A DVD REVIEW: ARMAGEDDON (Touchstone) [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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07-18-2005, 11:12 AM
I dont have to give you my regular speech about the guys responsible for creating the "ultimate summer blockbuster" do I? Well, Mr. Michael Bay is one of them, and although most people hated this film, I STILL love it for what it is to this day ---- damn all the HORRIBLE subplotting between Affleck and Liv Tyler, which slows this film's raunchy pacing down to a CRAWL sometimes; and if I have to look at Tyler's doe-eyed expression once more during ANY motion picture while her father belts out "I Dont Wanna Miss A Thing," I think Im gonna puke.......

And what Michael Bay's Armageddon is translates to the ultimate "impossible answer to an end of the world scenario just to sell theater tickets" --- just like Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow. But I'll tell you one thing: I enjoyed this a hell of a lot better than the other meteor-hits-Earth disaster film that debuted right alongside this picture and battled for ticket sales, Deep Impact with Morgan Freeman.

Now, there is a company called CRITERION which takes what they feel are monumental motion pictures that have had an affect on society and release ultimate, ultimate, be-all-end-all DVD editions of these motion pictures. BELIEVE THIS OR NOT, Michael Bay's Armageddon actually made it to Criterion's list and they released a special version of this DVD, loaded with a so-called "director supervised" re-transfer of the film as well as TONS of supplements attempting to explain the science behind the plot in this picture.....from what I understand, the audio was carried over in a Dolby 5.1 mix. But for the money Criterion was charging for this thing (it was outrageous; something like 40 bucks I think) and the fact that I think it has been taken off the market, I didnt see a need to upgrade from my single disc original Buena Vista release, which looks pretty solid for another one of their non-anamorphic titles.

First of all, what the characters in this film, if you havent actually SEEN it, attempt to do, is physically impossible, no matter what the "people" from NASA who were interviewed on the Criterion version say. The film opens with a narration from Charleton Heston and a view of our planet from outer space, as he explains why the dinosaurs became extinct --- as a massive asteroid struck the planet and blocked the sun for thousands of years (some argue this "fact" as actual fact) as he says "It happened before......it WILL happen again......its just a question of WHEN......" The screen then opens to a firey wall of lettering with the title of the film, which breaks into pieces and flies directly at the viewer, and sounds pretty nice in 5.1.

Fast foward "65 million years" later, as we see some astronauts from NASA doing some work up in space around the Earth; suddenly, a meteor shower hits the crew and destroys the shuttle they were on, causing a panic down at NASA headquarters. This opening sequence, in typical Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer fashion, is loaded with tension and keeps you on the edge of your seat as does most of the film. Billy Bob Thorton turns in one of his better roles here as the program director for NASA, who discovers that a meteor the size of Texas is headed for Earth and will destroy all life on the planet unless it can somehow be destroyed before 17 days or so. During this, we see New York City get absolutely demolished by a meteor shower, as hot hurtling rock rains across the town, destroying the Chrysler building, Twin Towers, and Grand Central Station, not to mention just leaving the entire city in ruins......if this smacks of Roland Emmerich's destruction sequences he did in New York City in his Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, dont worry ---- it is supposed to smack of those. But leave the duties to producer Jerry Bruckheimer and explosion-obsessed director Michael Bay, and you're gonna have one hell of a special effects roller coaster.....and thats what we get here.

Once New York is leveled, NASA needs to come up with a plan to destroy the oncoming meteor, and quick.....Jason Isaacs (The Patriot), the "smartest man on the planet" according to Thorton's character, tells the president's military advisor (David Keith) that the only way to destroy this meteor is to cause a nuclear explosion from INSIDE the meteor --- not just firing a bunch of ICBM's up to destroy it because it wont work any other way due to the sheer velocity and size of the object. How are they going to do this? Well, they call upon the world's best deep core driller (Bruce Willis) and his crew (made up of Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck and more) who are working on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. After some ridiculous subplotting and nonsense about Willis not wanting Tyler to bang Affleck (Tyler is Willis' daughter in the film and his "public relations person" for his oil drilling company), the military land a helicopter on Willis' rig and demand he come with them in the interest of national security on an emergency meeting. Willis and Tyler go, and once getting to NASA headquarters in Houston, they are told of the meteor about to hit Earth and why NASA needs Willis and his team --- their mission: be delivered onto the meteor (something damn well impossible to do in real life but Bay and Bruckheimer make it happen) via two new space shuttles co-developed by NASA and the US Air Force, drill 800 feet into the meteor, drop a nuclear bomb, and get off that rock and back home --- but there's a catch: the bomb MUST explode before what NASA calls "Zero Barrier," where if it explodes after that point, the Earth will not be cleared of the explosion.

