Armageddon (1998 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Bay|
|Narrated by||Charlton Heston|
|Music by||Trevor Rabin|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$553.7 million|
Armageddon is a 1998 American science fiction disaster film directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and released by Touchstone Pictures. The film follows a group of blue-collar deep-core drillers sent by NASA to stop a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with Earth. It stars Bruce Willis and an ensemble cast comprising, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, William Fichtner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Keith David, and Steve Buscemi.
Armageddon opened in theaters two and a half months after the similar asteroid impact–based film Deep Impact which starred Téa Leoni, Robert Duvall and Morgan Freeman. Although Armageddon fared better at the box office, astronomers described Deep Impact as being more scientifically accurate. Both films were similarly received by critics, with Armageddon scoring 39% and Deep Impact scoring 44% on Rotten Tomatoes. Armageddon was an international box-office success, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1998 worldwide.
A large meteor shower obliterates the orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis and bombards an area of land around the North Atlantic, devastating New York City. NASA discovers through the Hubble Space Telescope that the meteors were debris propelled from the asteroid belt by a rogue asteroid roughly the size of Texas, christened "Dottie" by its discoverer. The asteroid will collide with Earth in 18 days, causing a second extinction event. NASA scientists, led by Dan Truman, plan to trigger a thermonuclear detonation at least 800 ft (244 m) inside the asteroid to split it in two, driving the pieces apart so both will fly past the Earth. NASA contacts Harry Stamper, considered the best deep-sea oil driller in the world, for assistance. Harry insists he will need his full team, consisting of A.J. Frost, Rockhound, Max Lennert, Charles "Chick" Chapel, Bear, Freddie Noonan and Oscar Choi, to help execute NASA's plan, and they agree to help.
NASA plans to launch two specialized Space Shuttle orbiters, the X-71s, Freedom and Independence, to increase the chances of success; the shuttles will refill with liquid oxygen from the 11-year-old Russian space station Mir (which is modified to have artificial gravity by rotating on itself) before making a slingshot maneuver around the Moon to approach the asteroid from behind. NASA puts Harry and his crew through a shortened and rigorous astronaut training program, while Harry's team re-outfit the mobile drillers, "Armadillos", for the job. During training, Truman and Harry are skeptical about the abilities of A.J., who has been dating Harry's daughter Grace against Harry's wishes.
The destruction of Shanghai by a meteorite forces the government to reveal the asteroid's existence, as well as their plan. The shuttles are launched and arrive at the space station, where its sole cosmonaut Lev Andropov helps with refueling. A major fire breaks out during the fueling process, forcing the crews, including Lev, to evacuate in the shuttles before the station explodes. The shuttles perform the slingshot around the Moon, but approaching the asteroid, Independence's engines are destroyed by trailing debris, and it crash-lands on the asteroid, killing Noonan, Oscar, munitions specialist Lieutenant Halsey, and shuttle pilots colonel Davis and Tucker. Grace, aware A.J. was aboard Independence, is traumatized by this news, believing he was killed. Unknown to the others, A.J., Lev and Bear survive the impact and head towards Freedom's landing site in their Armadillo.
Freedom manages to land on the asteroid, but overshoots their target zone, landing on a much harder metallic field. With their drilling falling behind NASA's calculated schedule, the military initiates "secondary protocol", a backup plan to remotely detonate the bomb at the asteroid's surface, despite Truman and Harry's insistence that it would be ineffective. Truman delays the military, while Harry persuades the shuttle commander Colonel Willie Sharp to disarm the remote trigger. The crew continues to work, but in their haste, they accidentally hit a gas pocket, blowing their Armadillo into space with Lennert inside. As the world learns of the mission's apparent failure, another meteorite devastates nearly all of Paris.
The remaining members of the team stare into the futility of black space surrounding them until Independence's Armadillo arrives. With A.J. at the controls, they reach the required depth for the bomb. However, flying debris from the asteroid kills lieutenant Gruber and damages the bomb timer, requiring someone to stay behind to manually detonate it. The crew draw straws and A.J. is selected. As he and Harry exit the airlock, Harry rips off A.J.'s air hose and shoves him back inside, telling him he is the son Harry never had and gives his blessing to marry Grace. Harry contacts Grace to bid her farewell. When last minute difficulties occur involving both the shuttle engines and the detonator, Andropov crudely ends up getting the engines started, Freedom moves to a safe distance and Harry successfully retrieves and triggers the detonator while his life flashes before his eyes. The bomb successfully splits the asteroid, avoiding the collision with Earth. Freedom safely returns to Earth, and the surviving crew is treated as heroes. A.J. and Grace get married, with photos of Harry and the other lost crew members present.
