Armageddon (1998) (part 6 of 13)
Col. Willie Sharp (heh, heh) explains he’s been assigned to teach the Wrong Stuff how to deal with the mental and physical rigors of working in outer space. Thankfully, we don’t have to see any of that. Instead, Col. Willie Sharp (heh, heh) asks if there are any intelligent questions, and Chick calls out, “What’s an X-71?”
Truman, in an “I’m a huge guy” shot tells the crew, “You’re the first civilians to ever see her!” Aren’t they special? They walk into a hangar and stare up at the X-71, which is basically just the Michael Bay version of the Space Shuttle. Truman spits out some technical specs and jargon about the X-71 too fast for me to decipher or care about.
He says the X-71’s were a joint venture between the Air Force and NASA and the two ships are named Freedom and Independence. (If you think that’s sledgehammer subtlety, wait until we get to the part of the movie where there’s an American flag in every other shot.) Truman then introduces them to the professional astronauts who will be accompanying them on their mission.
Air Force Colonel Davis and NASA pilot Tucker are the redshirts—Oops!—I mean, “crew” for the Independence. In command of Freedom are the token female Watts and Colonel Sharp (wait, so why was he the one doing Astronaut training then?). Munitions specialists will also be onboard to handle the nukes, and one of them is played by yet another guy who was in US Seals.
|Truman: Anyway, uh, I just, uh, thought… thought you guys should meet.|
The two groups stare each other down while Truman gets an “Isn’t this funny?” look on his face. No, Dan, it isn’t.
Cue “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith. The gang goes underwater to practice weightlessness and get in another unfunny Steve Buscemi joke. Not that weightlessness will ever come into play on the asteroid, and fittingly, there’s only about three seconds devoted to this part of the training.
Next, Truman shows them the Armadillo, a tank-like vehicle they’ll use to travel across the asteroid. For some reason, it’s in a huge building with nothing else but those gravy boats from the psych evaluation rooms sticking up out of the floor. What’s that all about? Harry and the guys climb aboard and, for no reason whatsoever, start tearing the guts out of the machine. Hey guys, you break it, you buy it!
Finally, we’re treated to a good line.
|Air Force Guy AKA Mike Ditka Look-alike: This is about the sorriest looking group of people I’ve seen in all my military career!|
Mike Ditka Guy tells them space flight is going to be quite a ride, so to give them a “taste” of what they’re in for, they all get plane rides. Fighter jet plane rides. Now, I know that none of the cast was actually subjected to any time on the Vomit Comet, but I can still dream, can’t I?
AJ and Oscar then have a philosophical discussion about who Oscar represents more at this momentous juncture, Han Solo or Chewbacca. My confidence is soaring in these two. By the way, why are they working on performance engines in this scene? Are they competing in a street race on the moon or something?
Astronaut Girl shows a video of Neil Armstrong on the moon and the effects of lighter gravity. Therefore, they’ll all be wearing new form-fitting gray spacesuits which have thrusters to keep them grounded. Uh-huh. Count how many times that will become useful later on. Not nearly as much as the length of this scene would have us believe. In other words, another pointless scene.
There’s a brief depressurization exercise that goes nowhere. After another shot of the asteroid in space, we cut back to NASA as Truman explains the flight plan to the men using a globe and two toy Space Shuttle models.
He says they’ll take off and dock with “the Russian space station” for fuel (I didn’t realize Mir was Russian for “Intergalactic Texaco”), and then they’ll sling shot around the moon and land on the asteroid. Amusingly, Dr. Quincy is the one holding up the toy model of the asteroid. You’d think NASA could get an intern to do this instead of “the smartest man on the planet”.
Steve Buscemi throws in another lame joke, this one about the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, but Truman reassures him. “We have a lot better rockets than the Coyote.” So, apparently ACME is not a major defense contractor.
The teams will set down at separate locations on the asteroid where they think the rock is softer, and both crews will drill separately. Random NASA Tech explains, “At NASA, we don’t take chances. We double up on everything!” Yeah, except disaster plans. Once they reach 800 feet, they’ll drop their nukes and take off. That’s right! On an asteroid that’s “the size of Texas”, they’re going to drill a hole 800 feet deep. That’s eight, followed by two whole zeros. Wow!
