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ARMAGEDDON
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan
Director:  Michael Bay
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Touchstone
Features:  Trailers, Music Video
Length:  153 Minutes
Release Date:  April 27, 2010

"This is so much fun, it's freaky!"

Film: **

Armageddon was the biggest money maker of 1998, and boy, did it have summer blockbuster written all over it. Did it succeed? Well, it could have been one of the most thrilling movies ever if it wasn't so dumb. Likewise, it could have been one of the dumbest movies ever if it wasn't so thrilling.

Movie goers who want more bang for their buck can't go wrong here. Everything in this picture is loud, fast, over the top, and designed to rattle you to the point where you stop thinking, which is a somewhat necessary commodity here.

How does this film compare to the other killer asteroid flick of the summer of 1998, Deep Impact? Well, for starters, while you waited the entire movie for one big special effect in DI, Armageddon starts the goods right after the opening credits. Meteors rain down on Manhattan, causing much spectacular destruction with the best possible visual and sound effects. Then, as the scene ends, we focus on a crater, with half a man's body sticking out, and a fellow screaming, "Somebody call 911!" This opening sequence firmly establishes the kind of film we're in for. On the other hand, this movie is lacking a lot of the heart of DI, in that it almost overlooks save for a few token shots people on the earth, who are facing probable extinction. Perhaps the ideal asteroid flick would fall somewhere between the two.

Bruce Willis and his team of oil drillers are then recruited by NASA to save the earth. Turns out, an asteroid the size of Texas is heading for us, and the only way to stop it is to drill a deep hole in it and drop in a nuke. We are show by computer graphic that this explosion would then cut the rock neatly in half, and both halves would conveniently miss the earth. I guess nobody considered the possibility that it would result in anything but a clean break. One even brags on TV that this was the Armageddon the Bible warned about, but we humans were intelligent enough to prevent it. I don't want to touch that, myself.

So our heroes train in 12 days to be astronauts. The training sequence is just one comic bit after another. These men seem pretty flip considering that life on earth depends on them. They are warned of how treacherous the surface of the rock will be. "OK, scariest environment imaginable," one chimes in. "That's all you have to say."

Finally, the boys get shot into space on two shuttles and towing all the best drilling equipment. First, they have to stop at Mir (and what's a space movie without a Mir joke, I ask you?) and in one of the more ridiculous sequences, blows the station up. Yikes.

But from that point, the movie stays pretty much at full speed, throwing one topper after another with almost dizzying effect, until you're ready to scream "enough!" and plead for mercy. But the film doesn't lose its comic edge. We're treated to Steve Buscemi going a little nuts (what else do you bring Buscemi into your picture for?) while the shuttle captain looks on with the most serious look on his face and says, "Looks like space dementia!" Buscemi even offers one of the film's most absurd lines when approaching the asteroid: "This is like Dr. Seuss' worst nightmare." WHAAAT??

One thing to keep in mind when watching this film...well, it's hard to avoid, actually, is the matter of time. Time is always running out, yet at the most crucial moments, there seems to be spare time for infighting and emotional moments between the crew members. Notice the sequence where they try to diffuse the nuke. The old "blue wire or red wire" trick, as the timer is running down. Hello, isn't this our bomb? Why would we have to guess which wire to cut?

Still, the cast is enthusiastic, given the material. Willis is fine, Affleck is especially good, and Tyler looks pretty and weepy as always. And the movie does deliver on its promise of thrills and action, and even manages an occasional moment of true emotional breakthrough. If you can turn off your brain and enjoy the equivalent of a battering ram on the senses, you might just have a summer blockbuster type good time with this movie.

Video ****

Blu-ray definitely delivers the goods when it comes to action and outer space adventures, and since this film is a little of both, this high definition transfer is exactly what the director ordered.  From the opening shots of Earth in space to the disasters on the ground to the spectacular crises in the great beyond, this is one fantastic looking disc:  rich in detail, superbly colored, and never giving way to undue grain or distortions.

Audio ****

I've always said sound is crucial in horror...let me add to that, sound is crucial in a Michael Bay film.  This movie, and really, any of his movies, cry out for the freedom and dynamic potency of uncompressed audio, and this is a DTS soundtrack that will have the breakables on your shelves rattling toward suicide.  The relentless action lets up for a few quieter moments, but it's the full-on surround experience that will win fans over.

Features *

It's too bad the impressive extras from Criterion's DVD issue couldn't have carried over to the movie's Blu-ray debut...all we get are a theatrical and teaser trailer and Aerosmith's music video for "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing".

Summary:

Armageddon is a film that should be taken for what it's meant to be: an overcharged, under-intelligent, big budgeted special effects action thriller overdosing on adrenaline.  This Blu-ray delivers all the goods as far as picture and sound goes, but if you're looking for a generous package of features, you caught the wrong shuttle this time.

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