- Bruce Willis as Harry S. Stamper
- Billy Bob Thornton as Dan Truman
- Liv Tyler as Grace Stamper
- Ben Affleck as A.J. Frost
- Will Patton as Chick
- Peter Stormare as Lev Andropov
- Keith David as General Kimsey
- Owen Wilson as Oscar
- William Fichtner as Colonel Willie Sharp
- Steve Buscemi as Rockhound
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Bear
- Jessica Steen as Co-Pilot Jennifer Watts
- Jason Isaacs as Ronald Quincy
- Ken Campbell as Max
- Grayson McCouch as Gruber
- Clark Brolly as Noonan
- Marshall Teague as Colonel Davis
- Chris Ellis as Flight Director Clark
- Anthony Guidera as Co-Pilot Tucker
- Greg Collins as Halsey
In May 1998, Walt Disney Studios chairman Joe Roth expanded the film's budget by $3 million to include additional special effects scenes. This additional footage, incorporated two months prior to the film's release, was specifically added for the television advertising campaign to differentiate the film from Deep Impact which was released a few months before.
According to Bruce Joel Rubin, writer of Deep Impact, a production president at Disney took notes on everything the writer said during lunch about his script and initiated Armageddon as a counter film at Disney.
Nine writers worked on the script, five of whom are credited. In addition to Robert Roy Pool, Jonathan Hensleigh, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno and J.J. Abrams, the writers involved included Paul Attanasio, Ann Biderman, Scott Rosenberg and Robert Towne. Originally, it was Hensleigh's script, based on Pool's original, that had been given the green-light by Touchstone. Then-producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, hired the succession of scribes for rewrites and polishes.
Despite a mixed critical reception, a DVD edition of Armageddon was released by The Criterion Collection, a specialist film distributor of primarily arthouse films that markets what it considers to be "important classic and contemporary films" and "cinema at its finest". In an essay supporting the selection of Armageddon, film scholar Jeanine Basinger, who taught Michael Bay at Wesleyan University, states that the film is "a work of art by a cutting-edge artist who is a master of movement, light, color, and shape—and also of chaos, razzle-dazzle, and explosion". She sees it as a celebration of working men: "This film makes these ordinary men noble, lifting their efforts up into an epic event." Further, she states that in the first few moments of the film all the main characters are well established, saying, "If that isn't screenwriting, I don't know what is".
The film was also released on VHS and DVD by Touchstone Home Video on November 13, 1998, and would surpass Pretty Woman to become Buena Vista Home Entertainment's best-selling live-action title. The film was released on a standard edition Blu-ray disc in 2010 with only a few special features.
Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
Following the 2003 Columbia disaster, some screen captures from the opening scene where Atlantis is destroyed were passed off as satellite images of the disaster in a hoax. Additionally, the American cable network FX, which had intended to broadcast Armageddon that evening, removed the film from its schedule and aired Aliens in its place.
Armageddon was released on July 1, 1998 in 3,127 theaters in the United States and Canada. It ranked first at the box office with an opening weekend gross of $36 million. It grossed $201.6 million in the United States and Canada and $352.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $553.7 million.
Armageddon received mostly negative reviews from film critics, many of whom took issue with "the furious pace of its editing". On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 38% "Rotten" approval rating based on 120 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The critical consensus states, "Lovely to look at but about as intelligent as the asteroid that serves as the movie's antagonist, Armageddon slickly sums up the cinematic legacies of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.
The film is on the list of Roger Ebert's most hated films. In his original review, Ebert stated, "The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained". On Siskel and Ebert, Ebert gave it a Thumbs Down. However, his co-host Gene Siskel gave it a Thumbs Up. Ebert went on to name Armageddon as the worst film of 1998 (though he was originally considering Spice World). Todd McCarthy of Variety also gave the film a negative review, noting Michael Bay's rapid cutting style: "Much of the confusion, as well as the lack of dramatic rhythm or character development, results directly from Bay's cutting style, which resembles a machine gun stuck in the firing position for 21⁄2 hours." In April 2013, in a Miami Herald interview to promote Pain & Gain, Bay was quoted as having said:
...We had to do the whole movie in 16 weeks. It was a massive undertaking. That was not fair to the movie. I would redo the entire third act if I could. But the studio literally took the movie away from us. It was terrible. My visual effects supervisor had a nervous breakdown, so I had to be in charge of that. I called James Cameron and asked "What do you do when you're doing all the effects yourself?" But the movie did fine.
Some time after the article was published, Bay changed his stance, claiming that his apology only related to the editing of the film, not the whole film, and accused the writer of the article for taking his words out of context. The author of the article, Miami Herald writer Rene Rodriguez claimed: "NBC asked me for a response, and I played them the tape. I didn't misquote anyone. All the sites that picked up the story did."
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Bay admitted that the film's central premise "that NASA could actually do something in a situation like this" was unrealistic. Additionally, near the end of the credits, there is a disclaimer stating, "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's cooperation and assistance does not reflect an endorsement of the contents of the film or the treatment of the characters depicted therein."
A mathematical analysis of the situation found that for Willis's approach to be effective, he would need to be in possession of an H-bomb a billion times stronger than the Soviet Union's "Big Ivan", the biggest ever detonated on Earth. Using estimates of the asteroid's size, density, speed and distance from Earth based on information in the film, the postgraduate students from Leicester University found that to split the asteroid in two, with both pieces clearing Earth, would require 800 trillion terajoules of energy. In contrast, the total energy output of "Big Ivan", which was tested by the Soviet Union in 1961, was only 418,000 terajoules.