Truman explains that if they remote detonate the nukes before the asteroid hits the “zero barrier”, the asteroid will split in two pieces, and both pieces will completely miss the earth. Funny how that works. If they don’t detonate before zero barrier, however, everyone dies.
Later, in the control room from Marooned, Harry asks Oscar if he’s seen Grace. Oscar slips up and immediately reveals she’s with AJ in Hangar One. Cut to Grace and AJ together, and I don’t know which image is most disturbing here, the fact that they’re making out in the black cone of a rocket (what is that, like a tail pipe cover?), or the way that Harry stands there watching silently for far too long.
Finally, AJ asks Grace to marry him. Then he slips the hokiest looking engagement ring I’ve ever seen on her finger. That must’ve set AJ back a good fifteen bucks.
As Harry walks away, the rest of the guys suddenly materialize. Harry’s torqued about AJ being with Grace, so the gang all comes to AJ’s defense by explaining that Grace is now a hottie. Wow, I can’t think of a worse thing to say to a violently overprotective father. They’re lucky he doesn’t have a gun on him right now.
Oscar then delivers an unsettling speech about young womanhood and blooming sexuality that is obviously something he overheard in a girls’ junior high health class. Harry closes the conversation by saying, “I’ll be damned if I worked all these years so my little girl can marry a roughneck! She’s better than that! She’s better than all of us!” Can’t argue with that.
Cut to the Armadillo test site, where the crews begin training with the two Armadillos that they’ll be taking up to the asteroid. Stupidly, someone’s allowed AJ to drive one of them, and he very nearly wrecks it while explaining to Harry how good of a driver he is or something. Chick pretends he’s directing an airplane down the runway as he motions to AJ to turn, until he has to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. Hilariously, AJ jerks the wheel to the right as an outside shot shows the Armadillo swerving to AJ’s left.
So, let’s see here, they have less than eighteen days, only two of these machines, and they let the most irresponsible member of the bunch drive and nearly wipe out the machine and the rest of the crew? We also see that they’ve equipped the Armadillos with Recaro seats! Recaro? You guys sure you want your product placement in here? The Fast and the Furious, sure, I’d understand, but this movie?
After AJ is forced from the Armadillo at gunpoint (just a guess), Harry goes over how the teams will break down. AJ, Oscar, Bear and some guy named Noonan are on the Independence. Harry, Chick, Rockhound and Max are on Freedom. For some reason, as Harry talks, we see these three pipes burning fuel in the foreground. Okay, 1) it’s daytime, 2) it’s the desert, and 3) no one’s roasting marshmallows. What the crap is that all about? NASA has such a surplus of funds that they can afford to just burn off a bunch of fuel?
Harry says they’ll have to drill to 800 feet on the asteroid in eight hours. He then says, “Next up is underwater simulation!” The same day? Where?
Cut to yet another scene filmed in NASA’s actual tank. Sadly, they let it be used in a film for the first time with this movie. Personally, I think an Esther Williams movie would have been a better choice.
So the NASA techs decide to trip up AJ and his team with some rock simulations. AJ keeps drilling, even though the computer is going critical. Because, you know, he’s a loose cannon and all. Harry tells him to stop and back up the drill, but AJ refuses. The team fights among themselves, showing their loyalties are divided between AJ and Harry, while a Random NASA Tech says, “Whoa, Space Cowboy!” Which just makes me wish I were watching Space Cowboys right now.
Meanwhile, AJ is yelling stuff that’s completely incomprehensible because of his bad helmet microphone. How come the Atlantis astronaut was crystal clear when he was yelling into his? At any rate, the computer, like us, has had enough of AJ and his teeth and shuts down. By the way, I know NASA needed to get two of their $3-10 million dollar spacesuits into the movie, but considering they’re nothing like what the crew will actually be wearing in space, why did they even bother?
Harry confronts AJ about his “hot dogging” and Ben Affleck gets to show off his pearly whites some more. Seriously, Ben emotes with his teeth. It’s annoying as hell and he does it a lot. AJ says he’s sorry and he won’t be stupid anymore, but we all know that’s not gonna happen. I mean, he made another movie with J-Lo, after all.
