Armageddon (1998)

Movie


Armageddon (1998)

Due to a shuttle's unfortunate demise in outer space, NASA becomes aware of a doomsday asteroid that is on a collision course with Earth. It seems that the only way to knock it off course is to drill into its surface and detonate a nuclear weapon. But as NASA's under-funded yet resourceful team train the world's best drillers for the job, the social order of the world begins to break down as the information reaches the public and hysteria results. As high-ranking officials play politics with the effort, the drilling team all faces deep personal issues which may jeopardize humanity's last chance...
USA
IMDb   6.7 /10
Metacritic   42 %
TheMovieDb    6.8 /10
RottenTomatoes  38 %
FilmAffinity   5.7 /10
Information
Release Date1998-07-01
Runtime2h 31mins
GenreAction, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Content RatingPG-13 (PG-13)
AwardsNominated for 4 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 36 nominations.
CompanyTouchstone Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Valhalla Motion Pictures
CountryUSA
LanguageEnglish, Russian, Indonesian
Harry S. Stamper
Grace Stamper
Colonel Willie Sharp
Max (as Ken Campbell)
Co-Pilot Jennifer Watts
General Kimsey
Flight Director Clark
Ronald Quincy

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 with Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, William Fichtner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Keith David, and Steve Buscemi.

Despite international box-office success, and becoming the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide, the film received generally unfavorable reviews. Astronomers noted that the similar disaster film Deep Impact was more scientifically accurate.


Plot

After a massive meteor shower destroys the Space Shuttle Atlantis, NASA scientists discover they have eighteen days before an asteroid the size of Texas impacts Earth, destroying all planetary life. NASA executive Dan Truman leads a team which devises a plan to have the world's best deep core oil driller train a group of astronauts to drill a hole into the asteroid into which they will insert and detonate a nuclear bomb to split the asteroid in half.

They recruit Harry Stamper, a third generation oil driller and owner of his own oil drilling company. Harry agrees to help NASA, but on the condition that he bring in his own team to do the drilling. He picks his best employees for the job: Chick, his best friend and right-hand man, drillers Bear, Fred Noonan, Max, and A.J. Frost, who has been dating Harry's daughter Grace over Harry’s objections, and geologists Rockhound and Oscar. Over 12 days, they train with skeptical professional astronaut Willie Sharp, who will pilot Freedom, one of the two shuttles to fly to the asteroid, the other being the Independence. Before leaving, Chick apologizes to his ex-wife for wronging her and Grace accepts A.J.’s marriage proposal.

Both shuttles take off without incident and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir to take on the necessary fuel for the continued journey to the asteroid. During fueling, a spark ignites fuel from a leaky fuel line, causing a fire. A.J. and Russian Cosmonaut Lev Andropov are nearly killed, but manage to get on board the Independence before the space station is destroyed.

On approach to their landing site on the asteroid, the hull of the Independence is irreparably damaged and the shuttle crashes. The Freedom crew assumes all on board are killed, but Lev, Bear, and A.J. survive. They embark in the shuttle’s Armadillo to find the Freedom crew, which landed 26 miles from its intended landing site on a plate of iron ferrite. When the drilling goes slower than predicted, Sharp reports to Mission Control that it is unlikely that Harry and his team will reach the depth necessary to split the asteroid before "Zero Barrier", the point after which the two halves of the asteroid would impact Earth. Even though it might cause the whole mission to fail, the President decides to remote detonate the bomb from Earth. After a vicious argument where Sharp calls Harry’s team the worst mistake in NASA history, the two men agree to defuse the bomb and work together. They make progress on drilling, but when they hit a hydrogen pocket, Max and the Armadillo are lost. Just as Harry, Truman, and the world believe the mission to be a failure, A.J. and the others arrive in the second Armadillo.

A.J. succeeds in drilling the hole to the required depth, but a rock storm damages the remote detonator, forcing someone to have to stay behind to manually detonate the bomb. After randomly drawing straws, the responsibility falls on A.J. Harry takes him down to the asteroid’s surface where he disconnects A.J.’s air hose and forces him into the shuttle’s air lock. Harry tells A.J. he is the son he never had and that he would be proud to have him marry Grace. A.J. tearfully begs Harry to let him detonate the bomb, but relents and tells Harry he loves him as he ascends back into the shuttle. Using the armadillo, Harry gives Grace his blessing to marry A.J. and Grace says she is proud to be his daughter.

After some difficulty, Freedom takes off, but another rock storm causes Harry to lose his grip on the detonator. Just before Zero Barrier, Harry detonates the bomb saving the planet. NASA and the world rejoice while Truman comforts Grace. The astronauts land back on Earth safely: A.J. and Grace are reunited and Chick reconciles with his ex-wife and estranged young son.


