[Screen It]


(1998) (Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton) (PG-13)

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Action/Adventure: The world's best deep core oil drilling crew blasts off into space to land on an asteroid, plant a nuclear bomb, and detonate it before the Texas-sized rock hits the Earth.
After a meteorite storm ravages New York City, NASA discovers that an asteroid the size of Texas is speeding toward Earth. With just eighteen days before impact, NASA executive director Dan Truman (BILLY BOB THORNTON) discovers that he has only one viable option -- to drill a hole in the asteroid and then plant and detonate a nuclear bomb hoping that the internal explosion will split the rock into two pieces that will miss Earth.

Thus, Truman enlists Harry Stamper (BRUCE WILLIS) and his deep core oil drilling team, known to be the best in the world. Harry's got other problems, however -- most notably trying to keep one of his gung ho workers, A.J. Frost (BEN AFFLECK) ,away from his beautiful adult daughter, Grace (LIV TYLER). Even so, Harry realizes he has to go and save the world and agrees to do what he can. Thus, he and team -- which includes Frost; his best friend, Chick Chapple (WILL PATTON); a squirrelly geologist, Rockhound (STEVE BUSCEMI); big man Max Lennert (KEN CAMPBELL); and an odd assortment of other characters train for their dangerous mission.

Blasting off into space aboard two space shuttles, Harry and his team are accompanied by NASA astronauts Colonel Willie Sharp (WILLIAM FICHTNER), copilot Jennifer Watts (JESSICA STEEN), and mission specialist Gruber (GRAYSON McCOUCH). There they dock with a Russian space station where cosmonaut Lev Andropov (PETER STORMARE) joins them after a calamitous accident.

From that point on, the assembled team races toward the asteroid. Encountering various obstacles and bureaucratic blunders back on Earth, Harry and his team race against time to drill eight hundred feet into the rock, plant the nuke, and blast off before the asteroid plummets into the Earth, completely destroying it in a fiery Armageddon.

If they're fans of Willis or of big, summer blockbuster action films, they most likely will.
For sci-fi disaster action, sensuality and brief language.
  • BRUCE WILLIS plays a take charge kind of hero who isn't above shooting at his daughter's boyfriend when not setting out to save all of humanity.
  • BILLY BOB THORNTON plays a worried and nervous NASA executive who must convince and train Harry's team to stop the asteroid.
  • BEN AFFLECK plays a young and headstrong oil rigger who's fallen in love with Harry's daughter.
  • STEVE BUSCEMI plays a squirrelly and nervous geologist with an obsession for large breasted women.
  • WILL PATTON plays Harry's best friend who hopes to make things right with his estranged wife -- and his son who doesn't know him -- by being a hero.


    OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
    If ever a film should come with the warning to make sure you turn off your brain before leaving home for the theater (or better yet, after you get there and are sure you got the correct change from the guy at the concession stand), this is it. Coming from a well-known lineage of slickly produced, testosterone-filled films such as "Con Air," "The Rock," and "Crimson Tide," this film makes those -- and all of the others from famed action producer Jerry Bruckheimer -- seem like carefully thought out, intelligent, and above all, extremely realistic pieces of cinema.

    While we've grown accustomed to our action heroes taking a beating from the villains that would kill even the most toughened boxers, and have always known that "suspension of disbelief" is the key to enjoying these films, this latest release takes that ludicrousness to such a far off level that it nearly becomes impossible to sit back and enjoy the stupid, revved up fun.

    Now, to be fair, the film makes absolutely no pretense that it's going to follow any sort of realism right from the start. The characters are all goofy stereotypes, and when the one played by Bruce Willis chases his daughter's lover (Ben Affleck) around an oil rig repeatedly shooting a gun at him (blowing out windows, putting holes in vital pieces of machinery), we know we're in for a stupid ride.

    In such movies I'm usually ready to accept that realistic expectations will be strained at best, yet I've still managed to enjoy the stupid and heavy testosterone-laced antics that Bruckheimer films -- such as "Con Air" -- so "perfectly" deliver. It's just that this film has to add the whole element of blasting off into outer space (an important piece since that's where the plot's going to take us) and the moment that happens any last, tiny semblance of realism completely evaporates faster than you can say "summer action film."

