with sleazy character traits that are unnecessary. We didn’t need the stripper scene and we certainly didn’t need the constant references about Rockhound’s creepiness about the age of the girls he ‘dates.’

Blockbuster action films don’t have to be Oscar winners. They don’t even need to make sense or seem plausible. They are designed to entertain, but Armageddon needed a few rewrites with the plot and script. Somehow A.J. can power through drilling into a gas pocket on the asteroid without a problem even though the exact same situation blew Max, played by Ken Campbell, and his armadillo off the asteroid. Colonel Sharp talks about returning to the asteroid to set off the bomb, because he doubts Harry will be able to accomplish the task. How could Sharp even think of turning around and landing on the asteroid. He couldn’t land the shuttle on the planned landing site the first time. What makes Sharp think he could stick the landing again?

The animal cracker scene should have never been filmed. On break from training, A.J. and Grace slip away for some personal time. A.J. plays with some animal crackers over Grace’s body while trying to seem charming. This scene was awful to watch in 1998 when I saw the movie at the theatres, and it has not aged well.

Film Facts

  • Charlton Heston narrates the opening sequence of the film.
  • Bruce Willis did not enjoy working with Michael Bay. While discussing his film Live Free Or Die Hard in 2007, Willis talked about how he would not work with Bay again.
  • Michael Bay has been misquoted about his love for the film. Bay has often said that he is proud of the movie, but wished he had more time in the editing room while in production of the film. Bay has stated that he would change things during the third act of the movie, had he been given more time.
  • Jason Isaacs plays Quincy, the NASA scientist who is quoted as being the smartest man in the room.
  • Stanley Anderson, who played the president in the film, also played the president in The Rock.
  • Ben Affleck achieved some notoriety for his commentary about the film. Affleck has stated that he questioned Bay about the rationality of training oil drillers to go up to space and not just training the astronauts on how to drill. Bay reportedly told him to be quiet and to stop asking questions.
  • Eddie Griffin has a small role in the opening scenes in New York City.
  • Mark Curry of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper plays Stu the Cabbie in the opening New York City scene.
  • Director Michael Bay has a cameo as a NASA technician. He can be seen after the asteroid naming scene.
  • Saturday Night Live’s Ellen Cleghorne plays Helga the Nurse.
  • J.J. Abrams and Tony Gilroy have a writing credit on the film.
  • The movie was nominated for four Oscar’s. It lost in all categories.
  • Aerosmith achieved their first number one single with the release of the film’s title track song “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”.
  • NASA supported the filming of the movie by allowing the movie to shoot at the neutral buoyancy lab, and at the launch pad that was decommissioned after the Apollo 1 fire.
  • Legendary film critic Roger Ebert listed Armageddon on his ‘Most Hated’ list.
  • The premiere of the film was held at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler appeared in the 2004 film Jersey Girl.
  • Michael Clark Duncan and Ben Affleck appeared in 2003’s Daredevil.
  • Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton appeared in 2001’s Bandits and 2006’s The Astronaut Farmer.
  • According to Bay’s commentary on the film, the testing scene at NASA is improvised by the actors.

     

See It/Skip It?

See it. Armageddon is a much better film than Con Air. It’s mindless action that will entertain you. If Armageddon is on, and you have time, sit down and watch Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer blow stuff up.

Next week we close out our blockbuster bonanza with 2000’s Nicolas Cage/Jerry Bruckheimer action-packed Gone in 60 Seconds.

Director: Michael Bay

Production Company: Touchstone Picture/ Jerry Bruckheimer Films

Principal Cast:

  • Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper
  • Billy Bob Thornton as Dan Truman
  • Liv Tyler as Grace Stamper
  • Will Patton as Chick
  • Ben Affleck as A.J. Frost
  • Steve Buscemi as Rockhound
  • Michael Clark Duncan as Bear
  • Owen Wilson as Oscar
  • William Fichtner as Colonel Sharp
  • Peter Stormare as Lev Andropov  

Release Date: July 1, 1998

Budget: $140 million

Box Office Gross Domestic = $201,578,182

                      Worldwide = $553,709,788