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Release Date(s)1998 (April 27, 2010)
Right up front I should admit that, even though I’ve long called for this film to be released on Blu-ray, I’m not really a fan. In fact, I hated Armageddon when I first saw it in theatres and that sentiment carried over to my reviews of the previous DVD releases. That said, having just watched it, I’m surprised to say that I’ve somehow actually managed to enjoy it this time around.
Maybe it’s because, in the years since its release, I’ve finally become used to director Michael Bay’s over-the-top style, and the decidedly cheesy/hyper-kinetic niche his films occupy in the entertainment world. I know what to expect from Bay now, and am rarely surprised. Armageddon is still very far from great in my opinion, with little connection to any kind of reality. But it’s also kind of fun in a highly campy way – something I never expected I’d be able to say.
It helps that this new Blu-ray transfer is spectacular. As some of you may already know, the original master was apparently destroyed in a fire, so a new print had to be struck and a new HD digital master created just for this release. That means the transfer is brand spanking new, and the 1080p image really benefits from it. Colors are bold and vibrant. Contrast is terrific too – the shadows are deep and detailed, yet the brightest areas of the picture are never overblown. Meanwhile, the detail and textures are crisp and plentiful, without appearing edgy or digitally over-scrubbed. There’s just enough grain visible to leave the image looking nicely film-like. Disney’s just done a great job with this image. (Note that the Blu-ray contains the theatrical cut of the film, not the slightly longer version that appeared on DVD from Criterion.) Audio-wise, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 is also very good, though it’s not quite up to the same quality of the video. Overall clarity is fine, with clean dialogue and excellent LFE. I have no doubt that this is a very accurate representation of the original theatrical experience. The only issue is that the original 5.1 mix isn’t quite up to the standards of Bay’s more recent films – say Transformers. The sound field is just a little more front-biased than more recent action 5.1 mixes, with more directional surround play. What probably needs to happen, is that Bay himself needs to come in and remix the film. I have little doubt that he or his people approved this new master... I just think the audio mix needs to be freshened up a little. All of that said, this mix is plenty good as it is, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Unfortunately, the extras are virtually nonexistent. If you have Disney’s very first non-anamorphic DVD release – one of the studio’s first DVDs from way back in 1997 – be aware that everything on that disc carries over here. You get the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers, as well as the Aerosmith music video. All of these are presented full frame in standard-def resolution, sourced from what was obviously an old analog master tape (because they look like crap). Sadly, none of the superior extras from the 1999 Criterion DVD release are included here. Now, that might be a rights or ownership issue, or it might just be that Disney plans to release the film again on Blu-ray in a few years with more – I don’t know. Either way, the lack of extras for this film on Blu-ray is seriously disappointing.
So given the lack of extras, you’re probably asking if this disc still worth your time and money. The answer, I think, is yes. The new transfer is just too good looking in my opinion for fans to pass up on. You have to take into consideration here that Armageddon was never released on DVD with a true anamorphic widescreen transfer – both of the previous DVDs were letterboxed widescreen only. As a result, this film has likely never looked so good before – even seen in most theatres during its original release – as it does here. You’ll obviously want to hang on to that Criterion DVD, but you can finally pitch the original DVD in the trash (or sell it for a couple bucks if you can). I wouldn’t pay full price for ANY movie-only Blu-ray these days, but if you can find a really good sale price on this one... I don’t think you’ll too sad to have it on your video shelf.
- Bill Hunt