Armageddon (1998) (part 9 of 13)

Next, the shuttles suddenly reveal the amazing ability to maneuver like F-14 Tomcats, something I was completely unaware that they could do. I guess I must have missed that cut of Top Gun.

Anyhow, they finally encounter the debris, which surprises Sharp. Oooookay, then. Is it just me, or are the characters in this film all dumb to the point where they shouldn’t be able to tie their own shoes without breaking every bone in their bodies? You mean to tell me that a trained astronaut (not to mention the one who happens to be the pilot) wouldn’t expect a little debris when going around an asteroid the size of Texas?

By the way, what happens in the next few minutes is edited so haphazardly, I might overlook a lot of stuff. Count this as a blessing. Also, all the dialogue over the next few minutes is really redundant and obvious, and made up of nothing more than shouted warnings to hang on and so forth. I should also note that the composer apparently put a few notes of music on a continuous loop and left it on for the duration of this sequence. I can’t blame him, he probably had somewhere else to be.

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On the Freedom, Watts dumps the auxiliary boosters, which smash into a large bit of debris. This really accomplishes nothing other than giving us another explosion. At NASA, we get shots of Truman and Grace looking concerned and worried, something that will be repeated endlessly at different angles for the next couple of minutes. Well, Grace looks concerned, but Truman looks like he accidentally had the fish in the commissary and it’s just now beginning to take its effect.

On the Independence, things are quickly going downhill, as we learn they apparently could only get one good pilot for this mission and he’s on the Freedom. The Independence hits some debris and begins to lose control, which is followed by a shot of Truman’s coffee cup smashing on the floor in slow-motion, after which he sags down in his chair. Very dramatic. And moving. It’s dra-moving.

In the Independence, the pilot tells the others to put on their helmets and get to the cargo hold, and as he says this, they pass right over the Freedom. We get more shots of Grace and Truman, as well as shots of Oscar struggling with something, possibly his seatbelt. Care to place bets on his chances here, folks? I’ve got twenty riding on him meeting God in person within the next five minutes.

There’s tons of Shaky-Cam stuff as the pilot repeats the line “We are going down!” like a drunken sailor on his first trip to a Bangkok whorehouse. The windows up front are suddenly pelted like Atlantis in the beginning of the film, but rather than exploding in a fireball, virtually everyone is sucked out of the shuttle except for our amateur astronauts, who have conveniently managed to take refuge in the cargo hold.

Then there’s miscellaneous shots of death and destruction as Truman and Grace react down at NASA. Geez, you know a film is edited with a chainsaw when I can recap five minutes in one sentence.

On the Freedom, there’s shocked faces as the Independence flies over them again, and to tell you the truth, it’s probably the same frigging shot as before. Colonel Sharp proves to be less than his last name would imply when he says, “What the hell is that? Is that the Independence?”

No, Willie. It’s another totally different space shuttle that just happens to be breaking apart on a mission to blow up an asteroid. God, I wouldn’t let this waste of DNA pilot a paper airplane!

Back at NASA, communications are lost with the Freedom, although with all this stuff going on, it’s a wonder they lasted as long as they did. The remaining space shuttle hits debris and we get more panic and terror, mostly from me as I seem to be stuck in a Groundhog Day-type scenario where I’m doomed to watch the same shots over and over again.

Freedom is able to extend its landing gear and land relatively smoothly, but it takes out a field of icicles. Well, at least the filmmakers knew that in space, it’s really frickin’ cold. At least they got that part straight in their minds. Of course, if these icicles can break off so easily, you have to wonder why they didn’t all break off when the asteroid was struck by that rogue comet in the first place.

Armageddon (1998) (part 9 of 13)

You know you’re in trouble when the movie you’re watching reuses props from Batman & Robin.

Moving on, we get several shots inside Freedom of everybody calming down. Actually, we get a few shots of Max and Rockhound in which we can see right up their noses, and I get a good look at just how badly Steve Buscemi needs to get to a dentist.