In the commentary track, Ben Affleck says he "asked Michael why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers, and he told me to shut the fuck up, so that was the end of that talk."
The film received four Academy Award nominations at the 71st Academy Awards, for Best Sound (Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester), Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" performed by Aerosmith). The film received the Saturn Awards for Best Direction and Best Science Fiction Film (where it tied with Dark City). It was also nominated for seven Razzie Awards including: Worst Actor (Bruce Willis), Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Supporting Actress (Liv Tyler), Worst Screen Couple (Tyler and Ben Affleck) and Worst Original Song. Only one Razzie was awarded: Bruce Willis received the Worst Actor award for Armageddon, in addition to his appearances in Mercury Rising and The Siege, both released in the same year as this film.
|Academy Awards||Best Sound Editing||George Watters II||Nominated|||
|Best Visual Effects||Richard R. Hoover, Patrick McClung and John Frazier||Nominated|
|Best Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing")||Diane Warren||Nominated|
|Best Sound Mixing||Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester||Nominated|
|Awards of the Japanese Academy||Outstanding Foreign Language Film||Armageddon||Nominated|
|ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards||Most Performed Songs from a Motion Picture||Diane Warren||Won|||
|Blockbuster Entertainment Awards||Favorite Actor - Sci-Fi||Bruce Willis||Won|
|Favorite Actress - Sci-Fi||Liv Tyler||Nominated|
|Favorite Supporting Actor - Sci-Fi||Ben Affleck||Won|
|Billy Bob Thornton||Nominated|
|Favorite Soundtrack||Trevor Rabin and Harry Gregson-Williams||Nominated|
|BMI Film & TV Awards||Best Music||Trevor Rabin||Won|
|Cinema Audio Society Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Feature Film||Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester||Nominated|||
|1999 Grammy Awards||Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television||Diane Warren||Nominated|
|19th Golden Raspberry Awards||Worst Actor||Bruce Willis||Won|
|Worst Director||Michael Bay||Nominated|
|Worst Original Song ("I Don't Want to Miss a Thing")||Diane Warren||Nominated|
|Worst Picture||Jerry Bruckheimer, Gale Anne Hurd, Michael Bay||Nominated|
|Worst Screen Couple||Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler||Nominated|
|Worst Screenplay||Jonathan Hensleigh and J. J. Abrams||Nominated|
|Worst Supporting Actress||Liv Tyler||Nominated|
|Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing||Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Keith A. Wester||Nominated|
|Best Sound Editing - Music||Bob Badami, Will Kaplan, Shannon Erbe, Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz||Nominated|
|1998 Golden Satellite Awards||Best Original Song||Aerosmith||Won|
|Best Visual Effects||Richard R. Hoover, Pat McClung and John Frazier||Nominated|
|Golden Trailer Awards||Best Trailer||Nominated|
|1999 MTV Movie Awards||Best Action Sequence||Armageddon||Won|
|Best Performance - Male||Ben Affleck||Nominated|
|Best Performance - Female||Liv Tyler||Nominated|
|Best Movie Song||Aerosmith||Won|
|Best On-Screen Duo||Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Actor||Bruce Willis||Nominated|
|Best Costumes||Michael Kaplan, Magali Guidasci||Nominated|
|Best Director||Michael Bay||Won|
|Best Music||Trevor Rabin||Nominated|
|Best Science Fiction Film||Armageddon||Won (Tied with Dark City)|
|Best Special Effects||Richard R. Hoover, Pat McClung and John Frazier||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor||Ben Affleck||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actor||Nominated|
Revell and Monogram released two model kits inspired by the film's spacecraft and the Armadillos, in 1998. The first one, "Space Shuttle with Armadillo drilling unit", included an X-71, a small, rough Armadillo and a pedestal. The second one, "Russian Space Center", included the Mir, with the docking adapter seen in the film, and another pedestal.
In 2011, Fantastic Plastic released another X-71 kit, the "X-71 Super Shuttle", the goal of which was to be more accurate than the Revell/Monogram kit.
Theme park attraction
Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux is an attraction based on Armageddon at Walt Disney Studios Park located at Disneyland Paris. The attraction simulates the scene in the movie in which the Russian Space Station is destroyed. Michael Clarke Duncan ("Bear" in the film) is featured in the pre-show.
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- Collins, Nick (7 August 2012). "Bruce Willis would have needed a bigger bomb to stop asteroid, scientists say". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 8 August 2012.
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- "ASCAP Honors Top Film & TV Music Composers at 27th Annual Awards Celebration". Ascap.com. 2012-06-28. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
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- "Armageddon – Backlot – Disneyland® Resort Paris". International.parks.disneylandparis.com. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- "Armageddon – Les Effets Speciaux | Photos Magiques – Disneyland Paris photos". Photos Magiques. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- Lichtenfeld, Eric (2007). Action Speaks Louder. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 0-8195-6801-5.
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