Sunday, May 31, 2015

Armageddon (1998) Review:

Back around the late 1990s, Hollywood started becoming obsessed with making movies about the end of the world. Some of which bordered on the edge of unrealistic while others wanted to really scare the crap out of its audience with what sounded and looked like plausible science. Whether it be shifting plate tectonics like Volcano (1997) or the devil himself in End of Days (1999), someone thought up of some way the world would end. For director Michael Bay, his idea was more patriotic, although perhaps a little too self-righteous. Although the plot of the movie is not mentioned to be in accordance with the Mayan calendar, the way it comes across is pretty much "the end of the world"-ish. What's more surprising is that Michael Bay finds this to be his worst movie. I think he should check his list again.

Yeah,....I cared more about this,.....
After NASA discovers a gigantic meteor the size of Texas is headed towards Earth, the head of NASA named Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) orders the recruitment of oil driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) to head up to space to knock the "global killer" out of orbit. Stamper accepts but only after the rest of his drilling crew comes with him. The rest of the drilling crew contains AJ Frost (Ben Affleck) who's also dating his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler), Chick (Will Patton), Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), Bear (Michael Clarke Duncan), Max (Ken Campbell) and Oscar (Owen Wilson). The supporting cast also includes William Fichtner, Jessica Steen, Peter Stormare, Keith David and Jason Isaacs. Thankfully, for a cast this huge Michael Bay had some credible writers for this production. Penning the official screenplay for this film was none other than Jonathan Hensleigh (Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) and Jumanji (1995)) and a young J.J. Abrams. As a whole, the story is proficient at working with what it has. Most of the characters mentioned prior do have a definitive personality and also portray genuine emotion.

Then again, there are some moments that hint at the typical Michael Bay shtick that always feels unnecessary. Being that the movie is 2 and a half-hours long, there definitely could have been some trimming on the sides. Some scenes either had no relevance or meaning to the story and did not further the plot. All they did was emphasize how silly some characters can be written. Most likely the running time could have been cut down to 2 hours. The only other part that wasn't needed was the love subplot going on between AJ and Grace. It felt forced and cliched. Making matters worse was Liv Tyler's acting ability. She wasn't horrible but she had a very stiff face and in some cases she became quite obnoxious portraying her character. Delightfully, there are enough supporting characters to make-up for her. The most interesting belonged to William Fichtner’s role as a space astronaut caught between his code by NASA or what his gut says. His exchanges with Bruce Willis are quite the attention grabber.

The most entertaining act of the film (and rightfully so) is the final act. It is there that we see Harry Stamper and his crew work as a real team and seeing that happen and how they handle various situations is an intense ride from beginning to end. This also goes pretty much for the cinematography and special effects. All of which blended in nicely as well. The director of photography for this production was John Schwartzman and for what was depicted on screen, it still holds up today. There are large wide panning shots of landscapes but most of it belongs to the meteor, which does look heavy on CGI. Again though, the special effects are something to admire too. For it's time, it could have looked a lot worse but even today it still looks decent.

,......than this
Musically related, the score was composed by Trevor Rabin. Rabin, who's main forte is in the synthetic aspect of film score, does not deviate from what listeners would normally hear. Much of his music contains the same kind of generic electronic keyboard rhythms and action cues. Surprisingly however, Rabin provides a very memorable and emotional power anthem that acts as the movie’s main theme. Although there was no Armageddon 2 (and hopefully never will) the fact that Rabin made such a memorable theme for the movie is commendable. It has a very heroic like tune that makes the jobs being done truly feel a difference is being made. As a recommendation for anyone looking to collect Rabin's score, the best would be to go with the bootleg edition. Most of Rabin's score do not contain more material than 30 or so minutes. But the bootleg for Armageddon (1998) is a little over an hour and a half. It's hard to find film scores with such detail so if you can get a hold of it, I suggest you do.

Like other Michael Bay films, it has a few areas that needed trimming with unnecessary scenes that make the movie longer than it needed to be. Plus, Liv Tyler's acting is noticeably irritating on screen. Other than that, Bruce Willis and the rest of the supporting cast work well, the music is recognizable and the third act to this sci-fi nail biter is quite a ride.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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