Film Review: Armageddon

When I relaunched this blog, I wasn’t planning to restart writing film reviews. I haven’t put down my quill of opinion, but found previously, sharing my thoughts caused some of the love of film I hold to be lost. I reached a point where I was watching a film so I could write a review, rather than writing a review because I’d watched a film. It had become a job I felt obliged to do and taking a step back was the only way regaining the enjoyment.

Watching Armageddon, however, I felt I had to air my thoughts. It is a shockingly awful film, but at the same time, it is wonderfully brilliant. It sums up, exactly, the reason I started writing film reviews. I would joke that I was fed up of listening to critics, waxing lyrical about how a director had “invoked the imagery of a 4th century Rubicon painting, while combining the thinking and philosophy in a lexicon of hybrid ideas, with the left wing Neoplasmic tones of the 16th century French romanticist Dubois”. When, in fact, I’d really spent 2 hours watching animated cats! All I wanted to know was if I went to the cinema, and spent £10 on a ticket, would I enjoy it, or would I be wasting my money?

Armageddon has so many issues that it is almost impossible to really pick somewhere to start. The most obvious flaw, however, is the notion that it’s easier to train people to be astronauts rather than drill a hole! I will accept that the film does try to paper over this fundamental crack in its logic, but still, when a main actor in the film is questioning the director of this very point, you really do need to hope that you’ve got some strong glue holding it all together.

Also, every inch of the science feels wrong. I don’t have a PhD in astrophysics, or in anything to be honest, but even so, throughout the film, you just never truly feel that if you went into space, or ran the maths on asteroid speeds and impacts, that you’d get the answers the film claims. I think it may be a case that Armageddon is now 20 years old, and while it’s aged well and doesn’t feel dated, time has moved on around it and the realism with which science is displayed on screen, and questioned by viewers, has become ever closer to reality. When portrayed in real-life situations, we are now too cynical to accept what’s presented as fact when it no longer computes to the science we’ve experienced elsewhere. Can astronauts really ‘pull 12g’ while wearing a t-shirt?

Then there is the script. It’s full of as many clichés and one-liners and throwaway Hollywood moments as you could dream up. Armageddon really does stumble, from one moment of over the top cheese to another. That’s fine, when if you’re watching the film for the first time. An apparently impactful and memorable line resonating with you, but when you’re returning to a film, those once impressive orations become beacons to silliness, serving to remind you just how far-fetched the film really is. What once seemed clever, now draws nothing but a stifled giggle that is very much laughing at, rather than with, a line that wasn’t even attempting to be funny.

But all is not lost, because however much Armageddon is implausible, stupid and impossibly silly in places, it is also up there with the grand masters of true Hollywood popcorn fodder. It’s a film that you really don’t want to even attempt to take seriously. Relax, let go, and just enjoy the spectacle of a late 1990s ‘blockbuster’ where if the explosion didn’t involve the petrol resources of a small country it wasn’t big enough! Forget reality, just laugh at Steve Buscemi’s ever increasing comedic role; or enjoy how Trevor Rabin’s electronic score gets the blood pumping, creating tension and suspense that belittles the onscreen action.

If you just switch off your mind, and refuse to question everything that is happening on screen, Armageddon takes on a whole new dimension. One that is enjoyable and fun and a cracking way to throw away a couple of hours. It’s the film you put on with mates and don’t care if people are talking over it, or leaning across you to grab a slice of take away pizza. It’s a film that should act as a soundtrack to other memories. And that’s why I love it, because even now, watching it on my own, it still unlocks those memories. It reminds me of a previous time, when films didn’t have to justify themselves, when the world was less questioning, and the story was more important than the finer details of realism.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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