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 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
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.
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.