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.)
It's like a condescending nine hour ad for testosterone.
Testosterone: The Movie. "Fucking the sky to save the Earth!"