When it comes to planet-saving movies, you don’t get much better than Armageddon, arguably Michael Bay’s best film that served as Ben Affleck’s introduction to mainstream audiences.
An asteroid is making its way to Earth and will decimate the planet unless NASA scientists led by Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thorton, Faster) and Ronald Quincy (Jason Isaacs) can come up with a plan to protect mankind.
Their Hail Mary plan? Send a team of deep core drillers to space and have them drill deep enough into the asteroid to plant a nuclear missile and steer it off its collision course with Earth.
Yes, this is a highly preposterous plot (and why are no other countries attempting anything???), but if you can get past that, you’ll enjoy it.
Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) is already having a lousy day after finding out his daughter, Grace (Liv Tyler, The Incredible Hulk), is sleeping with his rebellious employee, A.J. (Affleck, Daredevil).
Now he’s told he and his crew (Will Patton, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steve Buscemi and Owen Wilson lead a fantastic supporting cast) hold the fate of the world in their hands.
The film’s first half is a fun adult version of Space Camp with Harry’s crew being taught the astronaut ropes by NASA’s finest including Col. Willie Sharp (one of today’s finest supporting actors William Fichtner, Elysium), who questions if they can do the job. Casting director Bonnie Timmermann deserves serious kudos for the group she assembled here.
Bay’s only directed 10 films, but his style has become so distinct that audiences instantly know what they’re in for with his movies — loud, overly patriotic action spectacles with the volume cranked up to 20.
Armageddon is his best work as he hadn’t devolved into the action parody he would soon become by wisely not undermining the efforts of screenwriters Jonathan Hensleigh (Die Hard: With a Vengeance) and J.J. Abrams (before his ascent to the upper echelon of A-list filmmakers).
The duo develops strong characters the audience can care about, laugh with and even cry with, resulting in a Choked Up Check finale even for the most hardened moviegoer.
This was the pinnacle of the heartthrob phase of Affleck’s career. He excelled in the role giving A.J. a self-assured, yet likable persona, but he was so convincing that he became typecast as the cocky pretty boy.
He’s got tremendous chemistry with Tyler, who has never been better and since they have a pivotal subplot, it was essential you could buy into their romance.
Once the crew gets to space, the film surprisingly loses some momentum despite being the more action-packed half.
Brevity has never really been Bay’s strong suit and clocking in at 151 minutes, cutting 20 minutes would have provided a more pressing race against the clock pace instead of the speeding to get stuck in rush hour traffic feel we get in its place.
Peter Stormare’s cosmonaut Lev Andropov was a necessary and welcome cast addition, but his introduction slows the momentum down.
Once the setup is over, Bay is in his world and he finds the perfect balance of tons of tense, edge of your seat action with a surprisingly emotional payoff that makes your investment completely worthwhile. The special effects hold up well and pull you into the action even without 3D. I know, I know. How is that possible?
While there’s some crater-sized flaws if you want to be nit-picky, Armageddon is Bay’s finest, earnestly entertaining film and an easy crowd pleaser.
Rating: 7 out of 10