Picks and Pans Review: Armageddon
Look heavenward, young writer, if you're trying to find inspiration for that screenplay. This season, clearly the big movie money has been in the stars. Deep Impact, about a humongous comet headed straight for Earth, came out in May. Now Armageddon, about a giant asteroid aimed this way, is opening. Is there really any difference between the two? You betcha. The even more calculatedly commercial Armageddon may have virtually the same plot as Impact, but it has been tricked up with a louder soundtrack, more and snazzier special effects and—this last actually is an improvement—a swaggering, got-to-love-him Bruce Willis.
Just as a crew of astronauts were blasted into space to blow up the comet in Impact, so Willis and several motley pals are rocketed up to do the same here. Why these guys? They are expert deep-core oil drillers, and their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to land on the asteroid, drill deep into its middle, stuff a big bomb down the hole and then vamoose but fast. "The United States government just asked us to save the world," Willis tells his buds. "Anyone want to say no?"
Not for a minute do you actually believe a word of this shamelessly manipulative nonsense, but there is an undeniable appeal to just sitting there and letting the movie's lustrous stars, shiny hardware, tough-guy talk and pulsating soundtrack wash over you. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay (who together made 1996's similarly hyperdriven The Rock) are slick Hollywood operators who know exactly what they're doing: Armageddon's heart beats strongly, but it's pumping adrenaline rather than blood.
Willis is at his strutting best in Armageddon, though one suspects he could do this role in his sleep. Affleck, as Willis's equally cocky protégé, demonstrates that he has the right stuff to play an action hero, but Tyler, cast as Willis's daughter and Affleck's honeybunch, gets lost in all the machismo. (PG-13)
Bottom Line: Polished but hollow action thriller proves where there's a Willis, there's a way