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ARMAGEDDON
Review by Andrew Manning (6/98)

Release: 1998, Buena Vista
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi
Director: Michael Bay
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
MPAA Rating: [PG-13] violence, language, sexuality
Genre: Action/Science Fiction

The earth's darkest day will be man's finest hour...

SUMMARY

An asteroid the size of Texas is headed on a direct collision course with the earth. To avert the disaster, the government sends a drill crew into space to plant a nuke into the giant rock.

WHAT'S GOOD

Directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Enough said.

Bay and Bruckheimer brought us one of the greatest action movies of all time: The Rock. Under their combined talents, Armageddon turns out to be one of the best action flicks of 1998. There is that same strong sense of military and patriotic duty felt in The Rock and Crimson Tide, and the same sense of violent, flying-in-your-face action felt in Con Air. Armageddon is tense and action packed, and even when the situations seem improbable and even silly, there's still the presence of first class production.

Armageddon is the film for those who wanted Deep Impact to rock a little more. The action is far more satisfying, and the special effects are markedly better (e.g. no paper mache looking buildings falling down, as in Deep Impact's tidal wave scene). There's also a lot of fantastic space shots.

Bruce Willis is finally back in a good movie, after stints on The Jackal and Mercury Rising. But more impressive, surprisingly, are Billy Bob Thornton and Steve Buscemi. Until now, I had difficulty seeing Thornton as anything but the quintessential goofy redneck (Sling Blade, Primary Colors), but here he comes across with a slick military demeanor and a semlbance of demanded respect. Buscemi, I had assumed, was there to fill the role of token weasely rat bastard among the crew, and while his character arguably had the least sense of duty, it's nice to see that his role wasn't as one dimensional as it could have easily been.

Armageddon also attempts to fill its time with some story. Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler play young lovers, with the catch being that Willis is Tyler's father, and Affleck is one of his co-workers. Pops isn't too happy about the match, and so a bit of dramatic tension ensues.


WHAT'S BAD

Affleck and Tyler prove that being young and popular doesn't automatically generate the chemistry. Hell, I thought teenie boppers Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski (Helen Hunt's little sister?) of Deep Impact made a better couple. The casting is perhaps the weakest point of the film. While there's nothing particularly bad about it, there's nothing particularly stellar, either. Most of the cast isn't of a caliber that can successfully pull off a role even in a bad movie, though, so their fates rest largely in the hands of the movie crew. Had this project been placed in hands other than Bay's and Bruckheimer's, it could have easily turned out the same as Deep Impact, or maybe even worse. It is solely the duo's magic touch and some good, solid, patriotic writing that really makes this film fly.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)






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