ⓘ Armageddon (1998 film)

Armageddon (1998 film)

ⓘ Armageddon (1998 film)

Armageddon is a 1998 American science fiction disaster film produced and directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and released by Touchstone Pictures. The film follows a group of blue-collar deep-core drillers sent by NASA to stop a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It stars Bruce Willis and an ensemble cast comprising Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, William Fichtner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Keith David, and Steve Buscemi.

Though the film was released to mostly negative reviews, it was an international box-office success, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide, although astronomers noted that the similar disaster film Deep Impact was more scientifically accurate.


1. Plot

A massive meteor shower destroys the orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis, before entering the atmosphere and bombarding New York City. NASA discovers that the meteors were pushed out of the asteroid belt by a Texas-sized asteroid that will impact the Earth in 18 days, causing an extinction level event that will wipe out all life on the planet. NASA scientists plan to drill a deep shaft into the asteroid and plant a nuclear weapon into it that, when detonated, will split the asteroid into two halves that will fly safely past Earth. NASA contacts Harry Stamper, considered the best deep sea oil driller in the world, for assistance. Harry departs for Houston with his daughter Grace, where they are told about the asteroid and Harry agrees to participate in the mission, but explains that he will need his team as well, including Chick, Rockhound, Max, Oscar, Bear, Noonan and Graces lover A.J. They also agree to help, but only after their unusual list of demands are met.

As NASA puts Harry and his crew through 12 days of rigorous astronaut training at the Johnson Space Center, Harry and his team re-outfit the mobile drillers, named "Armadillos", they will use on the asteroid. When a piece of the asteroid wipes out part of Shanghai, NASA is forced to reveal their plans to the world. Two advanced Space Shuttles, called Freedom and Independence, are launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once in orbit, the shuttles dock with the Russian space station Mir manned by Lev Andropov to refuel. A fire breaks out during the fuel transfer and the station is evacuated before it explodes, with Lev and A. J. making a narrow escape. 60 hours later the shuttles slingshot around the far side of the Moon to land on the rear of the asteroid. As they travel through the asteroids debris field, Independence s hull is punctured and crashes, with most of its crew killed. Grace, watching from Mission Control, is distraught by A.J.s apparent death.

Freedom lands safely, but misses the target area, meaning the team must now drill through a thicker crust of compressed iron ferrite. When they fall behind schedule and communications threaten to fail, the military initiates "Secondary Protocol"; to remotely detonate the weapon on the asteroids surface. As this would be ineffective, NASA executive Dan Truman and his team delays the military at Mission Control, while Harry persuades the shuttle commander Colonel Sharp and bomb specialist Gruber to disarm the bomb so they can complete the drilling. After the mission is resumed, the Freedom Armadillo strikes a methane gas pocket and is blown into space, killing Max. With the mission presumed lost, worldwide panic ensues and martial law is declared in many countries, just before another meteorite destroys Paris. However, A.J., Lev, and Bear, having survived the Independence crash, arrive in Independence s Armadillo in time to complete the drilling.

As the asteroid approaches Earth, the surviving crew is struck by a rock storm, which kills Gruber and damages the bombs remote trigger, meaning someone must stay behind to detonate it manually. After the non-flight crew draw straws, A.J. is selected. As he and Harry exit the airlock, Harry rips off A.J.s air hose and shoves him back inside, telling him he is the son he never had and would be proud to have him marry Grace. Before preparing to detonate the bomb, Harry contacts Grace to say his last goodbyes. After the Freedom moves to a safe distance, Harry successfully pushes the button at the last second, detonating the nuclear weapon and splitting the asteroid in two at the cost of his own life. Both halves safely fly past Earth. Freedom lands, and the surviving crew return as heroes. Sometime later A.J. and Grace are married, with portraits of Harry and the other lost crew members present in memoriam.


2. Production

In May 1998, Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth expanded the films budget by $3 million to include additional special effects scenes. This additional footage, incorporated two months prior to the films release, was specifically added for the television advertising campaign to differentiate the film from Deep Impact which was released a few months before.

According to Bruce Joel Rubin, writer of Deep Impact, a production president at Disney took notes on everything the writer said during lunch about his script and initiated Armageddon as a counter film at Disney.

Nine writers worked on the script, five of whom are credited. In addition to Robert Roy Pool, Jonathan Hensleigh, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno and J.J. Abrams, the writers involved included Paul Attanasio, Ann Biderman, Scott Rosenberg and Robert Towne. Originally, it was Hensleighs script, based on Pools original, that had been given the green-light by Touchstone. Then-producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, hired the succession of scribes for rewrites and polishes.


3.1. Release Home media

Despite a mixed critical reception, a DVD edition of Armageddon was released by The Criterion Collection, a specialist film distributor of primarily arthouse films that markets what it considers to be "important classic and contemporary films" and "cinema at its finest". In an essay supporting the selection of Armageddon, film scholar Jeanine Basinger, who taught Michael Bay at Wesleyan University, states that the film is "a work of art by a cutting-edge artist who is a master of movement, light, color, and shape - and also of chaos, razzle-dazzle, and explosion". She sees it as a celebration of working men: "This film makes these ordinary men noble, lifting their efforts up into an epic event." Further, she states that in the first few moments of the film all the main characters are well established, saying, "If that isnt screenwriting, I dont know what is".

