ARMAGEDDON will arrive eventually. Since at the start of this doofy 1998 blockbuster the measured voice of Charlton Heston tells us so, we grok this a cosmic guarantee. While stupid humans are hell-bent on beating space to the punch, counting on the cosmos to kill us off first makes for giddy distraction-balm at the megaplex or on one’s trusty big-screen tube of boobs. When this vision of apocalypse (the eternal teenager version) struck the States it crowd-claimed #2 (behind Saving Private Ryan) gobbling $201,600,000, followed five slots down by the planetary peril picture for adults, the much better Deep Impact. The domestic dragnet was part of a worldwide #1 reap of $553,000,000, an ELE to the $140,000,000 spent making it. The wave generated by the monetary (decidedly not critical) success hit the ever-quivering Oscar fault in California, shaking loose lazy nominations for Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Effects Editing and Song (“I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”). Reason prevailed (yes, it does happen) and no trophies were captured. *

A meteor shower clobbering Manhattan just hints at what’s coming: an asteroid “big as Texas” barreling toward Earth. Texas not enough of a problem? NASA’s desperate gamble involves astronauts landing on the space rock and planting a nuke to blow it off course. But the right stuff guys (and one ballsy babe, this is the 90s) may be hotshot sky pilots but digging the bore holes for the H-bomb requires a different wild bunch: the best g-damn hotshot oil drillers in the US of A-kickin’. Enter, stage right, Bruce Willis.

The credits “directed by Michael Bay” and “produced by Jerry Bruckheimer” will give pause to many, and after a decent start introducing a blasted metropolis, a do-or-die scenario and some colorful types the script (whizzed by Jonathan Hensleigh and J.J. Abrams) devolves into a drivel mush of lame jokes and mawkish sentiment, let alone science so impossible that a third-grader wouldn’t inflict it on his dog in a sandbox.

Some of the special effects (especially early on) carry sufficient big-budget boom-bam payload, but when the guys finally tackle the incoming projectile it becomes loud (yet another package with a plethora of yelling) and repetitious. It tends to work against the whole “democratic teamwork for brotherhood and salvation” jive, getting to the point that you hope they’ll fail so we can enjoy in peace the final pulverization we so richly deserve.

While back on Terra Eartha await Billy Bob Thornton (collect easy check, go to better gigs) and Liv Tyler (nice work), man-of-men Bruce adeptly bosses Ben Affleck (not his most winning role), Steve Buscemi (good), Will Patton (coasting with ease), Owen Wilson (being ‘Owen Wilson’), Michael Clarke Duncan (likable) and Ken Hudson Campbell (big jolly guy must die). Astronauts putting up with the roughneck’s thick skulls include William Fichtner (hardass mode), Jessica Steen (ready to rumble) and Peter Stormare (as a ‘cwazy’Russian’, done seemingly as an insult to an entire people).

Others in the roll call: the great Keith David (always a pleasure), Jason Isaacs (nice for a change), Eddie Griffin, Ellen Gleghorne, Ugo Kier, Grace Zabriskie and Layla Roberts. Even if you swallow its shallowness, at 153 minutes, it’s too much by a good 20. Whether the full-throttle testosteronic destructoramation is better or worse than The Rock or Con Air is up to the individual’s appetites for indiscriminate fireballs, blast-hurtled cars and manly glares of insolence.

Paris gets it, just because

* Production designer Michael White: “An asteroid is pretty uninteresting; it looks like a big russet potato. But, because our asteroid is another character in the movie, we went all over the place in our design and left the reality behind.”

That ghastly song, written by Diane Warren, played by Aerosmith, became the band’s only # 1 hit single since they first kicked off in 1970 (regardless of selling 150,000,000 albums). Any Aerosmith fan (we’re talking albums 1 thru 3, after that I bailed) worth their acid flashbacks gags thinking that this wimpus treacle was recognized over “Dream On”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Same Old Song And Dance”, “Train Kept a Rollin'” or “Toys in the Attic” needs to be banished to an asteroid and stay there. In space. Where no one can hear Steven Tyler scream at you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s