Armageddon (1998) (part 4 of 13)

And who might the world’s best deep-core driller be? Well, you get three guesses and they’re all wrong, unless you say Harry Stamper, who at the moment is in a bit of a sticky situation. We return to his rig where chaos is ensuing. Workers scurry around as Harry screams out orders, and we get out first hint of how the action sequences in this movie will be filmed.

The rig is taking a hit after hitting a gas pocket, conveniently from the pump that AJ was fiddling around with. Though my knowledge of the inner workings of an oil rig could be accurately transcribed on the tip of a needle, I’m fairly certain that even a bonehead like AJ would know better than to screw around with machinery on what is basically a floating potential fireball.

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Harry tells Chick—who could be a damn fine witness for the prosecution if Harry’s little shooting spree ever landed him in the slammer (and possibly an accessory since he didn’t make a great effort to stop the incident)—to get the clients and Grace off of the rig. Apparently, this means having them hide under an awning somewhere. I wish I could be more specific, but Michael Bay’s editing technique is so jumpy it really makes you wonder how a man with such severe ADD ever got a job in the entertainment industry.

During all of this, Bear has been getting soaked with oil. I only mention this because Mr. Duncan is the sole person in this film who will keep me from gouging my eyes out with a spoon.

AJ shows up, unnaturally cheerful and enthusiastic since it seems the rig is about to flambé the entire cast. He proves that he actually is dumb enough to screw around with the rig by boasting that he’s either lucky or a genius, because they’ve hit oil. Um, yeah. You really don’t want to get a big ego in front of the guy whose daughter you’ve just engaged in acts of sexual congress with.

Unfortunately, the rig also seems about ready to blow, at least according to our good buddy Harry. Harry tells the workers to clear and we see two miscellaneous guys rappelling down the rig. Man, Bay must really like that shot. Not only is it the second time he’s used it in this movie, he also seems to have a shot just like it in all of his movies.

Anyhow, a geyser of oil shoots up out of the rig, and we get a close up of Harry and probably AJ leaping away from something exploding. Hey Mr. Bay, it’s called a wide shot. Some of us crazy SOBs who shoot films like to use them once in a while.

Armageddon (1998) (part 4 of 13)

“More rappelling! This movie needs more rappelling!”

We then get an abrupt and unnecessary cut (In this film? You’re kidding me!) to some military choppers heading across the ocean. Predictably for Bay, the shot takes place at sunrise, so it has that same orange hue that really gets old after the first billion times you see it in his films.

Truman does a voice-over, explaining just how good Harry Stamper is. Apparently, Harry was recommended by three dozen experts around the world, which means that if they save the earth, NASA is gonna have one hell of a phone bill to pay. According to the VO, Harry can drill through anything, anywhere. Yes, but can he rub his belly and pat his head while whistling the Star Spangled Banner? Didn’t think so.

Back on the rig, Harry and AJ turn a big wheel that presumably shuts off the oil. Upon completion of this task, Harry rebukes AJ for the explosion and instantly fires him. Of course, there’s really no reason Truman’s voiceover had to be sandwiched in between the two rig scenes. We could have just as easily had the choppers approach, followed by the oil rig sequence, but no. I guess that just wouldn’t have been confusing enough.

The choppers land and an Air Force guy steps out. He asks for Harry Stamper, announcing he’s been given direct orders from the President to take Harry with him. Harry laughs it off, asking if some guy named Crazy Willie put them up to this. Again, how is it that he hasn’t at least heard about the meteors? They do have radios in the South China Sea, don’t they? Even if there is a news blackout in the US, China has news broadcasts, too, don’t they?

Anyhow, Air Force Guy is not amused and replies with a totally deadpan, “I’m afraid I don’t know any Crazy Willie, sir.” This seems to get Harry’s brain to switch on, but unfortunately, his ego follows suit. He amazingly has the guts to demand that Grace be allowed to go along with him. Even more amazingly, Air Force Guy doesn’t laugh, kick him in the groin, and drag him onto the chopper. Instead, he agrees and they take off, leaving AJ to wonder what’s going on.

