In a series of promotional posters for the film Armageddon, mug shots of our promised heroes were underscored with a bit of information about each. Bear, for instance- he was doing it for the thrill! Truman was doing it for his country, Steve Buscemi was doing it for the money, and Grace was doing it for love. A.J., well, he was doing it for her. At least, that’s what I thought until saw another A.J. poster asserting that he was in it for the thrill, too. I was panicked by the unforeseen ambiguity in these people’s motivation. Wasn’t Bear the adrenaline junkie? Or did A.J. have more than one dimension? Would the movie be as confusing as these posters?
In some ways, like the direction, it was more so. Even by director Michael Bay’s standards (Bad Boys, The Rock), the action sequences were hyperactive, muddled spectacles drowned out by an equally addling soundtrack of endless explosions. However, the farfetched action of Armageddon was easily matched in slack and tedium by the plot.
It revolved around a crew of roughneck oilers whom we first met as the boss man Harry (who was doing it for the honor) chased A.J. around the rig with a shotgun. Man, those were some crazy-ass riggers! That’s about the some total of what was important to know about them.
The story line was a familiar one for the modern day blockbuster about things of a large size. Ominous opening scenes made us aware of a threat. Then the military got involved by hiding information from the public. Soon, specialists were brought in. This is where the drillers came in to play, for they were the only ones who can stop a “rouge comet” headed directly for Earth by inserting a nuclear device into its core. A nuclear device? Yes, there was a scene where someone has to guess between differently colored wires to defuse the weapon.
As the film progressed, they faced an absurd parade of obstacles to their goal, including a nasty case of “space dementia”. The only real surprise was that a furry Meteor Beast was not piloting the asteroid. The astro-drillers overcame these hurdles with methods that were, even in terms of astro-drilling movies, unbelievable but fun to count. I tallied thirty-four.
Armageddon failed to engage the viewer in any meaningful way as the potential for emotional involvement was crested by a brassy Ben Affleck stating with a grin that he “feels pretty good for being more scared than he’s ever been”. Meanwhile, Bay couldn’t manage to keep the camera still unless he was displaying a huge American flag in the background.
The irony of such a patriotic movie was that it could only inspire hatred for a country where such a movie is made. For me, though, it did inspire one question. Why wasn’t there a poster for the bleached-blond Oscar? I think he did it because he was a surfer or something, but I’d like to know for sure.