Armageddon (1998) (part 12 of 13)
There’s a shot of Rastaroid in space, which is pretty pointless since we cut right back to earth as some more little asteroids are tracked near Paris. The typical establishing shots of Paris follow, including a mind-bogglingly stupid one of kids partying in a stationary car. Also, there’s a close-up of one of those European gargoyles, just to confirm where we are. The asteroid hits and completely wipes out Paris, and there’s a scene I could watch again and again. Meanwhile, the audience just laughs, seeing as how the special effects at the time weren’t quite up to showing a bunch of dust.
At NASA, there’s more sloppily edited newscasts coming in, including a fuzzy shot of the Pope in what some might take as another “Christianity is all that matters” bit. After a pointless shot of the gaping hole where Paris used to be, Truman tells Grace he hopes the guys can leave the asteroid. His use of the word “hope” makes her go berserk for some reason, and she actually leaps on top of him, knocks him to the floor, and starts pummeling him. I really have to think she’d finally be escorted out of Mission Control and taken to a nice padded room after this, but no dice.
On the asteroid, Rockhound has resigned himself to enjoying his front row seat to The End Of The World. But just when you most expect it, AJ arrives. The customary cheering and whooping follows on the asteroid and we cut back to NASA (how many cutaways is that for these guys?) as some random guy tells Grace, “Your boyfriend’s back!” Man, this movie really has an inordinate amount of references to classic songs. No point, just something I thought I’d mention.
Harry redoes the “five words” routine yet one more time and says, “Damn glad to see you, boy!” That’s six words, but we learn that it’s intentional when AJ points out Harry’s math is a little off. But, really, miscounting words is something I wouldn’t put past this movie.
Truman asks Grace if she thinks they can dig 250 feet in an hour, as if she should have any idea. She responds with her only possible answer: “They’d better.”
For some reason, AJ has been given control of the Armadillo as they drill, despite all the idiocy he’s shown so far with the machine. Harry breaks the news that they’re on their last transmission and drill bit, which of course is just transparent exposition, seeing as everyone here should already know this.
Rockhound, meanwhile, has been tied up with some duct tape that was apparently just lying around. Lev takes the tape off his mouth for no reason other than to allow Steve Buscemi the chance to make yet another lame joke.
At 770 feet, AJ hits a pocket full of methane, which everyone lets us know is a Bad Thing, in case we couldn’t figure it out ourselves. This, however, is part of the film’s main problem. Since this movie lacks a human villain, the only real way to generate conflict is to have lots of things go wrong, which is fine if used properly. However, having every single thing go wrong really strains believability, and just gets monotonous after a while.
Oh, and methane? Is a by-product of organic processes. Just something to think about. (Although, with all the grass and wind on this asteroid, should we really be surprised?)
Anyway, AJ predictably wants to keep going, despite the fact that Max was just killed this way. Even more predictably, Harry picks this moment to finally trust AJ. Hilariously, AJ then records his depth as “775… 780”, as if he just drilled through five feet in half a second. And these guys are worried if they’ll be able to drill 250 feet in an hour?
AJ gets down to 800 feet, but for some reason it’s not until he hits 802 that everyone starts celebrating. Down at NASA, killjoy Dr. Quincy reminds us that they still need to put the bomb in the hole. He says they only have 38 minutes to do so, which means it only took them 22 minutes to dig the 250 feet, not an hour. Not that we were ever given any indication of how fast these drills could work in the first place. Guess that would have cut down on the suspense somewhat.
Michael Bay indulges himself a little (okay, a lot) with a huge tracking shot across the asteroid, with the camera even doing a half barrel roll so we can watch the guys right side up. Unsurprisingly, something else has gone wrong. This time, it’s a pipe somehow getting bent in the hole. Once again, for unknown reasons it falls to AJ to take care of things and saw the pipe loose.
AJ tells Harry he’s almost done, as a close-up of the pipe reveals he’s barely started. On the surface, something explodes and a bunch of asteroid fragments wreak some none-too-convincing havoc. Once he gets finished, AJ hits a convenient hydrogen pocket and is shot out of the hole. This might be a reference to Bruce Willis’ similar exit from a water pipe in Die Hard With a Vengeance, but you’d think they’d actually have used Bruce Willis for this stunt if that were the case.