I should also mention that Rockhound makes an appearance during this exchange, revealing to my chagrin that Steve Buscemi will be our Odious Comic Relief for the evening. I suppose if you have to have an OCR, you could do a lot worse than Buscemi, but just remember that a Spamburger that costs $10 is still crap. The exchange reveals Rockhound’s wacky trait, which is a libido that makes James Bond look like a monk. His dialogue is equally charming:

Rockhound: Harry? I swear to God, man, she never told me her age.
Harry: No, it’s okay. It’s not about you.
Rockhound: Oh. Forget it.

Great, we’re supposed to find this guy funny and likable. Sorry, but he’s about as charming as Buscemi’s character in Con Air.

Anyhow, cut to NASA headquarters in Houston. We even get a caption that says “NASA Headquarters – Houston, Texas”. Whew. Thank God, because I was thinking of the Houston in Wisconsin, and would never have made the connection that we were at NASA, especially not with that huge disassembled early rocket out front, or the huge sign we see two seconds later that says “NASA” and “Johnson Space Center” right above the front entrance.

On the front steps, Harry and Grace meet Truman and Scary General. Truman offers his apologies but Harry brushes him off, saying that’s all he and Grace have heard for the past eighteen and a half hours. Real nice. The comic relief is a pervert, and our lead hero is a standoffish jerk. So far, I’m pulling for the meteor.

Truman suggests they talk inside privately. Harry goes off again, saying he doesn’t keep any secrets from his daughter and she’ll find out eventually, so just get to it. The one amusing bit found here is that Bruce Willis supposedly has a Texas accent in this film, and it’s not a totally awful one, but the Jersey in him comes out way too often. Well, I found it amusing, anyway. Hey, I gotta get my entertainment where I can in a movie like this.

Inside, everything is under-lit for drama, and Harry and Grace listen with solemn looks on their faces as they learn about the asteroid Dottie. It’s part of a meteor shower caused by a rogue comet (Damn those comets!), and the shower will be hitting the earth for the next fifteen days. The asteroid will eventually hit land, even if it lands in the water (duh). The result will be a huge tidal wave moving at unstoppable speed, along with a heat blast that will wipe out half of the Earth’s population. The rest will die from nuclear winter.

Grace says this is unbelievable, to which Truman notes that it’s as real as it gets. Uh Dan, I’m pretty sure levity isn’t what the room needs right now. Put a cork on the funny bottle there, pal. He then adds that it’s coming at the planet at 22,000 miles an hour and nothing can hide from it. Which really gives me a warm fuzzy feeling, anybody else?

We then cut to a shot of Marlon Brando’s colon. Oops, sorry. We cut to space where the asteroid is shown along with lots of debris, all moving through a field of space gas. So technically, it could be Mr. Brando’s colon. Who knows?

Armageddon (1998) (part 4 of 13)

An artist’s representation of Michael Bay’s ego.

Back at Fun Center, Truman tells Harry that there’s a total media blackout because The End Of The World is top secret. There are only nine active telescopes that can see the meteor, and NASA controls eight of them. Gee, only eight? I’d say somebody in the security department lacks initiative.

Of course, the really dumb part is that an asteroid “the size of Texas” would be plainly visible to the naked eye, and therefore easily seen by anyone, telescope or not. According to the aforementioned Bad Astronomy page, it would even be, right after the moon, the brightest object in the night sky [!!]. Anyhow, Truman puts it all in perspective for us goobers at home.

Truman: If news like this got out, there would be an overnight breakdown of basic social services worldwide. Rioting, mass religious hysteria. Total chaos, you can guess. Basically, the worst parts of the Bible.

Yeah, but how bad is it really, Dan?

Cut to the same hangar seen in The Rock, as Truman explains the plan to Harry while Grace looks on worriedly. A crew will land on the asteroid, drill into its core, drop in some nukes and get away before detonation. Their major problem so far is that their equipment has been having some problems.

