Okay, so ever since I had a devastatingly sober Saturday night home alone last weekend, I haven't stopped ranting about the brilliance that was my televised saviour from boredom: Armageddon.
The year is 1998. Bruce Willis still retains a handsome half-helmet of blonde hair, Liv Tyler is her stunning doe-eyed 21 year-old self, nobody has overdosed on Ben Affleck yet and Michael Bay is still in the childhood of his very loud and ridiculous career.
Armageddon was criticized heavily upon its release for a total lack of realism, and I am here to tell you that this is exactly why it is awesome. And anyway, criticizing a large-budget Hollywood film on the grounds that it is not a realistic depiction of life isn't particularly foolproof. Shunning all criticism, Armageddon went on to be the highest grossing film of 1998, body-slamming other blockbuster classics like Saving Private Ryan and Deep Impact.
And here’s why:
The movie begins with a destructive meteor shower raining down upon New York City (because where else do huge natural disasters occur?), and NASA discovers that an asteroid the size of Texas is plummeting toward earth, and will wipe out human civilization as we know it. It's a pretty good start, right?
This is where Michael Bay's 'Kinda Logic' really takes off: Instead of sticking to the original plan and sending trained NASA astronauts to destroy the asteroid with their nine-foot nuclear weapon, Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) opts for a rag-tag group of loveable shit-kicking oil drillers. Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) is the world’s best deep-sea oil driller, which is interesting, considering he’s willing to risk all the equipment on his rig when he runs around repeatedly firing at Ben Affleck with a shotgun for sleeping with his daughter (Liv Tyler).
NASA recruits Harry for the mission and he agrees on the condition that he may take his own team up with him (sensible). This is partly because they’re the best people he’s ever worked with, but also partly because it sets the movie up for an Ocean’s 11-style montage of character collection for their adorably unprofessional motley crew. My personal favourite shot comprises of government helicopters rising over a horizon at sunset while Owen Wilson gallops on horseback, which is like, totally necessary because apparently “he’s an absolutely brilliant geologist”.
The team are then put through an intensive training process, including some hilarious “look how totally rough we are!” gags while NASA attempt to beat them into some semblance of a competent crew. All the while we’re cheerfully ignoring the fact that this asteroid is going to hit in two week’s time and, as cute as requesting that the crew never pay taxes again is, WE DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT.
Following one rampant night at a strip club and one Ben Affleck rendition of 'I’m Leaving On a Jet Plane’, the crew are finally successfully launched in two military space shuttles. Which are obviously called Freedom and Independence because: America. The scenes from this point on consist exclusively of hard-core anxiety and culminate in Bruce Willis sacrificing his own life to preserve the Earth – as well as Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck’s romance (sorry if that’s a spoiler or anything but you’re approximately 16 years too late).
Maybe it was because I was home alone on a Saturday night, or maybe it was because I’d run out of Cheds, but the scene in which Liv Tyler cries as her dad says goodbye made me break down and weep, forcefully.
The ludicrousness of this film is indisputably what gives it its edge; it is an unrelenting two-hour joke that shamefully engages you. It’s one of the rare movies that literally warrants sitting on the edge of your seat – I’m quite confident that towards the end I was legitimately shouting, “GODDAMMIT BRUCE WILLIS JUST PRESS THE BUTTON, YOU ARSE!” Also, whenever the plot happens to become too unbearable, there is the ever-present fallback of taking some time out to drown in Liv Tyler’s eyes.
Let us also never, ever forget that Aerosmith’s power ballad 'Don’t Want to Miss a Thing' was written specifically to accompany Armageddon. It's a song that will continue to make drunk people in bars stand up and scream along from now until the end of the world – which, if there’s any justice, will not be caused by a bunch of under-trained criminals and oil-drillers.
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