Willis' team agrees to the mission, and must be trained for outer space operations in a matter of days, where astronauts usually train for years ---- the training sequences are ridiculous and funny at the same time, with the guys being put through a series of mental and physical examinations allowing Buscemi to deliver some of his typical off the wall humor.

The scenes where the shuttles take off and head toward the asteroid, first docking with a Russian space station for re-fueling (run by the guy who plays the Russian mob boss in Bad Boys II), are some of the most exciting parts of this film, as CGI shots of the two sleek shuttles rocketing at 22,000 miles per hour past the camera look great and actually pretty realistic (there is no Escape From L.A. CGI usage here). There is also an exciting scene where during the re-fueling process on the Russian space station, a fuel leak causes a fire and an explosion and both shuttle teams barely escape alive as the station explodes into a million pieces --- its a pretty great action sequence that will have you biting your nails.

Once approaching the Texas-sized meteor they need to destroy, one of the shuttles carrying half the men are struck my massive pieces of meteor debris and they crash land, killing the pilots immediately, but Affleck, the Russian space station manager, and Duncan all survive the crash. Meanwhile, NASA and the other shuttle believe the first shuttle to be destroyed and all the men onboard dead, meaning its up to this second shuttle to dig, plant the bomb and get off that rock in about two hours time. Once almost crash landing themselves on the surface of the meteor (this is all just ridiculously impossible), Buscemi's character figures out that they over-shot their targeted landing position and are now sitting on top of Iron Ferrite ---- a very difficult material to drill through. Rolling out the "Armadillo," which is the unit they need to dig through this meteor down 800 feet to plant the nuclear bomb, the team gets to work. But because of the iron plate they are literally drilling into, the team runs into problems and immediately destroys a drill head upon the first fifteen feet of digging; the Air Force pilot in command of the shuttle demands to know from Willis how deep they are because he has to report in a status check to NASA, and after Willis informs them they're only at something like fifty feet and need a new transmission for the drill, the Air Force pilot gets in contact with NASA and tells them the digging isnt going well and will put the projected time beyond what they need before the meteor hits Zero Barrier......on orders from the president, Keith David's character calls the military in to take over operations from NASA because they are going to remote-detinate the bomb from Earth.

Willis learns of this "secondary protocol" after the nuclear bomb turns itself on inside the shuttle and the Air Force pilot admits that the government had this backup plan if they felt the digging wasnt going to work ---- Willis begs the pilot to reconsider and to allow him and his men to finish the digging before this bomb goes off, and he agrees, disconnecting the bomb and canceling the government's plans to blow it up from Earth. Buying them some time, Willis' crew seems to have failed, as another attempt at digging into the meteor with a new transmission and drill head leads to hitting a gas pocket, sending one of Willis' crew members exploding into space with the Armadillo drill he was using......Willis, without the help of the other space shuttle crew that was supposedly killed in the crash landing, feels the mission is over and tells NASA to prepare the world for bad news. As the Earth prepares to face its final moment, suddenly Affleck, Duncan and the Russian space station manager arrive with the other Armadillo driller, saving the day......the team, now lead by Affleck driving the drill, actually dig to 800 feet inside the meteor, but there's a problem: the detonator for the nuclear bomb was somehow damaged during the landing on the rock, meaning someone has to stay behind to physically detonate the bomb. The team draws straws to see who is going to stay, and Affleck ends up being the one needing to stay and blow the bomb manually. But as Willis is taking Affleck down and out of the shuttle to do the mission, he throws Affleck back inside the elevator transport and back up into the shuttle, wanting to sacrifice himself and do the job HIMself instead of Affleck.....as he says to Affleck "your job is to take care of my little girl now....." as Affleck planned on marrying Tyler.

There is a tearjerking moment here where Willis talks to Tyler over the video telecommunicator system at NASA, and Willis tells her he wont be coming home because he needs to stay and detonate the bomb in order to save the world.....the two of them exchange some tearjerking dialogue and in the end, the planet is saved as Willis blows the bomb, destroying the meteor just in time before Zero Barrier is breeched and the surviving crew members make it back to Earth in their burned-up space shuttle.

Armageddon cannot be looked at in any way BUT mindless, Bruckheimer-produced eye candy because most of the situations in the film are just downright inplausable and impossible; forget about landing on this meteor thats traveling at terrifyingly rapid speed with TWO space shuttles ---- there is the notion that yes, the Earth has been saved from this Texas-sized meteor.....but inbetween, millions have died in meteor showers from this thing that have taken out New York, Paris and the Far East....so I guess Bay's philosophy here is that is better that CITIES get blown up with millions of people dead rather than the PLANET be destroyed.

