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It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie

Reader Review


Posted by: Kevin Cogger
Date Submitted: Sunday, March 28, 1999 at 17:44:13
Date Posted: Monday, March 29, 1999 at 05:22:26

[Spoiler warning!]

I saw this movie with some friends a couple of days ago. One of them mentioned an episode of "Star Trek: Voyager" involving something called "Chaotic Space," where the laws of physics do not apply. We agreed that "Armageddon" apparently takes place right in the middle of this.

For one thing, EVERYTHING is explosive. Everything. A space shuttle drops off an unneeded rocket? Boom. A meteor hits the ground in New York? Kablammo! I got the feeling that in this movie, a fire extinguisher could fall into a swimming pool and erupt into flames.

Also, the vacuum of space seems to have no effect whatsoever on people. You'd think that if someone got sucked out into space where there's no pressure, they'd explode, right? Nope, not here. Zero atmosphere is just fine and dandy for John Q. Public, it is.

Gravity also seems to kind of adjust itself depending on the situation. When Our Heroes land on the asteroid to try to break it in half (itself a very unlikely feat), they supposedly wear space suits with special rocket things to keep them from floating away because of the diminished gravity. However, people inside the space shuttle, wearing standard clothes, move, run, and jump as if on Earth. Plus, there's the fact that Russia has apparently invented artificial gravity, but more on that when we discuss the plot.

Another bothersome point is the music. It's not particularly bad, but it's like music in so many other action movies -- forgettable. For all I know there could be four pieces of music (indicating action, drama, tension, and happiness) that are recycled because no one remembers nor cares about them. The only song on here that somewhat stands out is that Aerosmith one because, well, because it sounds like Aerosmith and not some guy banging on a synthesizer.

The special effects were good, of course, and it was pretty cool to see France get blown up. But I would've settled for worse effects if they spent that money instead on, I dunno, someone who passed 9th grade science to advise them.

Ok, now the plot. We start out with a space shuttle getting struck by meteors and, of course, blowing up. Apparently said space shuttle didn't have any sort of radar or whatnot to make sure it didn't get blown up, or even have someone inside looking out the window at the time. Isn't that reassuring? The space program, according to Armageddon, isn't aware of something ten feet away from its shuttles at any given time.

Anyways, more meteors fall, we get to see New York get blown up. Some NASA guys decide that the only way to stop the big asteroid that's approaching is to drill down 800 feet, plant a nuke, and this will of course split it into two pieces and send it harmlessly away from Earth, scientific facts notwithstanding.

Now we get a scene wherein Bruce Willis, a grizzled oil drilling guy, catches one of his workers, played by one of those young male actors I can never tell apart, with his daughter, Liv Tyler. He takes the most prudent course of action, which is to attempt to kill the worker. Basically, we're treated to an overly long scene that sets up what passes for characterization until some military guys show up and tell Bruce they need his help.

It turns out that the government wants to use a drilling machine that Willis invented, but they just couldn't seem to get it working. He has to fix the machine and then train some stereotypical astronaut characters (well, not really characters...they don't talk or even move at all in the movie) about how to use it. Instead, in the movie's next Improbable Plot Point, he convinces them to let his drilling crew go into space with him and save everyone.

Following is a long sequence in which they prepare for the mission. Contained within are a number of unsubtle jokes that scream "Hey! I'm funny!" more than they actually cause laughter.

Finally they blast off (using a site specially prepared for dual shuttle launches -- what's that? -- of course we have a site like that!). They have to dock at Russian Space Station Mir (called "Russian Space Station" for short) to refuel or something. Here is where we learn an important fact about Armageddon: nothing can ever go right. I mean, we all know that you can't have a plot without conflict, but it's piled on so heavily in here that it makes you wonder how we ever got a man on the moon in the first place without accidentally setting off a nuke or something. Something goes wrong in the space station, causing an Action Scene. There are a lot of explosions, and a Russian guy joins the crew.

Oh yeah, there's an interesting scientific fact during the space station scene. As I mentioned earlier, Russia apparently has artificial gravity capabilities. When the shuttles arrive, the Russian guy presses a button, and suddenly there's gravity. My guess is that they invented it using the extra money saved from not doing zero-G special effects.

Anyways, the shuttles leave the station and make it to the moon. It's of course taken them maybe an hour tops, ignoring the fact that it took the Apollo missions several days to get there. They slingshot around the moon and travel back in time to recover some whales -- wait, wrong movie. They slingshot around the moon and come up behind the Big Asteroid. Another problem occurs when one of the shuttles gets hit by a bunch of little groupie asteroids and crashes. The other shuttle lands, and they start drilling.

