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Hollywood fireworks: 'Armageddon' is adrenalin in overdrive

Web posted on: Friday, July 03, 1998 2:34:06 PM EDT

From Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- For the second time this summer a huge asteroid (brought to us through the magic of Hollywood special effects) is about to hit the earth and destroy all life as we know it. Our first brush with total disaster this season was a film called "Deep Impact," and Robert DuVall came to the rescue. This movie is entitled "Armageddon" and super action figure Bruce Willis plays the guy who saves our bacon.

"Armageddon" is directed by Michael Bay, who brought us "The Rock," and is produced by mega-action movie creator Jerry Bruckheimer. With movies like "Top Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop," Jerry Bruckeimer and his late partner Don Simpson fine-tuned the modern high concept blockbuster in the 1980's. "Armageddon" fits that profile to a T.

Their basic formula is a easily described plot in three acts. First an explosive incident. In this film that happens within the first five minutes. Then an impending crisis; the end of the world qualifies. And finally, a triumphant conclusion. In a Hollywood action movie is there any other kind?

So with that in mind, when an asteriod the size of Texas (yes, once again size does matter) is on a collision course with earth, who you gonna call? Oil drillers!! What???

Paul's Pix: "Armageddon"

3Mb QuickTime movie

Oil drillers to the rescue!

Yep, it seems that knowing how to drill a hole is more important than how to fly space craft. Their mission is to land on the asteriod, drill an 800 foot hole, and pop in a nuclear bomb. Boom! The world is saved.

Of course the finest drillers in the world are a motley crew who work for Harry S. Stamper, played by Bruce Willis, and his right hand man A.J. Frost, played by heart-throb Ben Affleck. Frost is in love with Willis' daughter, Grace Stamper, played beautifully by the beautiful Liv Tyler.

The basic plot is similiar to "Deep Impact," but with a number of twists. First of all, "Armageddon" is actually a pretty good story turned into a great action adventure tale. The time frame is only 18 days, instead of a year, (as in "Deep Impact") which heightens tension. And the script is actually character driven so you really care about the survival of the main players. What a concept for an action movie.

Another thing that sets this film apart from many other movies this summer is that Willis and Tyler play father and daughter, not lovers, or man and wife. It seems many recent flicks have featured an aging macho star. For instance, in "A Perfect Murder" Michael Douglas was wed to a 20-something Gwyneth Paltrow. But with "Armageddon" the love story centers around Affleck's and Tyler's characters, leaving Willis free to save the planet.

Special effects? You bet!

Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay know how to milk special effects, and there are gallons in "Armageddon." Bay, who began his directing career making music videos, is also a master at creating visual postcard moments on film, moments that capture frame by frame the emotional essence of the scene.

"Armageddon" is a paint-by-the-numbers blockbuster, but with a kid-friendly rating of "PG-13," it's a blockbuster that lives up to that billing and will make millions. Billy Bob Thorton is great cast against type as a NASA honcho, and Steve Buscemi provides wonderful comic relief. Then there's the tough-as-nails, anti-social, man-of-action character that Willis wears like a second skin.

If you like testosterone driven, high impact, high concept films that provide roller coaster action and actually have a plot, and even a smidgen of character development, then "Armageddon" is a film you should see.

Of course in terms of the fright factor it doesn't hurt that this disaster, a meteorite hitting earth, has happened before and will happen again. It's just a matter of time. In fact according to Touchstone Pictures, NASA says a meteor three miles long (that WOULD BE a Global Killer) passed between the earth and the moon four years ago and we didn't even know it until days later.

Thankfully for now we have to settle for special effects. "Armageddon"'s asteroid shower, that destroys huge parts of New York City, is spectacular, and makes "Godzilla"'s stopover in the Big Apple look like a visit from the Avon lady.

"Armageddon" opens July 1st and is rated "PG-13" with a running time of 144 minutes.

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