Geez, I know everybody’s been harping on this throughout the recap, but man, I’ve seen schizophrenic homeless people with better teeth than this guy. Much as I like Steve Buscemi as an actor, I’m really glad I never saw this in the theater, because the huge shots of his teeth and directly up his nose would have sent me screaming from the theater.

Anyhow, Rockhound is concerned about the Independence, although given that it appeared to be crashing the last time he saw it, you’d think its fate would be pretty obvious. An astronaut points this out as well, leading to pointless bickering which really strains my credulity and patience. Am I the only one who doubts that two people would go all “dysfunctional family Christmas” on each other in this kind of situation?

NASA tries to hail Freedom while they do a systems check. I won’t get into the technical stuff, but just visualize the term FUBAR and email me with your thoughts. There’s also shots of Max beginning to panic because, hey, he’s a fat sweaty guy. Meanwhile, Harry yells that they need to buck up and get moving, seeing as how they have only eight hours left.

Back at NASA, Truman looks over at Grace and says that maybe she shouldn’t be here. Whoa, Dan, let’s not get hasty. I mean, come on, all she’s experienced is possibly hearing the deaths of her dad and fiancée, not to mention learning that a big rock is going to hit the planet and turn everyone else she loves into crispy critters. Personally, I think she just needs to buck up.

Grace responds with the line “I don’t have anywhere else to go”, using the most drawn out Texas accent I have ever heard in my life. Seriously, this makes Lev’s Russian accent sound like subtle, low-key accuracy.

Armageddon (1998) (part 9 of 13)

“Why do I have to be Mr. Gingivitis?”

Back on the Freedom, the real astronauts are assessing the damage, and amazingly enough, Rockhound knows exactly what’s happened. He spews some technobabble that, when translated, basically means the pilot landed them 26 miles off course, and now they’re on a big plate of iron.

If Harry were the one to figure this out, I could probably buy it, seeing as he’s in charge and would need to have a pretty broad range of knowledge given all the places he’s drilled. But the OCR, who so far has only demonstrated a slimy pervert exterior on top of a smart-aleck attitude? Is the one who turns out to be a genius? Right. And I’m actually a little girl in the Austrian Alps. (I actually do know how you solve a problem like Maria.)

We get more angst down at NASA, where things are quickly turning into one of those annoying touchy-feely Lifetime Network movies that women are supposed to like when in actuality most women would rather let steamrollers crush them while they held their kids. We also get a shot of Grace weeping. Thanks, film, I almost forgot Liv Tyler was in the movie. I’ll give you a buffalo nickel of my own if you stop constantly cutting back to NASA. Any more angst and this movie will be a twelve-step program.

We get two long, loving pans across the wreckage of the Independence before a glove rises up and pushes aside some debris to reveal that, to our horror, AJ has survived. He’s Satan reborn if he could survive that. I knew it all along.

Armageddon (1998) (part 9 of 13)

If Vin Diesel pops up with his night vision contacts, I’m out of here.

We’re then treated to a truly horrifying sight, Ben Affleck trying to act. The occasion is that he finds Oscar’s dead body and I get my twenty bucks. There’s number one for the Death Pool, and don’t try and tell me he died after the guys who were sucked out of the shuttle. One big movie rule is that name actors in worthless parts like this are always the first to get fragged.

Affleck’s performance is truly appalling here, as he conveys emotion about as well as the average man gives birth. Granted, it’s not quite as terrible as Governor Schwarzenegger in Batman & Robin, but garnering massive head wounds while being eaten alive by your Doberman Pinscher isn’t quite as terrible as anything in Batman & Robin.

AJ does some more overacting and it turns out that not only did Lev survive, but Bear did too, despite being right in the front area of shuttle when things went haywire.

Armageddon (1998) (part 9 of 13)

“No, really, this movie is as painful as passing a kidney stone! Watch, I’ll prove it!”

Back at the Freedom, they’re still trying to make contact with Houston. A ramp lowers down from the bottom of the shuttle, and the drillers step out onto the asteroid with Max driving the Armadillo behind them. Rockhound then gets the gold medal for bizarre one-liners with this beauty.

