We are royally screwed.
When the "global killer" asteroid comes to say hello our only hope for survival rests on the shoulders of a handful of oil drillers sent into space to stop it. Far-fetched, woefully inaccurate, unbelievable to a fault, and melodramatic, Michael Bay's Armageddon was the epitome of a summer popcorn-munching leave your brain at the door theater experience.
Originally released in 1998, Armageddon was the movie to go see that summer. Full of excitement, energy, drama, and laughs, the film captivated audiences and endeared itself to a generation. Sure we were quick to point out the many flaws, but the fact remained that it was a highly entertaining experience. Now that it has had twelve years under its belt, how does it fair? Let's take the Blu-ray for a spin.
Armageddon opens up with a meteor shower destroying the space shuttle Atlantis and ravaging New York City. Soon enough NASA gets word that the bits and pieces that came crashing down were only the beginning. In 18 days an asteroid the size of Texas will strike Earth and destroy all life as we know it. The world will be engulfed in flame, ash, and toxic gas. No bacteria would survive, let alone humanity. The rocket scientists as NASA soon concoct the "brilliant" plan of landing on the asteroid and blowing it up from the inside out with a nuke.
NASA soon turns its attention to a group of deep sea oil drillers working for a guy named Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis). They basically stole his drill design, but can't get it to work. Unfortunately with the small timeframe they have to play with, Stamper couldn't possibly train the astronauts how to use his drill. Drilling is an art, not a science, you know. Thus Stamper drags his peers along for the ride and this group of blue collared workers is all that stands between Earth and a really big rock.
That's pretty much Armageddon in a nutshell and all that's in between is character development, explosions, and a whole lot of nifty looking special effects. As one might expect the movie feels stretched out and bloated with its two and a half hour timeframe. Subplots such as the relationship between Stamper's daughter, Grace (Liv Tyler), and his employee, A.J. (Ben Afflec), and the focus on each individual character throughout their training with NASA messes with the pacing of the film in general. Sure it's great for building up the characters and helping viewers get to know them before they are shot into space, but do we really need to see them get in a bar fight at a strip club just so Steve Buscemi can drop some funny lines?
In many ways Armageddon feels like two movies jammed together. There's the first act is the introduction of the characters and them getting to space, and then the second with them actually in space. It's not appropriately balanced in that sense, but Michael Bay's bombastic direction cranks everything to such an extreme that its best moments are powerful highlights, and its worst are equally so on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Somewhere along the way Armageddon crafts its own kind of reality. No matter how unbelievable the plot is and no matter how much science the film ignores ("Fire and sound in space?", "Shuttles can't maneuver like that!"), the movie remains entertaining. It's a glossy, bloated action romp with bright special effects, a sharp cast, and a so-silly-it-works storyline. In other words it is the epitome of a summer popcorn muncher that is high on entertainment and low on other values film buffs hold dear. It's polarizing for sure, but it's definitely worth checking out if you haven't seen it. Recommended.
Armageddon hits Blu-ray with rather impressive transfer for a film that's past the decade mark. The movie is presented with a full 1080p and AVC coding, as one might expect. Bay's production left the film with a vivid palette and striking contrast, and it's safe to say both of which truly stand out in high definition. The constant use of fiery reds, icy blues, and almost too-dark-for-their-own-good blacks leaves Armageddon with many scenes that stand out for visual impact alone. Whether it's a sun washed oil rig, a flat looking office at NASA, or the horrific asteroid in space, the tone is captured perfectly.
Aside from the vibrant colors, the image still holds up under scrutiny with a sharp resolution and striking detail. Small details truly stand out in every close-up and special effect laden scene. Things can be a tad on the grainy side, however, and some effects just don't withstand the test of time, but from start to finish this is one hell of a transfer. This presentation doesn't shave all the years off of the original production, but it certainly a film that has aged gracefully.
Keeping in step with the video presentation, the audio package for Armageddon is truly a treat for the ears. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48 kHz /24-bit) is powerful in just about every way and quite honestly should be considered demo material. The lively track comes to life with a constant and wholly immersive presence on the soundstage that really utilizes LFE output to its fullest. Everything from the powerful score by Trevor Rabin to dialogue and sound effects is razor sharp as well. The film has always been dynamic but this presentation trumps any other release that came before it and truly drops you into the middle of the action.
Consider the previous release of the film was handled via Criterion it's no surprise that none of those bonus features made their way onto this release. It's a shame really, since this disc is frankly about as barebones as you can get. Some trailers and a music video for "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith are all you're going to find here. In that sense this disc shouldn't replace the Criterion title in your collection, but rather it will serve as a video/audio upgrade.
Armageddon is a flawed, bloated film, and it's one that's easy to ridicule due to the plot and extremes it takes for both good and bad. With that being said it's incredibly fun to watch and the combination of Bay's direction, quality acting, and lively special effects totally work. If you can forget the science, the unbelievable aspects of the plot, and shut your brain off at the door, you'll find that Armageddon is an entertaining flick with powerful moments.
This Blu-ray disc truly hits a home run in the presentation department. The picture quality is stunning with few flaws, and the audio package is solid all around. The only disappointment with regards to this disc is the lack of bonus features, though since this isn't a Criterion release it's no surprise that we don't have access to their supplemental content. Overall this disc is definitely worth picking up and comes easily recommended.
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