Saturday, June 28, 2014


I've been revisiting some movies from the 90s here and there the past couple of years. Anything that takes me back to that time is interesting, because of my recent focus and memory problems as a result of my anxiety and going cold turkey off Lexapro.

This morning, I watched Michael Bay's Armageddon.

I went to see this with a packed theater on opening weekend in 1998. Like a lot of people, I had really dug The Rock and was excited about Bay's follow-up. I remember having a really good time and thinking that, in a disappointing summer that included Roland Emmerich's Godzilla, Lethal Weapon 4, The Avengers and Saving Private Ryan, Armageddon delivered.

Then I didn't see the movie again for 16 years.

And then I saw it this morning.

And, wow. Just wow. Just... wow.

What a terrible movie.

I like The Rock. It's a movie I see on cable every year or two, and I'll defend that one. I think it's probably the quintessential dumb action movie of its decade. It's goofy, but it's not apologetic about it and doesn't really ask you to take it incredibly seriously. That one holds up.

Armageddon is like someone took The Rock and pumped it full of hot air. It's like Michael Bay thinks he can just do anything he wants. But it's so messy and all over the place. Everything is imprecations and rolling close-ups. Everything is dire and just piles on more and more complications for the sake of throwing in everything. Including the kitchen sink. What are there, 37 lead roles in this movie? Shit is happening constantly, and it's all incredibly important, but it's also loose and "cool" and noisy. This movie is so damn noisy. It's like Michael Bay's afraid that if you have a second to breathe, you'll just drift away and never come back.

For me, the opposite happened. It kept hitting me so hard over the head that I became numb to everything and got bored really, really fast. There really isn't any place to go when you start at that level of kinetic action. There aren't any rises and falls. The only slow spot is that idiotic scene with Liv Tyler and the animal crackers. Otherwise, the movie never slows down at all. Everything is whipping you up so much that you just glaze over. You know what the result of that is? Boredom. No, I wish it was just boring. It's tedious. Everything is happening at once as we cut cut cut cut cut cut fucking cut around dozens of characters and technobabble and testosterone and close-ups of Liv Tyler crying while the soundtrack pounds you into a stupor, and yet it's the most tedious thing I've ever seen. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End levels of tedium, which is like an Extinction Level Tedium Event. You couldn't at least have the grace to make it fun?

And it's not like I care that the plot is so ridiculous. I don't mind a ridiculous plot if the movie's fun. But you only have a certain number of gimme's in any plot before the suspension of disbelief gets broken. An asteroid the size of Texas gets that close to the Earth without anyone noticing? Fine, I'll give you that. NASA suddenly has two next generation Space Shuttles available for use? Okay, I'll give you that, too. Ben Affleck is a heartthrob/credible lead in an action picture? Well, okay, I guess.

But I will not give you that it's easier to train roughnecks to be astronauts than it is to teach astronauts how to use a drill.

And I will not give you that the engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs don't know how to fucking reverse engineer a drill.

That's probably the thing I'm most insulted by: this movie makes NASA look like a bunch of assholes. Yes, the guys who plan and execute missions to outer space are mystified by how to make a drill. A drill.

And you know what else I never really noticed before? This movie is kind of like a big propaganda piece for the oil industry. There's a scene early on with Bruce Willis knocking golf balls straight at Greenpeace protesters off of his oil rig. This asshole oil millionaire--and yeah, that's what he is; if you have 8 million of your own dollars tied up in a drilling project, you're an oil millionaire--then proceeds to swing his dick around NASA. He knows better than actual astrophysicists how all their plans should work. He has to bring in his team of all-American dick-swingers to save the Earth. Oh, not from the asteroid, but from all of the nerds at NASA who just don't know what they're doing. Everyone at NASA is barely competent. They suffer from that movie disease of staring at numbers too long to know how reality works. Ha ha, stupid nerds. Step aside while us oil industry employees literally save the planet for you.

So, going by this movie, Michael Bay hates nerds. And women. Always with the women. Every woman in this movie is either a shrew, an honorary man, or Liv Tyler. She just gets to look pretty. (And she does. Say what you will about Michael Bay, he knows how to frame a shot. Sometimes. He barely knows what a still frame or an establishing shot is.)

He loves his burly men, though. He absolutely worships masculinity. And as this movie proves, masculinity is the only way to save the planet. Thank Christ the jocks were here to build their gigantic prosthetic dick so they could fuck that asteroid in half and make it safe for all you nerds to do your science in.

It's like a condescending nine hour ad for testosterone.

Testosterone: The Movie. "Fucking the sky to save the Earth!"


Lockwood said...

I realized watching the 2nd Star Trek rebot that this is exactly the problem I have with those two. They just never stop. The star Trek TV shows and movies were good about giving the viewer a moment now and then to contemplate the wonder and awe of our universe, or to see a character's reaction to something. The reboots just run around from chase scene to explosion to fight to explosion. There's never a moment to relax and reflect.

I don't "hate" them, I just realized I don't really "enjoy" them, either. There's no point to them other than "get to the next action! NOW!!"

SamuraiFrog said...

I enjoyed those movies, but I can't say you're wrong about the pacing. It probably says something that I haven't seen Into Darkness since I saw it in the theater.

GarrettCRW said...

What's sad is that a decade and a half later, the man is *still* making the same movie, only worse. At least Orci and Kurzman hopped on the right-wing conspiracy theory train after 9/11, which I guess qualifies as change.

Roger Owen Green said...

I've never seen Armageddon, and after your review, which captured what I thought I think, I probably never will.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Armageddon is, for me, the cinematic equivalent of a lava lamp. It's terrible and useless, but when it's on, I find myself staring at it for long periods of time.

Carl said...

I remember seeing it in the theater, and while I was watching it, I was blown away by the effect,s the action--the scope of the thing. I loved it... while i was in the theater. As my friend and I were heading to her car, I went from "That was AMAZING" to "that thing sucked ass." All it took was some time to get my senses back under me (they had been bludgeoned into submission by the sound and the rapid editing and the 'splosions) that all my critical thinking faculties were exhausted five minutes in.

As soon as I started thinking about the movie, it fell apart and became a total piece of shit to me. so much so, that I didn't see another Bay feature until Transformers, and after seeing that, felt vindicated in my Bay-boycott.

The only thing it does well is give me long, lingering close-ups of Liv Tyler's ethereal beauty, and I've got the Lord of the Rings Trilogy for that now.

The Pretentious Know it All said...

This article/thinkpiece what have you is giving me life today! So funny and well-written and on-point. I remember my sister had a huge crush on Ben Affleck, so we had the VHS in our house. And even as kids, I remember my brother saying "Liv Tyler like...barely speaks in this movie."

There's so much fear of women that runs through Michael Bay's work, both contextually--that misogynistic "GET MY GODDAMN PHONEBOOK" scene at the beginning, which the audience is clearly meant to cheer at--and outside of the actual narrative of his films (his firing of Megan Fox because he couldn't take her lip). And when you see Bay in interviews, like...he characterizes a certain type of dude for me that would rape a girl to prove he's not gay.