Rockhound: This place is like Dr. Seuss’s worst nightmare!

Hmm, I must have missed that book. Was that before Green Eggs and Ham or after? [Actually, something tells me Mike Myers in The Cat in the Hat is “Dr. Suess’s worst nightmare”. —Albert]

They make their way to a valley and Harry tells Rockhound to get some readings. He pulls out a B-grade tricorder and confirms that they are, in fact, on a huge hunk of iron. This scene eventually ends up being the first time Bruce Willis is allowed to actually do something. The fact that it takes the film more than half its running time to give Willis something to do is a testament to how bloated this pile of crap is.

Sadly, all he’s required to do is act macho and heroic. It makes one wonder why they splurged and got Bruce Willis, when any guy with the ability to speak single syllable words could have pulled it off just as well. (Right now, Steven Seagal is sitting in a dark room and quietly sobbing.) The following dialogue ensues.

Rockhound: God, I hate knowing everything. We couldn’t have picked a worse place to drill!
Harry: Well, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s not gonna be much thicker than fifty feet!
Rockhound: How do you figure that?
Harry: Cause if it is, we’re screwed.

Well, that puts my mind at ease. Thank you, guys.

There’s dramatic music as the Armadillo is locked into place. Harry checks on Max, who replies that he’s “just making a hole.” Wow, what a coincidence! Right now, I’d like to make a new hole in the guy who greenlit this stinking film!

A quick cut inside the Armadillo reveals that the gearshift is topped with a skull with flashing red eyes, something you’d think Max wouldn’t want to see just now. Long story short, they get about ten feet down before the drill head breaks. After some complaining, Harry calls for them to unpack The Judge. Actually Harry, I’ve already judged you guys, and you’re getting the chair!

Back on the Independence, AJ is in the cargo hold with the second Armadillo. For reasons never made clear, the filmmakers decide that Lev needs to be surprised here when AJ reveals that he and Bear aren’t astronauts. Wouldn’t NASA have told Lev about the asteroid? If not, then how about somebody on the Independence? Whatever. AJ orders the other two into the Armadillo because he “has an idea”. And that’s really not the sort of thing you want to hear from a pinhead like him.

Back at Angst Central, contact is made briefly with Freedom. Relief flows through the room and triumphant music comes up. Hey, Trevor Rabin? Yeah, Mr. Composer? Can you take it down a notch or two? We’ve still got about an hour of this crap to go, and I’d prefer you not get my hopes up like this. You and everybody else involved with this thing are already on my list.

Back on Rastaroid, there’s a brief bit where AJ uses the Armadillo’s machine guns [?!] to punch a hole in the cargo hold of the shuttle. Okay, why in the world was the Armadillo outfitted with heavy duty combat machine guns? Were they planning on having to forcefully take the asteroid from hostile alien forces? Anyway, the Armadillo bursts through the shuttle wall like Kool-Aid Man. I don’t know what the point of all that was, but it sure was “cool”.

Armageddon (1998) (part 9 of 13)

A machine gun mounted to a mobile drilling unit… in space!? Did I rent Total Recall by accident?

Over at the Freedom, drilling resumes with The Judge, which turns out to be just a really big drill head. Wow! For some reason, this gives Max extra confidence, and he’s suddenly gung-ho about the job. He shouts, “Let’s drill through this turd!” You know, I wish I could have come up with better words to describe exactly what the seven of us are trying to do here in this recap. Hats off to you, Max.

Unfortunately, Max puts too much into it and the drill stalls, blowing Chick backwards. Incredibly, Chick’s suit isn’t damaged and his eyeballs don’t explode. Rockhound asks if he’s alright, to which Chick replies twice, “Blew the tranny!” Hey now, Rockhound might be a horny idiot, but I don’t think he swings that way, Chick.

There’s a close-up of Harry. “Come on, God. Just a little help. That’s all I’m asking.” Max replies, “We’re close enough, he might’ve heard ya’!”

Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Armageddon (1998)

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