Armageddon vs. Deep Impact

Armageddon would have us believe that NASA in all its astronomical wisdom can’t get the job done because they’re too far detached from “common sense.”

To all those around me who often say, “I really loved that brainless action movie,” allow me to humbly illuminate the finer points of suckitude in just such a candidate: Armageddon. First of all, this was indeed a much different movie than Deep Impact. Let me start by comparing those responsible for each film.

The Men Behind The Curtains


Armageddon (July 1, 1998)

Release Date: July 1, 1998
Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler
Genres: Action, Thriller, Science Fiction, Adventure
Runtime: 151 min
Original Title: Armageddon
Original Film Language: English
Production Companies: Touchstone Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Valhalla Motion Pictures
When an asteroid threatens to collide with Earth, NASA honcho Dan Truman determines the only way to stop it is to drill into its surface and detonate a nuclear bomb. This leads him to renowned driller Harry Stamper, who agrees to helm the dangerous space mission provided he can bring along his own hotshot crew. Among them is the cocksure A.J. who Harry thinks isn't good enough for his daughter, until the mission proves otherwise.

Cast Armageddon

  • Bruce Willis
  • Role: Harry S. Stamper
  • Billy Bob Thornton
  • Role: Dan Truman, NASA Administrator
  • Ben Affleck
  • Role: A.J. Frost
  • Liv Tyler
  • Role: Grace Stamper
  • Will Patton
  • Role: Charles 'Chick' Chapple
  • Steve Buscemi
  • Role: Rockhound
  • William Fichtner
  • Role: Colonel William Sharp, Shuttle Freedom Pilot
  • Michael Clarke Duncan
  • Role: Jayotis 'Bear' Kurleenbear
  • Peter Stormare
  • Role: Lev Andropov, Russian Cosmonaut
  • Owen Wilson
  • Role: Oscar Choi
  • Ken Hudson Campbell
  • Role: Max
  • Jessica Steen
  • Role: Co-Pilot Jennifer Watts
  • Chris Ellis
  • Role: Flight Director Clark
  • Keith David
  • Role: General Kimsey
  • Jason Isaacs
  • Role: Ronald Quincy
  • Marshall R. Teague
  • Role: Colonel Davis
  • J. Patrick McCormack
  • Role: General Boffer
  • Ian Quinn
  • Role: Astronaut Pete Shelby
  • Charlton Heston
  • Role: Narrator
  • Eddie Griffin
  • Role: Bike Messenger
  • Sage Allen
  • Role: Max's Mom
  • Grace Zabriskie
  • Role: Dottie
  • Grayson McCouch
  • Role: Gruber
  • Clark Heathcliffe Brolly
  • Role: Noonan
  • Greg Collins
  • Role: Halsey
  • John Mahon
  • Role: Karl
  • K.C. Leomiti
  • Role: Samoan
  • Stanley Anderson
  • Role: President
  • James Harper
  • Role: Admiral Kelso
  • Harry Humphries
  • Role: Chuck Jr.
  • Ellen Cleghorne
  • Role: Helga the Nurse
  • Udo Kier
  • Role: Psychologist
  • Anthony Guidera
  • Role: Co-Pilot Tucker
  • Dyllan Christopher
  • Role: Tommy
  • Judith Hoag
  • Role: Denise
  • Deborah Nishimura
  • Role: Client #1
  • Albert Wong
  • Role: Client #2
  • Jim Ishida
  • Role: Client #3
  • John Aylward
  • Role: Dr. Banks
  • Mark Curry
  • Role: Stu the Cabbie
  • Seiko Matsuda
  • Role: Asian Tourist - Female
  • Steven Ford
  • Role: Nuke Tech
  • Christian Clemenson
  • Role: Droning Guy
  • Shawnee Smith
  • Role: Redhead
  • Bodhi Elfman
  • Role: Math Guy
  • Dina Morrone
  • Role: Italian Newscaster
  • Patrick Lander
  • Role: British Newscaster
  • Brian Mulligan
  • Role: Dr. Nerd
  • Patrick Richwood
  • Role: Dr. Nerd
  • Frank Van Keeken
  • Role: NASA Planner #1
  • Googy Gress
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Frederick Weller
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Jeff Austin
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Matt Malloy
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • H. Richard Greene
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Brian Brophy
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Peter Murnik
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Brian Hayes Currie
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Andy Milder
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Michael Kaplan
  • Role: NASA Techs
  • Duke Valenti
  • Role: Roughneck #1
  • Michael Taliferro
  • Role: Roughneck #2
  • Billy Devlin
  • Role: Roughneck #3
  • Michele Edison
  • Role: NASA Techs (uncredited)
  • Michael Bay
  • Role: NASA Scientist (uncredited)
  • Mary Ann Schmidt
  • Role: Injured Girl (uncredited)
  • Judi Beecher
  • Role: Presidential Cabinet Member (uncredited)

Trailer Armageddon

Armageddon was produced mainly by Jerry Bruckheimer and it shows. Bruckheimer, a long-time contract producer does his job well: make summer blockbusters for mass consumption (although target audiences would seem to be predominately male). His track record tells the tale with:

Scripts aren’t really his main concern. Helping him in that area is writer Jonathan Hensleigh, who wrote such forgettables like The Rock and The Saint


Deep Impact (May 8, 1998)

Release Date: May 8, 1998
Starring: Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave
Genres: Action, Drama, Romance
Runtime: 120 min
Original Title: Deep Impact
Original Film Language: English
Production Companies: Paramount, Zanuck/Brown Productions, Manhattan Project, DreamWorks Pictures
A seven-mile-wide space rock is hurtling toward Earth, threatening to obliterate the planet. Now, it's up to the president of the United States to save the world. He appoints a tough-as-nails veteran astronaut to lead a joint American-Russian crew into space to destroy the comet before impact. Meanwhile, an enterprising reporter uses her smarts to uncover the scoop of the century.

