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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My 100 Worst Movies of the 90's - 41 - Armageddon (1998)

Armageddon (1998; Touchstone Pictures)
This one would be much higher on the list except it actually isn’t as bad as the other films that follow it.  Think about that one for a minute.  Armageddon is Michael Bay’s big-budget answer to Independence Day, a film that came out a couple years before that eclipsed his actioner The Rock in the year‘s grossing.  It’s his “destroy the world” disaster movie, except his has a happier ending, and Ben Affleck crying like a baby (hilarious).  

Armageddon follows a group of rag-tag deep-water oil drillers recruited by NASA to land on an impending doomsday rock, drill a hole, and plant a nuke to split the giant asteroid so that it misses the Earth in two diverging pieces.  The drillers are a big fat group of cliches and we get the typical character-introductions voiced over vignettes of each character doing what defines them as characters in the film.  These are executed like the opening credits of a bad television actions series, attempting to set the characters apart by giving us visual clues to their personalities, but here it is done without any of the style or flourish.

Now, as this is a film featuring the NASA logo, you’d think they would have spent a lot of time working with some physicists to get all the little details right.  Rigt?  Well, this film shows no regard for the laws of physics, the laws of nature, or even the laws of man.  It is a silly exercise that is emotionally exploitative while at the same time showing the destruction of entire cities for our amusement.  It is also an ugly movie, particularly on the asteroid, where it gives you just enough light to show how much work went into the rock but not enough for us to see how bad it looks.  

It’s no secret that Michael Bay is a terrible director, and he does not know how to direct dialogue, which is why he usually just resorts to spinning the camera around and cutting to noisy distractions in the form of loud explosions, falling buildings or crashing planes (or shuttles as is in this case).  The writing is bad but it only amounts about 60 minutes worth of actual on-screen dialogue, the remaining 90 minutes are all visual fluff designed to hide how terrible this movie is.  It doesn’t work.  It’s pretty bad when Bay is so impatient with dialogue that he literally cuts his stars’ lines off to jump to a more “fun” scene.
Lastly, a note on the acting.  There isn’t a good performance in this film.  Despite having some talented actors on board, including Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, and Billy-Bob Thornton.  The problem is Bay doesn’t care about story, or characters, or the script, or anything for that matter that isn’t something exploding.  

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