Dr. Quincy is there to explain that their drilling unit was originally intended for use on Mars. Harry recognizes the design as his own. He gets understandably pissed with Quincy, and bitches about the patent he holds on it. You know, if your planet’s evolution is about to be set back a few million years, you really shouldn’t sweat the small stuff like infringement.

Amazingly, Truman admits to stealing Harry’s patent, and I might add that admitting you’ve stolen from a guy whose help you really, really need doesn’t seem like the best course of action. But hey, they’re NASA, so they must know best.

Quincy begins to argue that patents don’t apply in space (riiiight), but Truman tells him to shut up. Harry says they did a “piss poor job” of putting his rig together and instantly determines the problem. He says that the guys at NASA, folks that you’d hope would know how to put things together, got the flow system reversed. They’ve also been tearing up the rotors, but can’t figure out why. Harry then learns that a team of astronauts has been training for eight months with the unit, but still can’t figure it out. Geez, I know the space program doesn’t have the funding it used to, but good Lord!

Truman wants Harry to train the team, so Harry responds with his life story. Okay, he just says that he’s been drilling all his life and he still doesn’t have it all figured out. He says he’s only as good as he is because of the guys he works with (awww). Trust is crucial to his job, and even though the astronauts might be good at space stuff, they know nothing about drilling. Gee Harry, do you think that’s why Truman just asked you to train them?

Harry asks about the backup plan, to which Truman replies they don’t have one. Oh, that’s good. For a second there I was worried. Harry freaks out, and while I feel the same way, I have to admit it is kind of silly to think that with fifteen days until The End Of The World, a backup plan would even be possible if the first idea bombed out.

Truman says he’s the planet’s only hope, so Harry tells him he’ll do it if he can have his own guys on the team. Truman agrees and Grace gives Harry yet another worried look. By the way, if you ever make a drinking game out of this movie, don’t use “Grace has a worried look” as one of the things where you have to drink, because you’ll be smashed out of your mind halfway through.

Anyway, Harry explains to her that he doesn’t trust anybody else to do the job. Yeah, I’m sure she’s cool with that, Harry. No problem at all.

Cut to a control room, where Harry is on the phone trying to get in touch with Bear. He explains to Truman that once his rig crew finishes a job, they scatter. And it comforts me to know the fate of the world rests with a group of men with a tendency to disappear at a moment’s notice.

This all leads to a “humorous” montage of the team being brought in by the FBI. The music playing beneath this segment is Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together”, which really should have set alarm bells ringing in the minds of everyone involved, because the movie it was originally recorded for was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Anyhow, Bear is in North Dakota, riding a motorcycle. Harry charmingly VOs that it should be easy to find Bear, because he’s probably the only black man riding a motorcycle in North Dakota. Nice, buddy. Good to show off that aspect of your personality.

We cut to Bear dressed like a low-rent combination of Mr. T and a Hell’s Angel, blasting down a dirt road with cars and a helicopter swarming behind him. He yells, “Come and get Poppa Bear!” Um, okay. These guys are drillers, right? When did this become Con Air 2: The Pinhead?

Back at NASA, Grace mentions another driller named Max, who we might have seen earlier but I’ll be damned if I’m going back to check. Max is revealed to be overweight when Harry asks, “You got a weight limit on that shuttle?” We get more anti-comedy as Max is found getting a tattoo while his mom brings him donuts. Mom asks Max if he’s in trouble with the law again, and we pull back to see the Feds have entered.

Armageddon (1998) (part 4 of 13)

“Hi, I’m Ken Campbell. I play Max in Armageddon. I’d just like to take this opportunity to remind you all that I am not the guy from the Round Table Pizza commercials. Thank you.”

Next up is Rockhound. Grace, bathed in a green light that makes her look like She Hulk‘s younger sister, reveals they call him “hound” because he’s horny. Yeah Grace, just keep telling yourself that’s all he is.