Cast Deep Impact

  • Robert Duvall
  • Role: Capt. Spurgeon 'Fish' Tanner
  • Téa Leoni
  • Role: Jenny Lerner
  • Elijah Wood
  • Role: Leo Biederman
  • Vanessa Redgrave
  • Role: Robin Lerner
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Role: President Tom Beck
  • Maximilian Schell
  • Role: Jason Lerner
  • Leelee Sobieski
  • Role: Sarah Hotchner
  • James Cromwell
  • Role: Alan Rittenhouse
  • Jon Favreau
  • Role: Gus Partenza
  • Laura Innes
  • Role: Beth Stanley
  • Mary McCormack
  • Role: Andrea Baker
  • Richard Schiff
  • Role: Don Biederman
  • Blair Underwood
  • Role: Mark Simon
  • Charles Martin Smith
  • Role: Dr. Marcus Wolf (uncredited)
  • Una Damon
  • Role: Marianne Duclos
  • Dougray Scott
  • Role: Eric Vennekor
  • Derek de Lint
  • Role: Theo Van Sertema
  • Suzy Nakamura
  • Role: Jenny's Assistant
  • Alimi Ballard
  • Role: Bobby Rhue
  • W. Earl Brown
  • Role: McCloud
  • Denise Crosby
  • Role: Vicky Hotchner
  • Jason Dohring
  • Role: Jason
  • Tucker Smallwood
  • Role: Ivan Brodsky
  • Mike O'Malley
  • Role: Mike Perry
  • Kurtwood Smith
  • Role: Otis Hefter
  • Ron Eldard
  • Role: Oren Monash
  • Merrin Dungey
  • Role: Sheila Bradley

Trailer Deep Impact

Impact on the other hand was produced in part by Steven Spielberg. I need not credit his talent, except to say his production list is roughly 10 times the length of Bruckheimer’s. The script was provided by Bruce Joel Rubin, whose work include My Life, Ghost, and Jacob’s Ladder. You can see the emotional caliber at work here, as well as the contrast to its overly testosterone counterpart. Even the film scores show amazing contrasts. Impact was done by James Horner, whose resume includes the worn out Titanic and Legends Of The Fall. Meanwhile, Armageddon‘s Trevor Rabin has only done three other films of which include the very male Con Air and The Glimmer Man.

I suppose one could make the claim that Impact is the more “female” film and Armageddon the masculine, but I hesitate to make such a sexist analogy. If that were so, then I have problems of my own.

All of this background info (in my humble opinion) points to one simple conclusion: depth. And Armageddon‘s lack thereof. Allow me to delve.

Character Flaws

About the only substance I came away with was an overwhelming sense of irreverence. That’s right. It’s very popular right now to depict authority figures as grossly incompetent idiots. Willis and his team of bumbling deep-core drilling experts somehow have the exclusive knowledge to save mankind, while knowing more about space flight than NASA. The point is a pedantic one, i.e., NASA in all its astronomical wisdom can’t get the job done because they’re too far detached from “common sense.” Now the drillers, they represent the common man and the common sense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not gonna defend the government, but this is just such a tired ploy of seducing a middle-class audience.

Let me cite a specific example. Willis’ soon-to-be son-in-law Ben Affleck is seen early on in NASA training running a drilling device well beyond the limits of the machine. The simulation terminates and he gets yelled at by Willis, who in this case represents the authority. In the conclusion of the movie (don’t worry, there’s not much to “ruin” by reading this), he’s of course (surprise) in the exact same situation on the asteroid, drilling the machine to its imminent breakdown. Again, Willis tells him to back down before he gets himself killed. This is years of experience talking. Affleck, much like a rebellious teen, retorts, “For once in your life, would you just trust me? I know what I’m doing!”

The message is subtle, I know, but it’s there: despite your qualification and experience, I want you to trust me and my instinct. And what should happen to young Affleck? The kid somehow saves the day. Rebellion overthrows authority. Audience cheers.

I was reminded of Will Smith’s Jay in Men in Black, yet without the comic relief that made his attitude forgiveable.

Other serious character flaws were that of “Rockhound” played by Steve Buscemi. This character is allegedly a genius: published at 19, two doctorate degrees, etc. Great, so this guy should provide some real insight and credibility to the rest of the otherwise ragtag group, right? Wrong. He’s nothing if not obnoxious, his only tidbits of wisdom being one-liners every other 10 minutes. In fact, he endangered the entire crew and they finally have to tape him to a chair to prevent him from killing everyone. Whatever.

As far as Bruce’s “sincere” crying scene… sheesh.

If you ask me, Bruckheimer should just stick to his guns (no pun intended) and forgo attempts at emotionalism and character development. Leave that to Spielberg.

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