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Entry updated 3 January 2022. Tagged: Film.

Film (1998). Touchstone Pictures (see The Walt Disney Company) presents a Jerry Bruckheimer production in association with Valhalla Motion Pictures. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Gale Anne Hurd. Directed by Michael Bay. Written by Jonathan Hensleigh, J J Abrams, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno, Robert Roy Pool. Cast includes Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler and Bruce Willis. 150 minutes, 153 minutes director's cut. Colour.

Noisy, expensive, and a little childish, Armageddon epitomizes the excesses and occasionally the appeal of mainstream American cinema, especially those excesses associated in the minds of Hollywood scholars with films produced by Bruckheimer: Con Air (1997), Pearl Harbor (2001) and Black Hawk Down (2001) among others. An Asteroid "the size of Texas" is detected approaching Earth. It will impact the planet in only 18 days. In the meantime, smaller precursor meteors rain down sporadically across the world, destroying such New York landmarks as Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building. In desperation, NASA plans to send two teams of astronauts to land on the asteroid, drill into it and lower a nuclear weapon to be detonated beneath the surface. Realizing that the NASA teams lack the necessary technical expertise, the space agency recruits a team of roughneck American oil drillers to accompany the astronauts. The Spaceships reach the asteroid where, despite almost catastrophic bureaucratic interference from the US Government, the drillers manage to complete their mission. However, the nuclear bomb's controls malfunction; so the chief driller (Willis) remains behind to detonate it manually. He is vaporized along with the asteroid.

Armageddon was released only months after the similarly plotted Deep Impact (1998). But tonally the two films are poles apart. Where Deep Impact is maudlin, Armageddon is triumphalist and juvenile. Both films are absurd and designed as spectacles, so Armageddon is at least more open about it. It was certainly more profitable with the public.

The story is unabashedly a celebration of American manhood that mocks the Russian space programme as a joke and dismisses women as passive objects of desire. But even with this unappealing stereotyping, Armageddon strives so enthusiastically to be exciting as to be almost endearing. Armageddon is not a good film, but is doubtful that it was ever intended to be. As a piece of extravagant popular entertainment, Armageddon succeeds at what it sets out to do, and is surprisingly coherent for a movie with five credited scriptwriters. [JN]

see also: Asteroid.


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