Also, note Ben’s huge feet as he stands by the pool with Harry. This is why all NASA guys and gals have to conform to the height/weight requirements. Look how stupidly out of proportion those feet are to that space suit!
Harry goes to Truman to ask him to give the guys the next night off. “At least ten hours.” Um, that’s actually more like a day. Truman says it’s too big a security risk, and asks what will happen if they talk. Harry counters, “What if they’re too burned out to do the right thing?” Stop making me wish I was seeing other, better movies!
Harry asks, “What if they get up there and forget what they’re fighting for?” Yes, let’s see, while they’re in full view of the earth, standing on an asteroid that will destroy the planet if they don’t drill a hole and drop a nuke in it, they’re going to suddenly forget why they’re there?
Harry says, “You saw what happened in there! Those guys are ready to snap!” Actually, I think only AJ is about to snap. “They didn’t ask to be here!” True, but you gave them the option of leaving, Harry.
Then Harry plays his trump card by turning to Col. Willie Sharp and asking him if he has a family. “Two little girls,” Sharp says. Harry asks if he’d like to see them maybe one last time. With the American flag draped behind him (alright, somebody saw Patton, we’re all impressed), Harry tells Truman, “I’m not asking ya, I’m telling ya!”
So, it looks like the crew is free for one night. And what do they do with perhaps their one last night on earth? Do they sit and look up at the sky and wonder at the meaning of the universe? Do they stare out into an endless ocean view or head up to the mountains? Do they sit and hold their kids and pray they succeed? Do they take their significant others and make sweet love to them all night long?
First, Rockhound heads to a loan shark and borrows a hundred grand at 60% interest. We’ll see how he uses that in a second.
Next, we check in on AJ and Grace at an abandoned gas station, and I can’t help noticing the big puddles in the foreground. Is it wet and squishy where they are, too? I know this is supposed to be romantic, but all I can think about is mud, bugs, worms, and bugs. And where did that BMW come from? Did one of the NASA guys loan AJ his car? I find that highly unlikely, considering news about his little Armadillo incident must be all over Mission Control by now.
But enough of that, because we’re about to probe the dark, empty recesses of AJ’s mind. The two lovebirds are enjoying Animal Crackers, and in a conversation that probably only came about because somebody said, “Let’s put something Tarantino-like right here!”, AJ discusses why “Animal Cracker” is really a misnomer.
|AJ: Well, ’cause it’s sweet, which to me suggests cookie. And you know, to me putting cheese on something is sort of the defining characteristic of what makes a cracker a cracker.|
Wow. Good thing AJ got all that straight in his mind before the world ended. Harry was right, just think if he hadn’t had one last free night to spend in such mind-shattering thought.
Sadly, Grace says, “Baby, you have such sweet pillow talk.” Grace, you actually like this stuff?
Now we come to what is truly the most frightening part of the film, as AJ launches an all-out Cutesy Attack from Hell. “You got like, little Animal Cracker Discovery Channel thing happening, right?” Then he puts on, kill me now, a full-blown Crocodile Hunter Australian accent. “Watch the gazelle as he grazes through the open plains!” AJ makes stupid animal noises as he moves the cookie down Grace’s exposed stomach.
“Now look! As the cheetah approaches! Watch as he stalks his prey!” He moves the cat cracker up from her waist. “Now the gazelle’s a little spooked, and he could head north to the ample sustenance provided by the mountainous peaks above!” Grace laughs, probably thinking (as I am), yeah right! She’s like a 34A!
“Or he could go south,” AJ says. “The gazelle now faces man’s most perilous question. North…. or south… way down under! Tune in next week!” All of which would be somewhat amusing, or cute, or for someone possibly even a turn on, but for the fact that it’s a FREAKING GIRAFFE COOKIE!! NOT A GAZELLE!! Since when has Barnum’s been making gazelle cookies, anyway? This guy is a moron!!
Grace then dumbly asks if anyone else could possibly be doing this same thing at this very same moment. Not likely! Anyone else doing it would know it’s a giraffe!!
