THE SCREENING ROOM
By Bill KallayI had forgotten how much I hated this movie.
"Armageddon" is now available on Blu-ray.
Looking at cringe worthy movies in retrospect can illicit fondness, even if they were bad to begin with. I'll admit having a soft spot for "Roadhouse," or "Flash Gordon." In my mind, they have some redemptive qualities. Yet others are so bad, so mean-spirited, so crass and unthinkably trashy, it defies logic that "Armageddon" made so much money. Even recently, some of my fellow web critics have given it a bit of a free pass in retrospect. I'm the odd man out.
Watching this movie, or nearly any Michael Bay movie for that matter, I'm reminded of some kids I grew up with. I'd bring out my Hot Wheels collection and they'd be the kid who grabbed whatever was in front of them immediately. "VROOM!" They'd toss it aside then start plowing through the rest of my collection, throwing cars aside, banging up others, scratching paint, pulling off wheels, with no regard to me or the fact I took care of my toys. They'd get bored quickly with the Hot Wheels, proceed to trash some other toy while yelling at the top of their lungs, "AHHHH!" Their mom thought they were a little angel. I thought they were Satan's obnoxious son. Never again would I let another kid play with my Hot Wheels and toys, especially that kid.
In some sense, Bay reminds me of that kid. Somehow, someway, he managed to pull the wool over everyone's eyes to become a financially successful director. Now he's that kid all grown up with bigger toys to thrash and he can afford to be mean to the other kids on the playground, because his mommy (i.e. a major studio) lets him. In watching "Armageddon," I'm shown in graphic detail the mind of a kid who simply cannot and will not sit still for more than 3-seconds (the average length of a Michael Bay cut is probably shorter).
"MORE! MORE explosions! MORE crashes! I want to see things go BOOM!"
Every Bay cliché is in this movie. Watch "Transformers," you'll see the same exact shot selection, same tracking shots, same lens selection, same lighting, same FAST cutting style, same needle-drop music cues to start a scene, as you'll see in "Armageddon." Nothing in Bay's direction has matured or developed from 1998-2007 (I haven't seen the "Transformers" sequel).
You'll see actors posing as if they're in a late-90s Nike commercial. Watch as Bay's camera tracks into them as they gaze up in the sky with hope in their eyes. You'll see Liv Tyler gaze with one expression throughout the entire movie. You'll see Ben Affleck blink at least a dozen times per cut, while keeping his mouth ajar like Kristen Stewart. You'll see Bruce Willis putting down everyone, even a smart NASA guy like Billy Bob Thorton, because that's how Bruce rolls in nearly every movie. You'll see actors acting like nimrods in the face of worldwide destruction. You'll see Michael Clarke Duncan jump up and dance while the fate of the world lies in his hands.
For many popcorn movies, I'm willing to suspend disbelief. I can believe that aliens could exist or that a man could fly. Great fantasy sets that up and creates characters that you learn to trust and believe in. Bay will have none of that. Every part of his plot for this movie, if you can call it that, is tossed aside for hammertime. For one, NASA, as portrayed in the movie, is perhaps the dumbest organization on the planet! Despite the throwaway line of budget cuts by Billy Bob, how come no one spots this HUGE asteroid? No one on the entire planet with advanced instruments picked up this rock? For two, out of all the oil drillers on earth, they pick the most inept bunch in the world. Their leader goes around with a shotgun chasing Affleck on an oil rig! It's ludicrous to think that NASA would recruit an unprofessional group of these guys in the first place. Heck, these guys have ten days to save the Earth, yet NASA is kind enough to give them a day off! The asteroid the size of Texas can wait. Time to party!
Another aspect about Bay's movie, and I've found this in his other movies too, is that almost everyone is mean to each other. Everyone insults each other, or puts each other down. I'm not saying he should have a love fest, but his characters rarely show any human sense of compassion or decency. The only time they're nice is when they're getting b-u-s-y. They're merely props for his visual effects and that's it. I also found Bay's tends to throw in at least one racial stereotype. In this movie, it's the Japanese tourists. I guess if they speak a different language, they're targets for Bay.
The Blu-ray picture is excellent. The film was shot with anamorphic lenses which generally provide a sharp picture. The effects, though I wasn't crazy for them, are rendered here with faithfulness. We can probably blame Bay for suggesting (or maybe it was the visual effects crew) for putting in anamorphic lens flairs in the visual effects shots. Now everyone seems to use them, even on movies or shows that weren't shot in anamorphic.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is loud. It was loud back in 1998 and it's loud now. As with the live action, Bay's movies have to assault your ears, too. The sound is solid and if you enjoy loud, brash sound, this movie will do it for you.
Bay's got his millions, so it's no skin off his teeth if I hated "Armageddon" then or now. But like a uncontrollable kid, why do people keep giving him attention?
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Disney. All rights reserved.