Saturday, 11 October 2014

Armageddon (1998)

Back in 1998 after the first asteroid disaster porn flick, we got this second very different take on the same idea. The first movie 'Deep Impact' had been a very serious sensible realistic angle on what would or could happen. This film was helmed by the one and only Michael Bay...hence it went down the over the top action packed cool gadget exploding set piece rammed popcorn fireball with enough gloss and shine to decorate Buck Palace.

What is so funny about this is the plot for this movie is exactly the same as 'Deep Impact', admittedly there isn't much scope for originality when an asteroid is heading to Earth but bloody hell! So yes an asteroid is heading to Earth and its a whopper! NASA are befuddled about what to do so they devise this plan to drill into the asteroids core (or near enough) and plant one of those ever handy nukes we have strewn around our planet for just such an occasion. For this they are gonna need Bruce Willis and his team of beer swillin' fist throwing womanising drunkies to save the day, thank God for Bruce Willis.

So the initial hook for this movie is the bunch of grimy grunts that are handed the job of saving the world. In the other film the team of astronauts were clean cut slickass all Americans (apart from the Russian) that all probably sat down to pee, this time the team are so utterly shabby and rebellious you tend to wonder how the hell they ever manage to get anything done without squabbling drinking or having random brawls. Willis' character shows how unstable he is in the first ten minutes by going after Batfleck's character with a shotgun! a grown adult is falling in love with his grown adult daughter...yeah sure that isn't too overly protective to worrying proportions.

I can't deny that this hook is a winner and Bay nurtures it perfectly. The gathering of the team montage is fun and badass as each member is brought in by officials from their own individual seedy locations, Buscemi's being the best. The casting for this team again is admittedly sheer brilliance, Buscemi is the...errr well he's virtually a seedy prostitute using Lothario that makes you wonder if age ever comes into it. Will Patton is the all round sense of reason for the team, Michael Clarke Duncan is basically the gruff muscle (could he really be anything else?), Batfleck is the handsome young guy who is bonking the romantic angle Liv Tyler and Owen Wilson in one of his first major roles plays a Texan cowboy type because...errm he comes from Texas in real life and has a Texan drawl.

Next to the D-team of heroes you have Keith David playing the gruff US military General who naturally hasn't revealed the entire plan, Fichtner plays the gruff golden boy US astronaut who also hasn't revealed the entire plan because he's in cahoots with the US military, Billy Bob Thornton is the good guy NASA controller who is the sense of reason on the ground and finally Peter Stormare naturally plays a Russian astronaut who comes across as drunk for most of the time. Yep so the cast line is pretty darn sweet no doubt, a solid ensemble.

As I've already explained and as I'm sure you're all aware of the other hook for this movie was the firework display show more commonly known as the special effects. The movie is ridiculous yes, we know this, but at no point does the movie ever try not to be ridiculous, Bay and co know what they are aiming for and they strike with lethal efficiency. The set pieces all look like something from a comicbook superhero flick, the gadgets are big bold and badass, the action is wild and furious with people getting killed off in various obligatory space-like ways and in general it all does look very good even to this day. Add to that the now known Bayisms such as mighty lens flares, mighty low camera angles, mighty explosions...even in space, sunsets, that specific colour palette he seems to regurgitate, slow motion close ups and his military fetish. The only things he doesn't manage to cram in here surprisingly are car porn and hot girly soft porn (Tyler most certainly does not qualify here).

The film in short was a huge huge success mainly because it caters for us...the regular folk. The heroes in the movie are all average Joe's with average looks and various defects (mainly mental), this isn't about big lantern jawed super men with huge biceps and rippling six-packs. The entire premise of regular blue collar bums getting called up to save the Earth is a winning formula that most will get behind. This also adds to the nice array of semi adult humour that is spread throughout the movie plus it cranks up the tension and emotions massively when the guys get into big trouble and you approach the predictable weepy ending. Its genuinely great fun to watch this group of everyday schmoes trying to get through NASA training with their attitudes towards the preppy clean cut environment they are now in and their average everyday physical issues such as being completely out of shape. You also relate and feel for them when the shit hits the fan and they're stuck in this scientific hi-tech terror situation with lots of confusing buttons.

Yep back in the day Bay knew how to throw out a good heavily buttered popcorn flick...before he milked it out of existence. The movie was targeted for the wider audience and it scored in every department, even the God awful Aerosmith power ballad cleaned up as teenage girls everywhere trembled at the knees. The film moved with an incredible pace which I found acceptable given the style of the movie and the fact we already had a slower burning asteroid strike movie earlier in the year. Likewise the authenticity of the whole thing was kinda dubious in places but really? does anyone really need to even question that aspect of it? its quite obvious what could possibly be done in reality and what probably couldn't.

Both of the asteroid flicks that landed back in 1998 were essentially exactly the same thing, they offered the same and delivered the same. Each movie offered the same but from a different angle...and they both worked! amazingly. End of the day as I said in my 'Deep Impact' review, that first movie was the equivalent of a much slower sensible simulator videogame. This movie is the equivalent of an arcade videogame, big bold loud bad colourful and in your face, it should rock you, and honesty for me this movie actually did just that.