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Armageddon

Starring Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Steve Buscemi
Written by Jonathan Hensleigh
Directed by Michael Bay
Website: www.movies.go.com/armageddon

IN SHORT: Spectacular Effects, make everything else irrelevant. Leave anything more evolved than your lizard brain at the door.

Out in space, a really, really big rock is hurtling towards Earth. The Space Shuttle Atlantis, in orbit, bites the dust with a huge BANG! Basketball sized advance pieces destroy most of New York City BANG!POW!WHAM! and parts of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. CRACKAWACKATHOOM! When the rock hits, all life on earth will be wiped out. Our only hope is to send up crack Astronaut teams to land on the monster rock, drill a shaft, drop a nuke and blow the thing to pieces BOOM! SHACKALACKABOOM! POW! WHAM! BOOM!, raining thousands of millions of basketball sized rocks down on Planet Earth.

Which, as we've seen, will thoroughly destroy all that has ever been.

No, that can't be right. Waitsec. OK, here we go . . .

The nuke will split the rock in two and it'll just manage to go around planet Earth. And all the thousands of pieces traveling alongside the rock will be vaporized by a line in the script saying that they were vaporized and thus don't rain down and thoroughly destroy all that has ever been. Cool. The only thing cooler would be for at least one of the astronauts to make the ultimate sacrifice to trigger the nuke at the very last second. That'd be really really cool.

Yep, it's almost the same story as Deep Impact, which tried hard to be a Spielberg-type, bring a tear to your eye popcorn thriller flick. When Deep Impact came out, a couple of weeks back, Cranky got a ton of e-mail asking "where are the effects the television commercials and the movie trailer promised???" You all were real disappointed and angry, too. You'll be happy to know that all the effects you could ever want are piled one on top of each other in Jerry Bruckheimer's Armageddon, directed by his partner in The Rock, Michael Bay. The Rock was over the top. Armageddon is overkill.

You will see the effects. You will hear the effects. You will feel your theater seats rumble from the affects of those effects. If numbing your senses to increasing noise and violence requires the utter disregard of continuity or stated story "facts," so be it. Armageddon is just a movie. All movies require some measure of suspension of disbelief. So . . .

Disregard the fact that light bulbs on the counters at the Cape click like mechanical clocks. Disregard the fact that we can't launch two space shuttles simultaneously or, even if we could, they would never fly like a pair of the Navy's Blue Angels stunt planes because it isn't safe. (Looks great though...)

Ignore the fact that space stations orbiting our planet are not refueling ports for deep space missions, 'cuz there are no deep space missions and space stations are not built like fuel tankers. Ignore the fact that no civilized country would leave one man alone in a space station for eleven months. (Well, maybe the Russians would...)

Ignore the fact that enduring a force nine times greater than gravity for eleven minutes, which is what the movie says our heroes will endure, would turn their bones to jelly. Or that this asteroid, which appears out of nowhere since it's been hidden beyond the far side of the moon (where we can't see), has been thoroughly mapped and surveyed and geographically indexed by Earth instruments for composition and potential shuttle landing sites in the almost no time since it's been discovered.

Ignore the fact that TWO shuttles, carrying TWO drilling teams to work on the rock carry only ONE nuke to blow this asteroid to smithereens. What happens if the wrong shuttle gets taken out by the thousands of smaller asteroids travelling with the big rock, a la the shuttle Atlantis in the first minutes of the movie?

Ignore the fact that, once radio communications are lost with the shuttles, Ground Control decides to set off the nuke and sends a radio signal to successfully start an onboard countdown. Read that last fluke carefully, 'cuz this is about where Cranky suspension started to stretch to the breaking point.

Yes, I can see all your typing digits preparing to flame on. T'ain't necessary folks. Honestly, Cranky usually has no problem ignoring all that stuff. Suspension of disbelief is a necessary thing for popcorn movies. But when our beloved miners in space break out the machine guns to blast themselves out of a sticky situation, well . . . sayonara suckers.

Which is why I always talk to the audience. I rarely react this negatively to any kind of flick, let alone a popcorn movie. Those of you I spoke with afterwards all liked Armageddon, and that's all fine and good. Every once in a while, when I see crap, you see gold. Armageddon is so filled with top notch effects that you'll choke on 'em. You never get time to recover your breath. The story points used to get from one explosion to another totally disregard any scientific (or fake) fact written into the script by Jonathan Hensleigh. You could drop asteroids through the holes in the story, but this flick delivers the effects that Deep Impact didn't. You should be happy with that. I expected to be happy with that. But Armageddon is such a terribly pretentious, annoyingly loud and full of itself piece of ca-ca that no amount of Percocet in my pocket could have taken away the pain. Armageddon is a predictable, pretentious, self-important, self-righteous, self-absorbed and a totally, completely ludicrous story. It gets quite boring when the levels of explosions in the effects didn't do anything but get louder and louder.

Popcorn flicks are supposed to numb you to everything in the real world. The better ones give you time to catch your breath and go for refills. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer doesn't believe you should do that. Bruckheimer and Bay want you deaf and visually stunned by the decibel level and explosive presence on the screen. You wanted it. You got it.

Armageddon will be a hit, but not in my book. If anyone can make a pill to restore my testosterone levels back to that of a 14 year old acne scarred kidlet, and my intelligence levels to similarly dope destroyed states, I may have been able to manage Armageddon with no problem. But the effects are all the same. Not even the presence of Steve Buscemi saves it for me, and that actor saved the equally bombastic, but much shorter Con Air.

Lest you think I'm ignoring stars Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler and Billy Bob Thornton, I'm not. The characters don't speak normal dialog. They all talk in exposition, and their performances are all secondary to the effects, anyhow.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Armageddon, he would have paid . . .

$5.00

Which is absolute baseline for seeing the effects on a big screen with killer wraparound sound. Other popcorn flicks of this summer have been similarly reevaluated and reduced in rating. It's also is going to get me flamed no end by teens accusing me of performing sexual acts that I could never have conceived of back in the days when my mind was a blank slate from medication and rowdiness. You've done it before. Don't waste your AOL hours doing it again. Go enjoy. You probably will. I managed about an hour until it got so damned ridiculous that the strain of suspending all that disbelief wrapped around my neck and shattered a couple more vertebrae. I'll be okay next week. I recover fast.

 

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