“It’s the size of Texas, Mr. President.”
Does it get any better than that? Of course it doesn’t. Armageddon is without doubt one of the finest motion pictures ever created by humans. If that snippet of dialogue made audible by Mr. Billy Bob Thornton himself didn’t convince you, maybe this will.
“You think we’ll get hazard pay for this?”
I’m going to pretend you’ve been living under a rock since 1998 and summarize one of the greatest summer blockbuster films ever made for you.
So Billy Bob Thorton is sort of the head honcho of NASA and one day he’s supervising a standard in-space satellite repair when all of a sudden a meteor shower rips his crew to pieces. We then cut to New York City, which seems to always be the city that gets destroyed in big budget disaster movies, and sure enough the meteors tear through the city demolishing Grand Central Station, decapitating the Chrysler Building [insert Unstoppable joke here] and finally, in a moment fraught with unintended significance, the camera slowly zooms out to show the twin towers of the World Trade Center on fire.
Then we’re treated to quickly cut scenes of people yelling and running through hallways and trying to figure out why Keith David keeps calling. Essentially, a giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and no matter where it hits, it will wipe out all life as we know it. Jason Isaacs convinces the President that the best plan is to send a team to land on the asteroid, drill a big hole, and drop a huge nuke in it, thereby splitting the asteroid in two and sending the halves on trajectories that see them safely miss Earth entirely. And who’s the best deep core driller in the world? Bruce Willis.
So they send a helicopter to go pick Bruce up from an oil rig in the south China Sea, bring him to NASA in Houston, and explain to him and his daughter, Liv Tyler, that the world is about to end and he’s there Obi-Wan Kenobi-style only hope. Initially they want him to train a set of astronauts on how to drill but since “drilling’s an art” Bruce convinces them to train his crew to be astronauts instead of training a crew of astronauts on how to drill holes. In fact, Billy Bob agrees to that plan almost immediately. So a group of misfits with no business on a spaceship are humanity’s last chance. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Armageddon.
Why We Love It
We love it because we are human beings. Who doesn’t love this movie? I don’t want to be friends with that person. Take a look at the cast! The movie boasts stars like Willis, Affleck, Billy Bob, Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Will Patton, William Fichtner, and Keith David – with great people in smaller roles like Peter Stormare, a Swedish man, playing the crazy Russian cosmonaut; Andy Milder as a NASA tech; Udo Kier as a psychologist; and Lucius Malfoy himself as the smartest man on the planet. The film has an incredible ensemble cast even by today’s standards. Maybe even more so. How about the scene where Affleck starts singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” to Liv Tyler? And then Michael Clarke Duncan starts in with his otherworldly, gravely bass voice and then Buscemi picks it up and before you know it the whole damn cast is singing? It’s funny and sweet and kind of poignant all at once.
You know what else I love? All the video simulations. The world has 18 days of existence left and NASA is spending a good portion of time and money creating video simulations of the asteroid spreading the meteor shower, the asteroid hitting zero barrier and splitting, the asteroid destroying earth…all kinds of sweet looking simulations. The best part is they are totally necessary in every way. Otherwise, how would the non-NASA normies know what the hell was going on?
The asteroid itself is also pretty great. Bay is careful never to let you really get a good look at the thing. It’s always shown in these medium shots with a bunch of zooms past the smaller meteor clouds at the front and back. And it looks like the whole damn thing is traveling with the aurora borealis swirling around it, providing really nice mood lighting for the harbinger of the end of the world.
Moment We Fell in Love
The Simpson/Bruckheimer logo? The Charlton Heston voice over narration? How early is too early? In all honesty, the first scene with Bruce Willis and Will Patton and then Willis and Affleck on the oil rig lets you know exactly what kind of film you’re in for. Willis and Patton play off each other perfectly, and the tension between Willis and Affleck is palpable. The sequence with Willis chasing Affleck around the rig, Affleck in his underwear, Willis with the shotgun, is big and crazy and epic and indicative of what’s to come. At this point, we’ve already seen the destruction of New York City. We know we’ll get the big explosive special effects that the trailer, poster, title and tagline have all promised us. But the chemistry between the actors and the clever lines and witty retorts that will pepper the rest of the film become evident during this sequence.
Armageddon is pretty much a modern masterpiece. This is painfully obvious to me, and I’m frankly shocked that my fellow Rejects never seem to mention this film. Armageddon deserves to be championed and yet you never hear a word about it on this site. It was even given a deluxe DVD release by the Criterion Collection, a self-proclaimed “series of important classic and contemporary films,” and yet our own Criterion Files column will probably get around to covering the Armageddon release around the same time they cover The Rock.
But whether the rest of the site recognizes this film’s greatness or not, you certainly can. Do yourself a favor and watch Armageddon again as soon as humanly possible. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.