When the rare opportunity to read a truly talented writer’s take on a big budget phenomenon presents itself, you can’t turn it down. When that project is a sequel to Armageddon – arguably the reason why movies were invented – and the writer is Damon Lindelof, you should feel confident doing just about anything to get it. Especially if “just about anything” involves meeting a shadowy figure in the basement of the Umami Burger on Hollywood.
It was on that dusky night almost a year ago that a be-cloaked voice handed me the script for Armageddoner and then told me in great detail what the Smoke Monster was.
Then, only a month later, Lindelof posted the script himself on the internet for all to see. Naturally, I was hesitant to write anything about it until now. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something that makes writing about this particular script now that just feels right.
The question isn’t whether it’s good or not. The question is whether it’s the best script or merely the greatest.
Here, at least, is what I thought:
Lindelof’s take on the universe post-Armageddon is based on the real-world event of the BP oil spill that took place in the Spring of 2010. Something that topical could be a minefield to navigate, but Lindelof does is with poise and acumen.
The idea goes something like this: Billy Bob Thornton’s Dan Truman now has a bionic leg and is brought into the inner circle that knows the unstoppable oil will destroy the world because all the oil at its core will empty onto the surface. If only he knew some roughneck heroes who know their way around a drill.
The script takes off on the title page, and from there it practically turns the pages itself. Lindelof has mastered high concept here so well that I can see the poster in my head.
He doesn’t waste any time on characters beyond Dustin Hoffman as the first Jewish president, Bruce Willis as the twin or clone or something of Harry Stamper, and Bionic Billy Bob. As a seasoned screenwriter, Lindelof knows all of the story details will be taken care of in post. What’s most important are the opportunities for explosions, 3D, and built-in trailer beats that make this screenplay percolate.
But what’s really impressive is that Lindelof takes the villain from the first movie, the asteroid, and makes it an unlikely hero in the sequel. With a team heading up to another asteroid to detonate some sort of bomb on it, the trajectory of the rock can be altered in order to fall to earth and plug the hole where all the oil is gushing out.
Shakespeare just grew an undead boner in his grave and then rolled over on it because it felt so good.
Here, again, Lindelof shines. His dialogue is sparse – giving a tip of the hat to the entire action film genre – and almost all of it is exposition peppered with one-liners of grave importance. Even I’m man enough to admit that when I read Truman’s “We’re all going to die,” line, I choked up and a lone tear escaped its ocular prison.
That salty beast then fell into my whiskey, creating a ripple in which I could see the reflection of earth being saved by a group of unlikely heroes set to a booming soundtrack by Muse.
The Overall Effect
Writing sequels is tough work, but Lindelof nails it here. Why? Because he doesn’t overthink it. He lets the drama organically unfold from the high concept situation, giving us all the chance to question our own mortality which makes us all forget about Bruce Willis’s character’s lack of it.
This movie would make $28 Trillion Dollars, would make James Cameron and Lars Von Trier collapse into hysterical sobbing, and would change the face of cinema for all time.
Why it hasn’t been made yet is anyone’s guess. Probably a Vatican conspiracy.