Plot: What’s it about?
The term “event movie” hasn’t been around forever. Heck, it hasn’t been around for long. In fact, I’d say that “Armageddon” is one of the movies that started the whole “Summer Event Movie” phenomenon which is now in full swing. Armageddon, literally translated, means “the end of all” but thankfully the movie is entertaining and as time has passed (a dozen years and counting as of this review), it really wasn’t that bad and has actually held up fairly well. But a lot happens in twelve years, so a few words on the casting of the then blockbuster. While the name above the title read “Bruce Willis” the supporting cast is nothing to shake a stick at. This was Ben Affleck’s first big movie after coming off a string of Independent Kevin Smith movies; most notably “Chasing Amy”. I recently heard in a commentary for “Chasing Amy” how miffed Joey Lauren Adams was that after the success of that film, Ben was offered “Armageddon” and she got the girlfriend role in “Big Daddy”. As time has shown, this launched Affleck into a major Hollywood star and though the last few years haven’t been entirely kind to Affleck, he’s not going anywhere for a while. Owen Wilson is also in Bay’s entourage as is Steve Buscemi, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler and Michael Clarke Duncan. So looking back, casting-wise, “Armageddon” delivered on that front. But how did it deliver as a film and is (or was) it worth the price of admission?
The short answer: yes. “Armageddon” is commonly referred to as a “popcorn flick” in that its sole purpose is to entertain you at the movies for a couple of hours. And it does. Don’t take the film too seriously, sit back and relax and watch the movie and you’ll more than get your money’s worth. Moving onto the plot, well director Michael Bay keeps it easy for us. A big asteroid is heading for Earth and will kill all of mankind unless it’s destroyed. Who will be brave enough to blow it up and save humanity? Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) is, that’s who! Harry runs an offshore oil drilling company and wouldn’t you know that he’s got a rag tag team of crazy folks that’ll take the government up on their offer to fly up to the asteroid and blow it up. Yes, they’ll all probably die in the process but at least they’ll be remembered. Anything else in the movie is purely inconsequential. There’s the relationship between Grace (Liv Tyler), Harry’s daughter and A.J. (Ben Affleck) of which Harry doesn’t approve (of course). A few other plot lines exist, but the real draw here is cool guys blowing up an asteroid. Am I right or am I right?
“Armageddon” is one of those films that had a twin that year with “Deep Impact”, having a sister theme. This also happened the year before with “Dante’s Peak” and the aptly-titled “Volcano” along with other movies like “Wyatt Earp and Tombstone”. I really don’t get how or why they release two such similar movies in such close proximity other than to see which one is better. As time has told, Michael Bay’s “Armageddon” will be remembered more so than Mimi Leder’s “Deep Impact”. Michael Bay used this same formula and is still using it and it’s worked out very well for him. He’s a rich man who doesn’t make the deepest of films, but they are entertaining. In the subsequent years he gave us “Gone in 60 Seconds”, “The Island”, “Pearl Harbor” and both “Transformers” movies. Say what you want, but the guy knows how to make movies that make money. You either love “Armageddon” or you love to hate it, either way this is finally on Blu-ray and will be a staple of any film buff’s collection, for sure.
Video: How does it look?
“Armageddon” was probably one of the (if not the) first “big” movie to come to the new DVD format back in the fall of 1998. At the time, Disney wasn’t supporting anamorphic widescreen so all we had was a non-anamorphic transfer which left a little to the imagination. Criterion later released this and added some much-needed supplements but the title was the same transfer as the Disney DVD. Well time has passed and we’ve now got “Armageddon” on Blu-ray which looks pretty darn good. Yes, some of the stock footage hasn’t held up too well and there’s a bit of dirt on the print, but by and large this 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer is what everyone hoped it would look like. The slow-motion “entourage” shots look particularly stellar and while the scenes in space do show the tiniest bit of artifacting, it’s all good. Flesh tones look a bit on the baked side as we need to get the impression that they’re all hard-working “tough guys”. On the whole, it’s a nice-looking transfer, though it probably could have been better.
Audio: How does it sound?
Despite the fact that it was a popcorn flick, “Armageddon” was still nominated for four Academy Awards and though “Saving Private Ryan” beat this out in both Sound categories, it still doesn’t mean that this DTS HD Master Audio track doesn’t rock the house. Dialogue is very strong and if you tune out the actual words, it’s probably for the best. Surrounds are used extensively as are the LFE. Suffice it to say that this will shake the room and you’re actually doing the movie an injustice if you don’t crank it up. So…crank it up! Even if the movie is a dozen years old, this new uncompressed track rocks it and I’d hard-pressed to find many more than match “Armageddon” in terms of sheer audio delight.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disney must be banking on the fact that you just want to watch this for the audio and video delight of it because the only supplements that are on this disc are the same ones that were on the original standard DVD back in 1998 (if memory serves): a trailer and the music video from the Oscar-nominated song “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. These are shown in 480i format and if you really want to see how much times and technology have changed, give these a look. If it’s supplements you want, then hang onto (or purchase) the older Criterion DVD because there’s nothing here.