Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 1/3/99
1998 (1999) - Hollywood
Pictures (Buena Vista)
review by Bill Hunt,
editor of The Digital Bits
I'm a fan of director Michael Bay, but this flick really bites. And
I mean big-time. If you want a much more intelligent asteroid /
doomsday flick, go watch Deep Impact.
And if you're looking for better Michael Bay action, see The
Rock. This cheesy train wreck has gotta be among the
worst films of 1998.
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
The video is generally good for non-anamorphic widescreen. The
audio is first-rate - this is a great Dolby Digital surround sound
mix. Unfortunately, the extras are somewhat less than pleasing.
Overall Rating: C+
I can't recommend this DVD. I mean, if you really liked the film,
you'll be quite happy I'm sure. The quality is decent, and the audio
really delivers. But for me, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Take it or leave it.
151 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided,
RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 71:10, right at the end of
chapter 13), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, teaser
trailer, Aerosmith I Don't Want to Miss a
Thing music video, Sony Music soundtrack commercial,
film-themed menus, scene access (27 chapters), languages: English
and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Close Captioned
OK, here's the quick summary: After a space shuttle explodes in
orbit, and New York City is hammered by a meteor shower, NASA
discovers that a massive, planet-killing asteroid is going to
collide with the Earth in just 18 days. A quick review of available
plans of action leads to just one: send a team of drillers to the
asteroid to detonate a nuclear warhead deep in its core. With any
luck, the rock will be split in half, and both pieces will be
deflected away from the Earth. Enter Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis).
He and his motley crew are the best deep-core drillers the world has
to offer. But when it comes to spaceflight, they've definitely got
the Wrong Stuff.
I'm not gonna wade too deeply into the quagmire here - suffice it
to say that Armageddon really
tanks. OK, I liked about 30 minutes of it - 15 minutes at the
beginning, when the meteor shower was destroying lots of stuff
('cause the effects were terrific), and 15 minutes right around the
launch of the shuttles ('cause, having recently been to a shuttle
launch myself, I just really dig the 'can-do' astronaut stuff). But
there are two things that really irk me in a movie: 1) scenes that
are staged solely for the purpose of tugging heart strings and
pushing emotional buttons, and 2) events that are so implausible
that they defy my ability to suspend belief, even in a big-budget
Hollywood action movie. Armageddon
shamelessly and repeatedly does both.
I swear, if I see Liv Tyler's doe-eyed and downcast expression in a
movie one more time, I'm gonna lose my lunch. Gotta love those
patriotic shots of happy little kids riding their space shuttle
go-carts around in the happy little heartland of America (one of
them even runs, shuttle toy in hand, past a picture of John F.
Kennedy). Or how about the sappy montage of his life that passes
before Willis' eyes at the end of the film? Bleech! Anybody find it
hard to believe, that with only 17 days left until doomsday, NASA
would waste time giving physical and psychological exams to the only
people capable of saving the Earth? "I'm sorry Mr. Stamper. You
and your men are our only hope, but you failed your Rorshack tests,
so I guess we're all screwed." And what was with that Evil
Knievel Snake River Canyon jump on the asteroid, anyway? Ouch.
So why the '+' in my F+ Film Rating? All right, I confess, Steve
Buscemi cracks me up in just about everything he's in, and he does
so again here. And there was one really funny line. One of Stamper's
men (played by Owen Wilson) asks just how bad conditions on the
surface of the asteroid will be, and when he's told the facts, he
replies, "OK, the scariest environment imaginable. That's all
you gotta say, the scariest environment imaginable...."
So let's talk DVD quality. The letterboxed widescreen image is
generally pretty good, although there's some noticeable ringing and
edge noise at times. The color is incredibly solid, however, and the
contrast is excellent. The worst appearing images are generally the
effects shots involving the asteroid (and its debris cloud) in
space. These shots are very murky, with lots of diffuse gas and
debris, and lots of motion - a real test for MPEG-2 compression.
Some occasional artifacting can be seen. The layer switch really
stands out - it's very poorly placed (see the specs above for the
location). My biggest complaint, however, is that Buena Vista
continues to give the cold shoulder to DVD's anamorphic capability.
Armageddon would have been an
obvious choice for 16x9 enhancement. Shame on the Mouse.
The audio, on the other hand, is absolutely outstanding. The Dolby
Digital 5.1 surround mix here is terrific, creating a sound stage
with great depth. There's lots of good use of directional sound too
- very active rear channels, with appropriately thunderous bass.
This has got to rank right up there with the best DVD sound mixes
I've yet heard. For those who prefer it, 5.1 audio is also provided
in French - a nice touch.
As for extras, Buena Vista has seen fit to include both the
theatrical trailer, and a teaser trailer - I have to give them that
much credit. And if you like Aerosmith (which I don't), you'll be
happy to find the complete music video for I
Don't Want to Miss a Thing (I'm just a bit Top 40 radioed
out on it, myself). But here's a great extra (add ironic tone): the
Sony Music commercial for the soundtrack CD?! I'm sure that will
really have Armageddon fans
dancing in their living rooms. The least the Mouse could have
provided, would have been a commentary track. I, for one, would have
loved to hear director Michael Bay trying to justify his work on
this film. What about a behind-the-scenes featurette, or a 'making
of the special effects' reel? Most of the effects were pretty good,
and I was interested to see what went into them. Guess we'll have to
wait for that Criterion Collection DVD version that's in the works.
If you dug this film, then by all means, run out and buy the DVD.
You will be very happy. For everyone else, well... it's your call.
As DVDs go, there isn't anything here that you can't find elsewhere.
And as films go... Armageddon
just eeks out Godzilla as my
pick for the worst film of 1998. I suspect that a few decades from
now, film historians will look back and point to Armageddon
as the shinning example of what went wrong with the Hollywood movie
industry in the 1990s. Enough said.