    Stealing, borrowing, and lifting elements from far superior films such as "The Dirty Dozen" and "The Abyss," and closely paralleling this summer's earlier "Big Rock's Gonna Destroy Earth" movie, "Deep Impact" (another extremely realistic movie -- remember everyone outrunning the tidal wave?), the plot sends a ragtag team of misfits and ex-cons into outer space to save the world.

    Yeah, right. We're supposed to believe that it would be easier to train these grease monkeys how to be astronauts in less than three weeks instead of showing astronauts how to become deep core drillers? In "Abyss" and "Dozen" there were perfectly sound reasons for the teams chosen to execute their specific plan and those plots worked. Here's it just a screenwriting device (concocted by one or more of the many credited and uncredited scribes who worked on this picture) that's so stupendously ridiculous it's almost surreal.

    Once in outer space, the film then throws any semblance of scientific knowledge out the window (especially concerning gravity in many scenes) and most likely will make NASA second guess their participation in the film, particularly after Willis and his crew constantly belittle the workers and their efforts, and by stating that if not for them, the world wouldn't have a chance. That is, unless they had those massive rotary machine guns that must have been added to those OUTER SPACE vehicles after watching one too many "Alien" movies.

    Of course, the film's set to promote gung ho American patriotism, and we get to see lots of slow motion shots of our "astronauts" striding toward the shuttle (a la "The Right Stuff"), and of little kids, old folks, and people all around the world being proud of "our boys" who are going to save everyone.

    What the film's really about, however, is delivering a visceral assault on your senses with as much revved up, in your face action as possible. If you can manage to squeeze in a lobotomy before seeing it, the film does mostly succeed in regards to that. Several sequences are quite effectively fun and exhilarating, something director Michael Bay honed in pictures such as "Bad Boys" and "The Rock" (which is still the best and most enjoyable Bruckheimer produced film).

    Not surprisingly, though, the performances don't fare much better than the plot's realism. The assembled actors were predominantly cast more for their differing looks than their acting abilities (a common trait to other recent, and similarly based "team" movies) and the more significant ones that don't perish along the way deliver nothing more than stereotypical performances.

    Bruce Willis (star of the "Die Hard" movies) is as appealing as usual in his action hero role (meaning he's larger than life, but resides in a tough, blue collar persona), but not quite as much fun as his similarly constructed John McClane character (maybe this should have been "Die Hard 4: Die! Rock! Die!")

    Steve Buscemi ("Fargo") is probably the most fun of all the characters to watch (playing the squirrelly and sarcastic crew member), but he's not doing anything much different than what we've seen from him in previous roles. Peter Stormare ("Fargo") is also enjoyable as the weary and wayward cosmonaut, while Billy Bob Thornton ("Sling Blade") is good, but not outstanding as the NASA director (a role that will never be better than what Ed Harris cemented in "Apollo 13"). Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler round out the big names and are present mainly to look handsome and pretty (which they easily accomplish), but they're completely underused.

    The strained thespian abilities are most evident in any of the moments that are supposed to be heartfelt and/or sentimental. Had they not been so dramatically manipulative (and the polar opposite of the similarly forced action scenes), such scenes may have worked, but they're so poorly executed and unmoving that some preview audiences have erupted into laughter during them.

    Of course, such moments are really present only to give us a breather between the action set pieces and the spectacularly outrageous special effects that often accompany them. Continually delivering the "bang" that "Deep Impact" held back until the very end, the scenes and effects here are far more impressive. They also showcase New York City being pummeled once again -- the third time this summer after "Impact" and "Godzilla."

    This film's $100 million plus budget is clearly evident up on the screen, and Bruckheimer and Bay certainly got their money's worth from cinematographer John Schwartzman ("The Rock") and editor Glen Scantlebury ("Con Air") as the camera's almost always in motion and the cuts are fast and furious. Less effective are the many music video moments that appear early in the film, and when a tune by Aerosmith starts playing (while Affleck and Tyler commingle), I kept expecting Alicia Silverstone (an Aerosmith video regular from several years back) to show up and join them at any moment.

    The big question on everyone's minds, however, concerns how the film compares to "Deep Impact" and whether that first horse out of the gate will dampen this one's box office potential. While both films have extremely similar general plots, "Impact" is more exacerbated buildup, while "Armageddon" gets down to business right from the start and offers more action scenes and spectacular special effects. Since that seems to be the "magic" ingredient in successful, big budget summer films, this one should fare better -- despite it making "Impact" seem like a model of realistic reaction to the world's impending doom.

