The cinematic equivalent of a battering ram, ARMAGEDDON is nonethe-
less an agreeable mess.  Bruce Willis and a band of indie-actors-
as-roughnecks remake DEEP IMPACT-- or at least the part where they 
shuttle into space to plant nukes.  (The plot for both:  large ob-
ject approaching Earth and it ain't Elvis.)  The first hour is the 
most enjoyable, with Willis' colorful (and curse-less!) crew show-
ing the wrong stuff to Billy Bob Thornton's ultra-serious NASA 
guys. (Their psychological testing is particularly fall-down fun-
ny.)  Don't miss the nifty Charleton Heston-narrated opening, set 
65 million-years ago.  Or an early asteroid storm that takes a bite 
out of the Big Apple.  (Unlike the dark and stormy streets of GOD-
ZILLA, this toy train set gets blown up in broad daylight!)  Far 
less exciting-- think a hemorrhoid storm-- is a romantic subplot 
between Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck, as Boss Bruce's character's 
daughter and fellow rigger, respectively.  Those early scenes all 
but stop the film in its tracks.  (Tip:  hit the restroom whenever 
Aerosmith starts singing on the soundtrack.  You won't miss a 

Despite an appealing cast, only Billy Bob leaves his mark on the 
movie.  Steve Buscemi isn't bad, either, as the requisite joker in 
the deck.  (To be fair, each guy gets to crack a couple howlers.)  
At least the pictures are worth a thousand words.  Director Michael 
Bay (THE ROCK, BAD BOYS) and cameraman John Schwartzman (CONSPIRACY 
THEORY, THE ROCK) make every image count, even if it isn't left on 
the screen for longer than five seconds.  (The average shot length, 
by my estimate.)  Great effects, too, as well as several jaw-drop-
ping (and authentic) NASA sets.  Too bad that mile-high pile of 
cliches begins to topple in the final hour.  Monotonous action en-
sues, some of it white-knuckle, some of it hard-to-follow, and all 
of it very, very loud.  (How many different clocks were they trying 
to beat, anyway?)  

Say what you will about producer Jerry Bruckheimer (CON AIR, THE 
ROCK), but he sure as Hell knows how to hammer an audience.  I 
haven't had such a headache since watching a certain ship sink into 
the Atlantic...  Now, for the obligatory nits, of which there are 
so deliriously many.  You can banter while being subjected to 11Gs?  
Space exploration vehicles equipped with machine guns?  And, my 
favorite, just what *is* "space dementia" anyway?  Is that anything 
like "space madness," known to make Chihuahuas crave chicken pot 
pies?  Written by a bunch of folks, including Jonathan Hensleigh, 
Robert Roy Pool, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno, J.J. Abrams, and, 
uncredited, Paul Attanasio and Robert Towne.  Also starring Will 
Patton, Owen Wilson, Michael Duncan, Keith David, William Fichtner, 
and, as a wacky, whacked-out cosmonaut, Peter Stormare.  (Rated 
"PG-13"/150 min.)

Grade: C+

Copyright 1998 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: July 5, 1998

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