But AJ says, “I hope so. I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t know the difference between a giraffe and a gazelle.” Or words to that effect. At least Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” is playing through this garbage, or the scene would be completely pointless. Well, it’s still pointless, but at least I can tune them out and just listen to the song.
Finally, we cut to someone more interesting, and hopefully more intelligent, as Chick approaches his ex-wife’s house. She comes out on the porch as a little boy pops up on deck. The boy asks who Chick is, and the ex tells him it’s just a salesman and sends him inside.
Ex-Wifey tells Chick he can’t be there. “The court says you can’t!” Chick says he knows and apologizes for the past. “I got something coming up, ” he tells her. “Something kind of big. You might just be proud of me!” Well, if it’s starring in an action movie with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, then sadly he’s mistaken. He takes off, but not before leaving a toy Space Shuttle on the step for his son. Not that his plans involve the Space Shuttle or anything.
Next, we at last find out what Rockhound’s $100,000 is for. It seems Rockhound, Oscar, Max, and that other guy who’s name I don’t know have all gone to a strip joint. The girls are swarming the guys and, more importantly, all those hundred dollar bills they’re giving out freely. Before they can have too much fun, however, a big bald biker type picks a fight with them for hogging all the action, and eventually they all get arrested. So, I have to ask, was this their whole plan for their last night on earth? One tiny little strip joint? Way to go out big, guys.
Back at NASA, Harry enters a situation room. Another guy turns to him and yells, “It’s coming in at 30,000 miles an hour!” There’s a cut, and instead of Harry, it’s Truman and a Random NASA Tech. How’d that happen?
Anyway, we find out another small meteorite is going to hit somewhere in southeast Asia. Random NASA Tech asks if they should warn anyone, but Truman says, “Who, the whole South Pacific?” He’s got a point, and really, it’s not like they can do anything about it anyway.
In China or someplace (now they stop with the captions… hmph!), everyone is out with their families. Strange, but it’s also night over there. In a blatant example of the Stuffed Toy Gratuitous Pathos Principle, we see adorable, happy little kids in every shot, playing and lovingly being held by their moms and dads. I guess what happens next wouldn’t be as tragic if they were actually like, behaving badly or fighting with their parents. Because, you know, brats deserve to be blown up!
For some reason, wind arrives before the meteorite hits. Now, I’m no astrophysicist, but doesn’t the wind come after the blast? Regardless, it alerts everyone that they’re all about to die. Instantly, the meteorite blasts into a little wooden hut and immediately triggers dozens of explosions. What the hell? Was this a fuel refinery center instead of the quaint little fishing village it appeared to be?
Back at NASA, the enormity of the situation is starting to wear on Truman. A text message tells him that word has finally leaked out about Dottie and the whole world now knows. I guess meteorites destroying the Space Shuttle and most of New York City wasn’t newsworthy enough for people to care about, but when a little southeast Asian village gets hit, the whole world goes nuts.
Harry’s there and Truman says to him, “Tell me you’ve never let anybody down before.” Harry responds, “I’ve never quit yet, how’s that?” Truman concludes, “I guess that’ll have to do.” Harry has an odd little smirky gleam here. I can’t tell if he’s attracted to Truman or planning to kill him, but I don’t like it.
Truman talks about his bum leg (not that it slows him down or makes him limp at all) and how it meant he had to be a NASA engineer instead of an astronaut. But he always wanted a mission patch on his arm, and he wishes he could be up there with Harry.
Harry tells him, “You don’t want to be up there any more than I do.” Well, there’s a confidence booster. I’m sure Truman’s glad he selected this guy to lead the all-or-nothing planet-saving mission now.
Hey, I just thought of something. Harry wants to save the planet here. This makes him just like those Greenpeace guys back at the oil rig! Is it still ironic if I don’t get it until an hour later? On a related note, it was also about here that I finally understood that “firecracker in your hand” analogy.
Truman gives Harry a long look like, “Uh-oh, did I screw up having you do this for us?” But then he wishes him luck in Florida tomorrow. Florida? Tomorrow?? So it’s just a “come to the launch site whenever you feel like it” thing? No set time? No pre-launch stuff to do? Could I theoretically show up five minutes before the launch and say, “Hey, is this the rocket for Dottie?” Wow! NASA has really loosened up!