Cast

  • Bruce Willis as Harry S. Stamper
  • Billy Bob Thornton as Dan Truman
  • Ben Affleck as A.J. Frost
  • Liv Tyler as Grace Stamper
  • Will Patton as Chick
  • Steve Buscemi as Rockhound
  • William Fichtner as Colonel Willie Sharp
  • Owen Wilson as Oscar
  • Michael Clarke Duncan as Bear
  • Peter Stormare as Lev Andropov
  • Ken Campbell as Max
  • Jessica Steen as Co-Pilot Jennifer Watts
  • Keith David as General Kimsey
  • Chris Ellis as Flight Director Clark
  • Jason Isaacs as Ronald Quincy
  • Grayson McCouch as Gruber
  • Clark Brolly as Noonan
  • Marshall Teague as Colonel Davis
  • Anthony Guidera as Co-Pilot Tucker
  • Greg Collins as Halsey
  • John Mahon as Karl
  • Grace Zabriskie as Dottie
  • Eddie Griffin as Bike Messenger
  • Jim Ishida as Client #3
  • Stanley Anderson as The President
  • Narration by Charlton Heston

Production

In May 1998, Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth expanded the film's budget by $3 million to include additional special effects scenes. This additional footage, incorporated two months prior to the film's 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 Hensleigh's script, based on Pool's original, that had been given the green-light by Touchstone. Then-producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, hired the succession of scribes for rewrites and polishes.


Release

Marketing

Prior to Armageddon's release, the film was advertised in Super Bowl XXXII at a cost of $2.6 million.

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 isn't screenwriting, I don't 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 Entertainment's best-selling live-action title. The film was released on a standard edition Blu-ray in 2010 with only a few special features.

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.


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. It was the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide and the second-highest-grossing film of that year in the United States, finishing just behind Saving Private Ryan.

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 movie's 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 Ebert's 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 Bay's rapid cutting style: "Much of the confusion, as well as the lack of dramatic rhythm or character development, results directly from Bay's cutting style, which resembles a machine gun stuck in the firing position for 21⁄2 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 you're 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 didn't misquote anyone. All the sites that picked up the story did."

Scientific accuracy

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bay admitted that the film's central premise "that NASA could actually do something in a situation like this" was unrealistic. Additionally, the largest known Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) is (53319) 1999 JM8, which is only 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) in diameter, while the comet in the movie is described as being "the size of Texas". Near the end of the credits, there is a disclaimer stating, "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's 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 Willis's approach to be effective, he would need to be in possession of an H-bomb a billion times stronger than the Soviet Union's "Big Ivan", the biggest ever detonated on Earth. Using estimates of the asteroid's 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."

Accolades

The film received four Academy Award nominations at the 71st Academy Awards, for Best Sound (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester), Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Original Song ("I Don't 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.

AwardCategoryWinner/NomineeResultRef.
Academy AwardsBest Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing")Diane WarrenNominated
Best SoundKevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. WesterNominated
Best Sound Effects EditingGeorge Watters IINominated
Best Visual EffectsRichard R. Hoover, Patrick McClung and John FrazierNominated
Awards of the Japanese AcademyOutstanding Foreign Language FilmArmageddonNominated
ASCAP Film and Television Music AwardsMost Performed Songs from a Motion PictureDiane WarrenWon
Blockbuster Entertainment AwardsFavorite Actor - Sci-FiBruce WillisWon
Favorite Actress - Sci-FiLiv TylerNominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Sci-FiBen AffleckWon
Billy Bob ThorntonNominated
Favorite SoundtrackTrevor Rabin and Harry Gregson-WilliamsNominated
BMI Film & TV AwardsBest MusicTrevor RabinWon
Cinema Audio Society AwardsOutstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Feature FilmKevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. WesterNominated
1999 Grammy AwardsBest Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for TelevisionDiane WarrenNominated
19th Golden Raspberry AwardsWorst ActorBruce WillisWon
Worst DirectorMichael BayNominated
Worst Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing")Diane WarrenNominated
Worst PictureJerry Bruckheimer, Gale Anne Hurd, Michael BayNominated
Worst Screen CoupleBen Affleck and Liv TylerNominated
Worst ScreenplayJonathan Hensleigh and J. J. AbramsNominated
Worst Supporting ActressLiv TylerNominated
Golden Reel AwardsBest Sound EditingKevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. WesterNominated
Best Sound Editing - MusicBob Badami, Will Kaplan, Shannon Erbe, Mark Jan WlodarkiewiczNominated
1998 Golden Satellite AwardsBest Original SongAerosmithWon
Best Visual EffectsRichard R. Hoover, Pat McClung and John FrazierNominated
Golden Trailer AwardsBest TrailerNominated
1999 MTV Movie AwardsBest Action SequenceArmageddonWon
Best Performance - MaleBen AffleckNominated
Best Performance - FemaleLiv TylerNominated
Best MovieArmageddonNominated
Best Movie SongAerosmithWon
Best On-Screen DuoBen Affleck and Liv TylerNominated
Saturn AwardsBest ActorBruce WillisNominated
Best CostumesMichael Kaplan, Magali GuidasciNominated
Best DirectorMichael BayWon
Best MusicTrevor RabinNominated
Best Science Fiction FilmArmageddonWon (Tied with Dark City)
Best Special EffectsRichard R. Hoover, Pat McClung and John FrazierNominated
Best Supporting ActorBen AffleckNominated
Stinkers Bad Movie AwardsWorst Performance by an Actor in a Lead RoleBruce WillisWon
Worst Performance by an Actress in a Supporting RoleLiv TylerNominated
Worst Screenplay for a Film Grossing More Than $100 Million (Using Hollywood Math)Jonathan Hensleigh and J. J. AbramsNominated
Worst On-Screen CoupleBen Affleck & Liv TylerWon
Most Annoying Fake AccentBruce WillisNominated
Teen Choice AwardsChoice Movie ActorBen AffleckNominated

Other media

Merchandising

Revell and Monogram released two model kits inspired by the film's 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.

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.