But the special effects are just awesome in this film and look great --- from the typical Bruckheimer filming technique showing the chaos in the NASA control room to the effects used during the shuttles crashing and landing on the meteor to the downright awesome explosion sequence when the Russian space station goes up in flames, everything looks great special effects wise in this......unlike the aforementioned John Carpenter's Escape From L.A.. It's quite a nail-biting, simply very effective action picture, and as I said, is better than Deep Impact in my opinion.

The also aforementioned CRITERION version of this film on DVD does add TONS of extra material to the stripped, bare bones Buena Vista disc I am reviewing here, but Im not sure if its even in print anymore because I havent seen it for a long time on shelves, and I am just not sure its worth the money.....I mean, Armageddon was good, but worth $40? I dont know.....Criterion claims there is a Michael Bay-supervised transfer of the film on their version (which I dont know what THAT means because its STILL not anamorphic) and I believe the same carryover Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but I cannot comment on it because I havent seen it nor did I care to fork over that kind of money for such a title. I mean, this isnt Citizen Kane we're talking about here.

Like all Disney/Buena Vista DVDs, the disc defaults to a non-anamorphic 2:35:1 widescreen transfer, but I must say this up front: of most of the Mouse's releases --- including Crimson Tide, Con Air, The Rock and Gone in 60 Seconds --- Armageddon has the best looking non anamorphic transfer of the bunch --- and out of other non-anamorphic titles out there --- once blown up with your widescreen TV's EXPAND mode or whatever you use to blow up non anamorphic video. This is a very clean transfer with RICH --- and I mean RICH --- colors.....just look at the scene when Willis and Affleck are drenched in black oil in the beginning on the oil rig they're working on.....THATS the way blacks should look on DVD. Very impressive transfer for being non-anamorphic; really no dirt to speak of and very little grain.....most impressive, though, as I said, are the colors on the transfer. They're pretty bright. Still, I cannot understand for the life of me WHY Criterion didnt give this film anamorphic enhancement on THEIR version, either.

What IS apparent though, and is typical of non-anamorphic releases, is the "haloing" effect around the opening title and cast sequences where the letters look a bit blurry.

Again, as with all Buena Vista discs, Armageddon defaults to a simple Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and although active, there is room for improvement on this mix for such an action heavy film. The audio suffers from, and you have heard it from me before, what I call the "Bruckheimer Curse," where after awhile, once the audio begins heating up for the action scenes, especially at the end on the meteor itself, everthing begins to get so mixed together and just "messy" it makes the track appear to have a "non-discreetness" to it; sure, pieces of meteor and space shuttle rockets make it into the surrounds, but they dont sound so discrete like a real 5.1 mix should ---- and as a matter of fact, there WERE some missing opportunities here for surround action; some scenes just seemed to be too "soft" in the audio department, such as when the meteor shower is hitting New York City; we hear the meteor pieces coming from the surrounds over our shoulders, but they're nowhere near loud enough and effective for these scenes ---- believe it or not, the front soundstage seems to get more of a workout here with the explosion scenes.

The same thing happens towards the end, when the shuttles crash on the meteor; while appropriately aggressive somewhat in sound, it seems more could have been put into this mix as sounds of the destroyed shuttle and meteor debris flying everywhere could have made it into the surrounds a bit better; in the end, Armageddon simply doesnt draw you into the film as best it could on DVD.

There are some extras on this stripped down Buena Vista version, such as a trailer and a teaser and a music video for Aerosmith's "Dont Wanna Miss a Thing," which was the basic theme for the picture.

And also what I found quite annoying was the fact that when you open this DVD keepcase up, the DVD is actually sitting on the LEFT side of the case, instead of the usual right ---- and there is NO inner artwork or chapter list of any kind.....a real cheap release from the Mouse on this one. I dont know if a $40 version of this film is in order, but Buena Vista needs to go back and give this action title an anamorphic makeover with a DTS track.

But what do I know.......

Thanks for reading, guys and gals, and comment away!

07-18-2005, 02:18 PM
Why watch Armegeddon when you can get the same story (but with aliens thrown in), cheesier effects (look for the strings) and poorer acting with this little gem:

07-18-2005, 02:25 PM
Why watch Armegeddon when you can get the same story (but with aliens thrown in), cheesier effects (look for the strings) and poorer acting with this little gem:

There was nothing attached to this image and message...........

07-18-2005, 02:39 PM
Oh, you're kidding, right? I can see it. That sucks. Once again my interest in movie poster art has been revitalized. I was trying to share the poster from The Green Slime.