    The old tag line for the original "Alien" movie stated that "In space, no one can hear you scream." That's true, of course, unless you forgot to turn your brain off before seeing this movie -- in which case the cerebral pain may be so unbearable that you'll wish you had visited the lobotomy shop beforehand. Dumber than "Deep Impact," but much more visually entertaining, we give "Armageddon" a 4 out of 10 simply for occasionally hitting on all cylinders of nothing but pure, big screen summer testosterone.

    Much like "Deep Impact" in plot but stepped up many levels in intensity, the film's overall concept as well as the many tense and suspenseful scenes may be too intense for some younger viewers. Violence gets an extreme rating due to the massive loss of life and incredible destruction caused by the meteorite storms, but beyond that there's only a bit of human on human violence. Profanity is heavy with one "f" word and an assortment of others words and phrases. Finally, a scene in a strip club shows some scantily clad women, and Affleck and Tyler's characters have a sensual scene or two together (with earlier implied sex). Since many kids will probably want to see this film, you may want to take a closer look at some of the content if any particular area is of concern to you.

  • Rockhound has drinks with a woman in a bar, and we later see others having drinks in a strip club.
  • Neither bloody, nor gory, one of the crew makes a scatological joke about finding a mole "on Uranus." Another similar joke comes when a crew member tells a proctologist that he came along "just to drill." She responds, "So did I."
  • We see a body (no blood) halfway in a meteorite hole.
  • We see a crew member's (presumably lifeless) body hit the front of the other shuttle.
  • A man's face has some bloody cuts on it, as does another dead man's face.
  • A man who's just been hit has a little bit of a bloody lip.
  • Harry has a fit upon learning that Grace is sleeping with/dating A.J. and he takes out his anger/disappointment by chasing A.J. around an oil rig and shooting at him with a shotgun. Likewise but conversely, some may see Grace and A.J. as having both for fooling around under her father's nose.
  • Some may see Rockhound's preoccupation/obsession with sexy women as having both.
  • The military officials have both as they order that the nuke be detonated before the drilling is completed on the asteroid (which would kill the drillers).
  • We learn that some of the crew members have criminal records, although we don't see any current such activity.
  • A crew member comments about their female copilot, "Is it just me, or is Watts really hot?"
  • Young kids (and other viewers) may be frightened or unsettled by the overall concept of impending doom via a large and fast approaching asteroid. Likewise, they may find the mayhem- filled scenes -- where "smaller" chunks of it impact in different cities, presumably killing many people -- just as scary or unnerving.
  • A brief drilling emergency erupts on the rig.
  • A long and suspenseful sequence occurs on a Russian space station as the refueling pressure gets too high, things catch on fire, and the crews scramble to return to their shuttles and escape before the space station blows up.
  • Crew members scream and look scared as the shuttles slingshot around the moon causing the crew to endure high g-forces.
  • The shuttles try to land on the asteroid, but one crashes and several crew members are killed in another tense sequence that goes on for several minutes.
  • The entire ending of the movie (that goes on for quite some time) is suspenseful throughout as the crew must deal with the nuke nearly going off, them nearly floating into outer space, as well as racing against time to drill into the asteroid, plant the nuke, and blast off the asteroid before it detonates.
  • Shotgun: Used by Harry to shoot at A.J. (after discovering Grace in his bed).
  • Rifles/Handguns: Briefly seen as carried by various guards.
  • Machine guns: Located on the rover/drilling vehicles and fired to blast through the side of the downed shuttle, and fired in another scene by a crew member who's gone space crazy.
  • Handgun: Held by Sharp on Harry and others.
  • Nuclear bomb: Detonated inside the asteroid.
  • Phrases: "Take a dump," "Bitch" (about the asteroid and said by an astronomer about his wife), "Pissed," "Idiot," "Screwed up," "Jack ass," "Piss poor," "Shut up," "Horny," "Balls" and "Nuts" (for testicles), "Retards," "Nuts" (crazy), "Kick ass," "Freakin'," "Screwed" (nonsexual), "Sucks," "Screw it," "Screw this up," and "Bad ass."
  • An astronomer's wife gives him "the finger."
  • Harry hits golf balls at a nearby Greenpeace ship, causing its crew to duck for cover.
  • None.