We soon find out that, lo and behold, people survived the shuttle crash! It just happened to land on the asteroid, didn't explode on contact (gasp!), and had survivors. They are the Russian guy, the guy that Bruce Willis doesn't like, and some other guy who doesn't really do anything special. They take the drilling machine, shoot through the side of the shuttle (of course it has a gun!), and start driving off towards the other shuttle. They can't see the other shuttle, they have no idea where it is, but they manage to drive in the right direction anyways.

The drilling, of course, hits a snag. They're not down deep enough fast enough, so the military decides on Plan B, which is to detonate the nuke right where it is and kill everyone. This is a movie, so the military is completely evil and doesn't care about the fact that detonating it where it is won't break up the asteroid. But after some moments of tension, Our Heroes convince one of the real astronauts there to disable the bomb.

Meanwhile, the three guys from the crashed shuttle are making their way back when they come to -- more problems! This one is in the form of a large canyon. To cross, they turn off the jets which keep them on the ground and jump the canyon with the drilling machine. Except, when they get back across, guess what? The jets won't start again! But they get them working, just in time.

Some more stuff happens, guys from the other shuttle show up, and they finally dig down far enough and unload the nuke. But -- guess what -- the remote detonator is broken! Someone has to stay behind to blow it up! They draw straws, and the guy whose name I still don't remember gets picked. When he's about to leave Bruce Willis cuts his air hose, throws him back in, and takes the detonator himself, proving that he's Not Such a Bad Guy.

Back down on Earth, Liv Tyler does some Genuine Acting.

Finally, they blow up the asteroid and return home. But for some reason, I didn't really care.

This movie is a pretty good bad movie because of the preposterousness of it all. I recommend it especially to experts on oil drilling, astrophysics, because it'll probably be a lot funnier to them.

Scene to watch for: Bruce Willis going mad with a shotgun.

Best line: "Bring back 8-track tapes? You probably can't do that, huh?"

Things that make you go "Huh?": The shuttle lands on an area of "Iron Ferrite." Doesn't Ferrite mean iron, too?

Response From RinkWorks:

Ugh. I *hated* this movie, and I'm more lenient than most critic/Internet types toward big summer action flicks. The shotgun scene on the oil rig is one of the most excruciating bad movie scenes I've ever sat through, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. It was just ridiculous. The actors didn't sell it at all. My peeve about the Russian Space Station part is that it was so sloppily edited, with so much screaming and shrieking, that it's basically impossible to tell exactly what's going on. I *loathe* this movie. Everything about it is false. When Liv Tyler greets her boyfriend at the end, she didn't even seem to care that she just lost her father -- the two of them were just grinning ear to ear. And you're right about the stupid one-liners. They were awful, and they just kept coming, one right after another. Aargh! I hate it! I'm going to stop before I work myself into a *real* lather.

-- Sam.

Provided you don't try to hold your breath, you can survive a few minutes in vacuum without major irreparable damage. You'll get the bends from the "explosive" decompression, and of course you won't be able to breathe, which means you'll get irreversible brain damange after more than three to five minutes and will eventually die from asphyxiation. However, the common SF myth of people exploding violently when exposed to a vacuum just isn't true. The biggest danger, in fact, is from the totally unscreened exposure to the sun you're likely to receive. After less than a minute of exposure you'll have the worst sunburn of your life. Also, the sun-exposed side of you will quickly heat up to some ungodly temperature rather quickly, while the shaded side of you will (more slowly) cool down to the background temperature of around 4 Kelvin. However, since a vacuum is such a bad conductor of heat, you'll actually retain your internal body temperature longer than you would if you were submerged in everyday ice water.

If you're exposed to direct sunlight in a total vacuum, you'll fry rather quickly unless you are also rotating to keep one side of you from pointing at the sun continually. You'll still fry eventually, although if you're rotating, you stand a better chance of living at least as long as you would when normally deprived of air.

If you're in the shade of a ship or a planet, however, you'll actually be able to survive a lot longer in total vacuum than most people expect. Under optimal conditions, you could survive for as long as five minutes, and with some luck, you wouldn't even be a vegetable afterwards.

This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not _Armageddon_ is a good movie. I suspect, from what I've heard, that it is not, even if they *did* manage to avoid the "humans exploding in space" cliche'.

Ok, that's your science lesson for today.

-- Dave

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