The film was also released on VHS and DVD by Touchstone Home Video on November 13, 1998, and would surpass Pretty Woman to become Buena Vista Home Entertainments best-selling live-action title. The film was released on a standard edition Blu-ray disc in 2010 with only a few special features.


3.2. Release Space Shuttle Columbia disaster

Following the 2003 Columbia disaster, some screen captures from the opening scene where Atlantis is destroyed were passed off as satellite images of the disaster in a hoax. Additionally, the American cable network FX, which had intended to broadcast Armageddon that evening, removed the film from its schedule and aired Aliens in its place.


4.1. Reception Box office

Armageddon was released on July 1, 1998 in 3.127 theaters in the United States and Canada. It ranked first at the box office with an opening weekend gross of $36 million. It grossed $201.6 million in the United States and Canada and $352.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $553.7 million.


4.2. Reception Critical response

Armageddon received mostly negative reviews from film critics, many of whom took issue with "the furious pace of its editing". On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 38% "Rotten" approval rating based on 121 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The critical consensus states, "Lovely to look at but about as intelligent as the asteroid that serves as the movies antagonist, Armageddon slickly sums up the cinematic legacies of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.

The film is on the list of Roger Eberts most hated films. In his original review, Ebert stated, "The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained". On Siskel and Ebert, Ebert gave it a Thumbs Down. However, his co-host Gene Siskel gave it a Thumbs Up. Ebert went on to name Armageddon as the worst film of 1998 though he was originally considering Spice World. Todd McCarthy of Variety also gave the film a negative review, noting Michael Bays rapid cutting style: "Much of the confusion, as well as the lack of dramatic rhythm or character development, results directly from Bays cutting style, which resembles a machine gun stuck in the firing position for 2​ 1 ⁄ 2 hours." In April 2013, in a Miami Herald interview to promote Pain & Gain, Bay was quoted as having said:

.We had to do the whole movie in 16 weeks. It was a massive undertaking. That was not fair to the movie. I would redo the entire third act if I could. But the studio literally took the movie away from us. It was terrible. My visual effects supervisor had a nervous breakdown, so I had to be in charge of that. I called James Cameron and asked "What do you do when youre doing all the effects yourself?" But the movie did fine.

Some time after the article was published, Bay changed his stance, claiming that his apology only related to the editing of the film, not the whole film, and accused the writer of the article for taking his words out of context. The author of the article, Miami Herald writer Rene Rodriguez claimed: "NBC asked me for a response, and I played them the tape. I didnt misquote anyone. All the sites that picked up the story did."


4.3. Reception Scientific accuracy

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bay admitted that the films central premise "that NASA could actually do something in a situation like this" was unrealistic. However, the largest known Potentially Hazardous Asteroid PHA is 53319 1999 JM8 which is actually only 7 km in diameter. Additionally, near the end of the credits, there is a disclaimer stating, "The National Aeronautics and Space Administrations cooperation and assistance does not reflect an endorsement of the contents of the film or the treatment of the characters depicted therein."

The infeasibility of the H-bomb approach was published by four postgraduate physics students in 2011 and then reported by The Daily Telegraph in 2012:

A mathematical analysis of the situation found that for Williss approach to be effective, he would need to be in possession of an H-bomb a billion times stronger than the Soviet Unions "Big Ivan", the biggest ever detonated on Earth. Using estimates of the asteroids size, density, speed and distance from Earth based on information in the film, the postgraduate students from Leicester University found that to split the asteroid in two, with both pieces clearing Earth, would require 800 trillion terajoules of energy. In contrast, the total energy output of "Big Ivan", which was tested by the Soviet Union in 1961, was only 418.000 terajoules.

In the commentary track, Ben Affleck says he "asked Michael why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers, and he told me to shut the fuck up, so that was the end of that talk."


4.4. Reception Accolades

The film received four Academy Award nominations at the 71st Academy Awards, for Best Sound Kevin OConnell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Original Song "I Dont Want to Miss a Thing" performed by Aerosmith. The film received the Saturn Awards for Best Direction and Best Science Fiction Film where it tied with Dark City. It was also nominated for seven Razzie Awards including: Worst Actor Bruce Willis, Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actress Liv Tyler, Worst Screen Couple Tyler and Ben Affleck and Worst Original Song. Only one Razzie was awarded: Bruce Willis received the Worst Actor award for Armageddon, in addition to his appearances in Mercury Rising and The Siege, both released in the same year as this film.


5. Merchandising

Revell and Monogram released two model kits inspired by the films spacecraft and the Armadillos, in 1998. The first one, "Space Shuttle with Armadillo drilling unit", included an X-71, a small, rough Armadillo and a pedestal. The second one, "Russian Space Center", included the Mir, with the docking adapter seen in the film, and another pedestal.

In 2011, Fantastic Plastic released another X-71 kit, the "X-71 Super Shuttle", the goal of which was to be more accurate than the Revell/Monogram kit.


6. Theme park attraction

Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux was an attraction based on Armageddon at Walt Disney Studios Park located at Disneyland Paris. The attraction simulated the scene in the movie in which the Russian Space Station is destroyed. Michael Clarke Duncan "Bear" in the film was featured in the pre-show.

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