Happy 20th Anniversary, Armageddon!

This is the Earth, at a time when the dinosaurs roamed a lush and fertile planet. A piece of rock just 6 miles wide changed all that.

It hit with the force of 10,000 nuclear weapons. A trillion tons of dirt and rock hurtled into the atmosphere, creating a suffocating blanket of dust the sun was powerless to penetrate for a thousand years.

It happened before. It will happen again.

It’s just a question of when.

DAMN, Charlton Heston. Way to be a buzzkill.

Released on July 1st, 1998, Armageddon is basically Die Hard 3.5, or A Rock and A Die Hard Place In Space, with John McClane….sorry, “Harry Stamper” fighting the most Hans Gruberest of Hans Gruber asteroids that’s bearing down on Earth and looking to ruin everybody’s day.

Let’s get a few things out of the way up front:

1 – Armageddon has one of the most ridiculous premises ever committed to film, even for disaster movies, and we’re talking about a reality that includes The CoreThe Day After Tomorrow, and Sharknado.

2 – If all of the scenes presented in slow motion were instead run at regular speed, the movie would be over in 35 minutes, give or take.

3 – Bruce Willis chews scenery with the absolute best scenery chewers ever to grace the silver screen.

4. I will shamelessly and unapologetically watch this flick. Every. Single. Time. I find it.

That’s right, I said it.

The United States government just asked us to save the world. Anybody want to say no?

For those of you who’ve somehow missed out on seeing this thing in all its slo-mo, uber jingoistic glory, it’s like this: a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. If it hits, the rock is large enough and moving with such velocity that it spells doom for every living thing calling this place home. The finest scientific minds on the planet, in the form of the always likable Billy Bob Thornton and a very pre-Harry Potter and Star Trek: Discovery Jason Isaacs, determine the best course of action is to drill to the center of the asteroid, drop a nuclear bomb, and detonate it in the hopes of splitting the giant rock with enough force to send the two halves careening around Earth rather than ass-hammering it.

In the finest disaster movie tradition, enter everyman Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper and an all-star cast of oil drillers – Ben Affleck, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Ken Hudson Campbell. These blue-collar astronauts are the only ones capable of undertaking the desperate mission in the very limited time available. They’re assisted by actual astronauts portrayed by the always underrated William Fichtner and Jessica Steen, and with Liv Tyler as Harry’s daughter helping Harry to keep it real all through the hyper-accelerated training and preparation phase of the crazy mission. Favorite character actor Keith David is on hand as General Kimsey, the man with the president’s ear and his finger on the nuclear button, ready to step in the instant he thinks Harry and his crew are about to screw the pooch.

After a very rushed mission prep and a launch of not one but two super top secret Air Force space shuttles (a precursor, perhaps, to President Trump’s Spaaaaaaaaaaaace Forrrrrrrrrrrrrrce?), a brief visit to the “Russian space station” which may or not be Mir, which they end up destroying because of course they did, Harry and his merry band race out to meet the asteroid, pulling something like forty bazillion Gs when they slingshot around the Moon and try to sneak up on the rock from behind.

And **that’s** when things finally start to get weird.

Directed by Michael Bay from a script by Jonathan Hensleigh and J.J. Abrams (yes, that J.J. Abrams), Armageddon is utterly, unquestionably over the top in pretty much every way. I thought it was hard to make a movie like 1978’s Meteor seem smart in comparison, but here we are. But, where Meteor failed to entertain us or grip us with anything resembling suspense despite its story and roster of top-shelf Hollywood talent, you just can’t say you’re bored with a movie like Armageddon. It starts with a literal bang and doesn’t let up for most of its two and a half hour running time.

All right, let’s set aside the characters and the plot and talk for a minute about the science fueling this story.

Sorry, I almost got all of that out with a straight face.

Eighteen days from the point of detection to launching a daring mission to save the Earth? The Air Force just happens to have not one but two top secret bad-ass military space shuttles with armor like Captain America’s shield, but which conveniently turns to the consistency of toilet paper when it’s crunch time? Rover vehicles that are part ATV and part tank, to include packing their own Vulcan machine guns? A space station that’s part gas station?

Did I say this movie is ridiculous? Yes, perhaps unabashedly so, reveling in its brutal reviews while racking up a $550 million dollar box office take in the summer of 1998, which was pretty dang good for any movie not named Titanic at that point in time. And yet, it’s this delightful absurdity I think is one of the things that makes it so damned entertaining, at least to me.

For those precious few moments when things aren’t being launched, blown up, crashed, or blown up again, there are jokes and “drama” galore. After all, Ben Affleck’s A.J. is in love with Harry’s daughter and wants to marry her, and naturally Harry would rather shove an oil drill up his own ass than let that happen. Good times for all involved, and that’s before the shooting starts. This movie already seems to have everything, and just when you think there can’t possibly be enough characters and wise guys in this film for us to juggle, Harry and the gang pull a Russian cosmonaut from the ill-fated space station. Played by Peter Stormare, I kept waiting for him to stuff Buscemi’s character into an airlock in lieu of a wood chipper.

Everybody get that who’s gonna get it? Okay, then, moving on.

I’m not a movie snob. I like all kinds of films, including crazy and completely bonzo action movies, and Armageddon is right there in the mix. Further, it absolutely cracks my ass up that this film has a Criterion Collection edition, which is the only way to watch the director’s extended cut. That’s right, there’s a version of this flick that’s even longer than the one you point and laugh at. Suck it, haters.

“Come on, God, just a little help. It’s all I’m asking.”

“I think we’re close enough, He might have heard ya.”

One thought on “Happy 20th Anniversary, Armageddon!

  1. The script floated around Hollywood a while and Larry Hama wrote a version into GI Joe in its dying days at Marvel where the Joes and the Oktober Guard have to deal with an asteroid, only there is also home to Soviet mining androids gone rogue and they have a fight with them using a powered armour mech suit.

    Liked by 1 person

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