The flying rock fragments finally do something big, namely knocking Chris O’Donnell (or as he’s known in this film, Gruber) off his feet, and causing him to get shish-kebobbed by a stalagmite. Things blow up somewhere and do something, but the too-close, quickly-edited camera work makes it impossible to tell exactly what.
Harry and Chick are almost crushed by a big boulder that passes right over them, and just like that, it’s over. AJ breaks the news that Gruber is dead, and this is played like a big tragedy, even though the guy had maybe thirty seconds of screen time.
Well, here we go again, there’s yet one more problem, which is that the bomb detonator has been damaged by the rocks. Harry wonders how they’ll set it off, and an “artistic” spinning zoom into the hole takes us to Truman explaining that someone has to stay behind. Yeah, I was thinking the body count was kind of low for this kind of movie.
Sharp and Astronaut Useless have to be alive in order to fly the shuttle, so the rest of them have to draw straws. Everyone wastes some time arguing about who’s going to do it in yet another scene ripped off from Dr. Strangelove. Only there, it was supposed to be funny that two guys were wasting precious time arguing about who was more sorry.
Sharp displays a handful of party straws that he got out of nowhere, and the guys all pick. Lev gets in a lame joke of his own by not knowing how the game works. By the way, as this is my second time dealing with Peter Stormare after my Lost World guest recap, I’ll get people to stop thinking I’m crazy by saying that just before it got cancelled, Watching Ellie was no longer underrated and deserved a dirt nap.
Anyway, AJ gets the short straw and takes it pretty well, and so does the audience, since we know there’s no way anybody who’s one-half of a couple is going to die in a movie like this. Sharp shows AJ how the manual detonator works, and AJ says the three-step process is so simple even he can’t screw it up. Well, we don’t know about that just yet.
Harry volunteers to accompany AJ down in the elevator, and we all know how this is going to shake out. Yes, Harry decides to sacrifice himself instead of AJ, though he risks AJ’s life anyway by ripping his air hose out in order to force him back inside.
Harry tells AJ to give Truman his mission patch. He also says he’s always thought of AJ as a son, and would be proud to have him marry Grace, which is kind of creepy when you think about it. And through all of this, one thing we don’t see is Harry taking the detonator, which you’d think would be kind of high on his to-do list right about now.
Everyone reacts in their predictable ways to this development, and in the Armadillo, Harry wastes some more time by having a big conversation with Grace where they clear up all their issues just in time. It seems the main point of this scene is to show us that Bruce Willis and Liv Tyler have both mastered the art of forcing a single tear from their eyes, though they take forever to get to it. Anyway, their conversation ends and Harry’s image dissolves into static.
Our heroes still aren’t in the clear, because now the shuttle won’t start for some reason. Astronaut Useless goes in the back while Lev follows along and bugs her about knowing how to fix it. Meanwhile, Harry tells everyone to take off or else he’ll blow the bomb anyway. I guess he said this just in case anyone was thinking he’d doom the whole earth just to save them.
Finally, Lev yanks Astronaut Useless out of the way and whacks some machine with a wrench, which starts the shuttle up again. And tah-dah, our heroes are saved. I guess seeing as how the whole team in Deep Impact died, I guess they figured they had to have a difference between the two movies. Besides, you know, one not sucking.
And yet there’s still time for one more thing to go wrong, as everything around Harry spontaneously blows up. At this rate, maybe the asteroid will just split in half on its own.
Harry gets knocked down into a hole with one minute to go. Sharp considers going back to detonate the nuke themselves (how in the hell would they get back in time?) but Chick begs him to give Harry another minute. Well, by then zero barrier would be crossed and the world would be doomed, but whatever you say, Chick.
Harry gets back to the detonator switch with thirty seconds to go, but wastes some more time as everyone in NASA watches the clock. Finally, he sets the bomb off with just a few seconds left. A weird zoom into Grace’s eye takes us to the detonation, inter-cut with fuzzy shots of her memories of growing up. It’s all very much like the ending of Johnny Mnemonic, to which I say at least this film is no longer reminding us of good movies.