We find Slimy Pervert, uh, I mean Rockhound in a New Orleans bar hitting on a married woman. He examines her wedding ring, then tells her it’s not really a diamond. Um yeah, so our boy is a scheming liar as well as a pervert. When the Feds come for him, he ignores them at first, so they get his attention by telling him it’s about national security. Rockhound turns to the woman and asks her how old she is. Not funny the first time, not funny now.

Oscar (played by Owen Wilson, the Agony Booth’s latest Repeat Offender thanks to this and Anaconda) is up next, riding a horse just so we know he’s a Texan. Because, you know, the accent won’t be enough of a clue. He’s shown in silhouette in front of the rising sun as helicopters pursue him. Okay, Mr. Bay, you do that shot again and there’s gonna be trouble.

Chick is last, and he’s found in a casino winning at craps. Wow, that’s ironic, because the viewers of this film have already crapped out. Then we get another pointless shot of Bear running a roadblock. Okay, now why in the hell are we getting a mini-sequel to Con Air starring Michael Clarke Duncan?

Armageddon (1998) (part 4 of 13)

Born to be in bad movies!

Grace, still bathed in green light, asks in extreme close-up who’ll be running the second rig. She suggests somebody we’ve never heard of, but Harry decides on AJ. The following exchange takes place with a senseless close-up of Grace that makes her look like the Jolly Green Giant’s hot date, and an extreme close-up of Harry in profile. Hey, good editing choices here.

Grace: I thought you said you couldn’t trust him?
Harry: I thought you said I could.

Boy! You sure told her, Harry. We see Jolly Green Grace close her eyes, probably imagining she’s back in that Aerosmith video and shaking her money maker.

Cut to Texas, where amazingly, AJ has already started up his own drilling company, even though it’s only been, at most, a couple of days since Harry fired him. Um, right. This doofus couldn’t start a staring contest.

For some reason, even though FBI agents rounded up the rest of the guys, Harry decides to make an appearance to personally bring AJ on board. I assuming this is so we can have a “dramatic” scene where they smart off to each other pointlessly for a while, with AJ even doing Harry’s “five words” routine again. Um, AJ? It hasn’t been that long since Harry caught you in bed with his daughter, and you nearly blew up his rig, so now might not be the best time to mouth off to him.

Harry says there’s “no job on the planet” that he would ever want AJ on. Naturally, this means that AJ is part of the team.

Cut to NASA as all the drillers meet up. They’re all doing the male bonding stuff as Truman, Harry and Grace look on in amusement. Bear gets one of the few funny lines in the film when he greets Harry.

Bear: What’s up, Harry? Did NASA find oil on Uranus, man?

Okay, it’s not that funny, but compared to the rest of the film, it’s practically Noël Coward.

In a conference room, darkly lit for mood and shot at a Dutch angle for no reason at all, we get reactions from all the men. Max groans and the others look shocked. So, we can assume they either heard about the asteroid, or this is really a script read-through. Then we’re treated to dialogue so clichéd and corny, I simply had to transcribe all of it.

Harry: None of us have to go. We can all just sit here on earth, waiting for this big rock to crash into it, kill everything and everybody we know. The United States government just asked us to save the world. Anybody want to say no?

Chick: Twenty years, haven’t turned you down once. Not about to start now. I’m there.

Random guy whose name we don’t know: I guess I can’t let you go out there alone.

Bear: I’m with you.

Oscar: This is… This is historic. I mean, guys, this is, like, real deep blue hero stuff. Of course I’m in! [Well, we have numero uno in the Death Pool here.]

Rockhound: While I don’t share his enthusiasm, you know me. Beam me up, Scotty!

Harry: You alright, Max?

Max: I don’t… I don’t… Whatever you think. [And there’s number two.]

Harry: What about you?

AJ: I’m in.

Harry: All right, then. We go.

Rockhound: I don’t want to be the materialistic weasel here, but do you think we’ll get hazard pay out of this?

No, Rockhound. But the seven brave souls recapping this pile of cinematic detritus sure as hell should.

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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