  • A moderate amount of suspenseful and action-oriented music occurs during the movie.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "f" word (with another possible one), 6 "s" words, 16 hells, 8 asses, 8 damns, 1 S.O.B. (and 2 incomplete ones), and 8 uses of "G-damn," 4 uses of "Oh my God," 3 uses of "God," 2 uses each of "Swear to God," "Oh Jesus," "Oh God" and "For God's sakes," and 1 use each of "My God," "Jesus," and "By God" as exclamations.
  • Harry discovers Grace under A.J.'s sheets, but we don't see any nudity or activity (although it's implied that there has been).
  • Grace mentions that Rockhound had to show her how to use tampons when she first got her period, and he nervously tells Harry that he told, but didn't show her.
  • Seeing government officials on the rig, Rockhound nervously but mistakenly tells Harry, "I swear to God she didn't tell me her age" (referring to an unseen encounter with an unknown girl).
  • It's mentioned that Rockhound is called "hound" because "he's always horny."
  • We see just a brief glimpse of the side of a crew member's bare butt in a doctor's office.
  • Taking a Rorschach test, Rockhound states that he sees breasts in all of the inkblot figures.
  • A.J. sensuously kisses Grace's back (with the strap of her dress down off her shoulder).
  • The crew tells Harry that Grace is curious about her body and is exploring her sexuality, and one mentions that he knows what it's like to "have your hormones pulling you in a thousand different directions..."
  • As Grace lies on the ground with her dress undone (exposing her belly and black bra), A.J. playfully moves some animal cracker figures across her body. He moves one "north" where he says it can find "ample nourishment" (as he touches her breast with it) or "south" and he partially puts it inside the top of her underwear.
  • We see Rockhound and some of the other guys in a strip club. We also see some scantily clad women (thong bottoms, net-like bras -- showing parts of the sides of breasts -- etc...) dancing about.
  • As a NASA technician forcibly straps Rockhound to his shuttle seat, he tells her that if her present job falls through, she can always get one at "Helga's House of Pain."
  • A woman who meets Rockhound shows some cleavage.
  • None (unless some occurred in the bar scenes that we didn't notice).
  • An astronomer's wife briefly tells him that she wants a divorce.
  • Grace briefly mentions her mom leaving her and Harry, and Harry and Grace have some arguments about her seeing A.J. Grace must also deal with her father blasting off into danger and must worry about him not returning.
  • Chick goes to see his estranged wife and his son who doesn't know him, but the wife tells him the court order states that he has to stay away, and she tells her son that he's just a salesman.
  • The possibility of space debris hitting the Earth.
  • The theory that such an impact wiped out the dinosaurs and changed life on Earth forever.
  • Most of the violence isn't human on human, but instead involves massive destruction and millions of implied deaths.
  • Asteroid chunks hit a satellite and the man working on it. The space shuttle nearby is also struck and it explodes, killing everyone on board. A massive meteorite storm then hits New York and many cars and buildings are destroyed/blown up and many people are presumably killed.
  • Harry hits golf balls at a nearby Greenpeace ship, causing its crew to duck for cover.
  • Harry chases A.J. around the oil rig, firing a shotgun at him (and blowing out windows, etc...).
  • A thug picks up Rockhound in a strip club, but another crew member hits the thug over the head with a bottle.
  • More meteorite chunks hit Earth and more people are presumably killed.
  • A space station blows up.
  • A few crew members are killed as one of the shuttles is hit by debris and crashes.
  • Machine guns on the drilling/rover vehicle fire through the side of the downed shuttle to get out.
  • A crew member is blown backwards by an explosion, but is okay.
  • Sharp aims a handgun at Harry and several others. Harry then hits him with what appears to be a large wrench/grip (that he later has around Sharp's neck), while Chick hits someone else.
  • Rockhound -- having gone somewhat space crazy -- fires a rotary machine gun around the asteroid, tearing up some of the crew's gear.
  • A drilling/rover vehicle blows up, killing the person inside.
  • A huge meteorite crashes into a city, nearly destroying all of it (and presumably killing everyone there).
  • We see a brief shot of people rioting and throwing Molotov cocktails in a city.
  • An explosion kills a man and breaks the asteroid apart.

  • Reviewed June 24, 1998

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