There's something about some of the big effects films from the '90's that's sort of charming. Films like "Twister" and "Armageddon", while certainly not great cinema, don't claim to be anything more than popcorn fun and embrace their ridiculousness. "Armageddon", where the United States government asks a bunch of oil drillers to save the world from a giant asteroid, is a huge, slick chunk of ridiculousness from director Michael Bay.
The film opens with an asteroid shower causing massive destruction in New York City and elsewhere around the globe. As NASA quickly realizes, the meteor shower is only a trailer for the main attraction: a giant asteroid that, if it were to strike the Earth, would cause total and complete devastation. The idea from a NASA scientist: send a team of oil drillers, lead by Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) up to the asteroid in order to drill into the asteroid and blow it up before it reaches Earth.
The first half of the movie remains the biggest concern, as while it's moderately entertaining at times, the film spends an unnecessary amount of time developing the characters and watching as the characters go through training. A good 15-20 minutes taken out of the first 90 would have certainly helped the pacing of the film.
Over 10 years later, I still find that the second half of the film works quite well as epic popcorn entertainment. The shuttle sequences are tense, well-staged and visually exciting, as are the terrific sequences on the asteroid. While the movie is over a decade old, the visual effects, production design and other visual elements still hold up reasonably well.
The performances aren't among the best efforts of any of the cast, although the characters - especially some of the supporting characters - are one-dimensional. Willis plays the part fine, although the role doesn't require very much. The same can be said for Steve Buscemi, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton and Liv Tyler.
Still, "Armageddon" remains above-average popcorn entertainment, delivering loud, aggressive action sequences and solid visual effects.
VIDEO: "Armageddon" is presented by Touchstone Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC). The Blu-Ray presentation is a fine upgrade over the prior DVD edition/s of the film, delivering a rock-solid visual experience. Sharpness and detail are mostly stellar, with only a few minor instances of slight softness.
The presentation did show a couple of slight moments of edge enhancement, but the presentation otherwise appeared pristine, with no pixelation and only a few tiny print flaws. Colors looked bold and bright, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other faults. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate and natural.
SOUND: The film is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 by Buena Vista Home Entertainment. This is simply a thunderous sound mix, with tremendous bass and punchy, well-recorded effects. Surrounds kick into gear frequently, delivering a remarkably enveloping experience, especially in the scenes on the asteroid in the second half of the film. Audio quality is terrific, with clear effects, full score and crisp dialogue.
EXTRAS: A pair of trailers for the film, a music video and previews for other titles from the studio. None of the Criterion Edition extras have been included for the Blu-Ray release.
Final Thoughts: Still, "Armageddon" remains above-average popcorn entertainment, delivering loud, aggressive action sequences and solid visual effects. The Blu-Ray edition offers next-to-no extras, but improved audio/video quality. Recommended.
The Film B