Review: It has been almost 15 years since Michael Bay’s Armageddon was released. For many today, it is easy to dismiss this film as mindless fluff and to use it as one more clip of ammunition when gunning down Bay’s reputation since his controversial Transformers trilogy. But in my opinion, people are sometimes quick to discredit a director such as Bay or others like Robert Rodriquez, when they go long periods of time working on movies that many fans feel are too distant from the films that made them a household name in the first place. When you couple that with these films actually becoming box office successes and the chants of “overrated” begin to stir on the internet. But, the numbers speak for themselves. Armageddon made over 550 million before it left theaters and no other Bruce Willis action film has even come close to passing 200 million domestically. The film went on to help propel many of the supporting actor’s careers into more marketable films and also helped jump start a certain beloved J.J. Abrams’ career when he wrote the screenplay. I think it’s fair to say that this film belongs in a respectable conversation with Bay’s other beloved action films such as The Rock and The Bad Boys films. (The latter of which I happen to believe are the most overrated of his films, but that’s a discussion for another time.)
The plot of Armageddon is certainly the thinner of its fellow box office competitor Deep Impact which came out only two months before Armageddon’s release. However while Deep Impact’s strength was in story, it lacked in action until the finale and it also wasted many of its cast by not developing the characters to make you care enough about what happened to them. Armageddon is in my opinion an action movie first, but it offers so many other things throughout. The characters all seem to be given just the right amount of screen time needed, so that you hold just the right amount of stock in their individual wellbeing. It almost seems that Bay made a conscious decision to allow Bruce Willis and his fellow band of roughnecks the freedom to have candid moments throughout the film, (during training for instance) to make their friendships as actors on set come out in their performances as a close nit group or even a “family”.
Bruce Willis plays quirky better than anyone in the business. But, the great thing about Bruce is his ability to wear so many other hats at once in many of his films. He has done this wonderfully throughout his career in many films, such as Die Hard, Hostage and Unbreakable and it is no different in Armageddon. He has to play our hero, so of course he must be a tough guy. But, he must also have his turns at comedy, drama and vulnerability. This is what makes him an action icon in my opinion. The ability to make every person in that theater be able to relate in some way to the characters that he plays.
There is not a single performance in this film that doesn’t deserve a paragraph of their own, save for Liv Tyler who is just a horrible actress in my opinion and possibly Steve Buscemi who just seems to ham it up just a little too much to fit the feel of the film. Aside from Harry himself, my two favorite characters, due to the brilliant performances, are Will Patton as Harry’s best friend and second in command Chick and William Fichtner as Colonel Willie Sharp.
Bay’s work in directing an action scene should never be questioned. But he manages to mesh so many other things together in this film. Admittedly, they don’t always come together to perfection. The goodbye scene at the end of the film would be one example. But again, I can’t help but wonder how that would have turned out with a more capable actress. Because, the scene just prior to that between Bruce and Ben Affleck achieved the same purpose quite nicely. I still tear up a little whenever I watch that scene.
The pace throughout the film has to slow down on several occasions to allow for more development of our characters. But, thanks to the editing it never seems slow to me, even after multiple viewings over the years.
Enough praise cannot be given to the score that was brilliantly performed by Mr. Trevor Rabin. In my opinion, it is his greatest piece of work in his 16 year career as a film score composer. As I mentioned before, the film flows very well from action, to comedy, to drama and everything in between and one of the biggest reasons for the ease of this is Rabin’s score. The score that he comprised for the launch of the shuttles to outer space is the definition of epic.
At the end of his career, Michael Bay may be best known for his beloved or hated Transformers trilogy. (Depending on what side of the argument you are on.) But for me, this will always be his masterpiece that he offered to film. Admittedly, I love a good disaster film and this one certainly fits the bill. But, it blends so many beautiful genres together into a wonderful hybrid which has to be nearly impossible to do and that more than anything is why I think it deserves some recognition.