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Armageddon: The Criterion Collection

review by Ren C.



Running Time: 153 minutes

Studio: Disney/Criterion

Starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan

Story by Robert Roy Pool and Jonathan Hensleigh

Directed by Michael Bay

Retail Price: $49.99

Features: Director's Cut, Two Commentary Tracks, Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes, Storyboards, Special Effects Analyses, Trailers and TV Spots, Music Video

Specs: Video-Widescreen Letterboxed-2.35:1, Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Movie), Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Supplements), Two Disc Set, Chapter Search

First of all, let me say, I did enjoy this movie. I've continued to enjoy this movie on repeat viewings. It's definitely not a thinking movie, but one of those movies that you put on when you feel like something loud that you don't have to pay much attention to.

The story is very simple: A big meteor is threatening Earth, and the only people that can save it are a team of oil drillers. The film opens with several fragment of this meteor striking Earth, and NASA slowly becoming aware of the problem. They decide to keep it under wraps at first, until they can figure out what to do. With the plan they come up with, they seek out the advice of Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), who informs them that the only way their plan can work is if they send he and his group of oil drillers, among them A.J. Frost (Ben Affleck), and Rockhound (Steve Buscemi). What follows is the almost desperation training needed to get these men ready to go into space. Somehow, they actually manage to achieve this, and send them off into space as Earth's last hope against the meteor.

This is the main story, but Michael Bay also manages to cram about 173 subplots into the movie. The main one among these is the romance between Frost and Stamper's daughter, Grace (Liv Tyler). I tend to agree with the many people who have stated that this movie plays out like a really long commercial. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The movie never really gives the viewer time to get bored, assaulting them from all angles at every point in the movie, and trying to give the viewer a little bit of everything.

Another thing that the movie boasts is an all-star cast: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi and Michael Clarke Duncan are just scratching the surface here. Giving the actors credit for what they do, they each try to distinguish their characters and make them memorable instead of doing what they could have done and making them nameless, faceless entities.

Overall, this isn't a movie that is going to win awards for storyline, or for depth, but it is a great "popcorn movie" so to speak. Lots and lots of action, and a tenuous storyline holding it all together work to make a very enjoyable movie.

This is an excellent transfer. Crisp, clear, and very few distractions to mar the viewer's enjoyment of the movie. There are only a few places, especially during very dark scenes, where a small amount of pixelation can be seen. Aside from that, the darks are very deep and rich, and the special effects (of which there are many) are very bright and fulfilling.

This is the very definition of a reference quality disc. This is like an explosion bonanza, and will certainly push your system to its limits. The dialogue comes across well also, even when it is in danger of being drowned out by the numerous effects. The Dolby 5.1 definitely uses all of its available power to evenly distribute the dialogue and effects evenly, with the effects being overpowering but not overwhelming.

This is definitely where this disc shines. Being a Criterion disc, utmost care has been taken with it to ensure that it is the best quality that it can be. First of all, this is the director's cut of the movie, although the few scenes that are inserted back into the movie are of the "blink and you'll miss them" variety. A nice addition, nonetheless. Also a "feature" is the standard Criterion color bars for calibrating your system.

Now, we move into the bulk of the features. There are two commentaries included here. The first features the cast and crew of the movie, including producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Willis and Affleck. The commentary was not recorded at the same time, but was spliced together from separate interviews. It works very well in this case, however, with Affleck being hilarious in taking the time to crack on virtually everyone he worked with on the movie, and himself as well. You'll learn a lot about the making of the movie, and you'll be entertained, which I think should be the aim of any good commentary.

The second commentary features cinematographer John Schwartzman, NASA consultant Dr. Joe Allen, and asteroid consultant Ivan Dekey. It seems as though the filmmakers listened to the advice of these men and then did what they wanted to anyway. Much of the track is used to point out errors in the making of the film. It's very illuminating to realize that the technical consultants caught some of the more obvious errors in the movie, but there wasn't much that they could do about it.

The second disc in this set is solely a supplements disc, and it is a good one. We start with a gag reel that runs about eight minutes and is worth the price of the disc by itself. This definitely shows that the set of the movie wasn't all fun and games. Next are several deleted scenes, all of which are fairly brief, and not integral to the movie. However, one scene would have been interesting had it been left in the movie, and given some more depth to Steve Buscemi's character.

Next is a series of storyboards that depict how the "armadillo jump" and "rock storm" scenes were laid out. There is a series of special effects featurettes where the making of some of the more complicated scenes in the film were laid out. There is also a production design featurette in which production designer Michael White talks about creating the distinctive look of "Armageddon". There is also a design gallery included which features the creation of some of the more noticeable elements, including the spacesuits and the shuttle itself.

Rounding out the disc is the marketing section, which features an inordinately large amount of trailers and TV spots. Literally every ad that was made for this movie is in this section. Finally, there is the "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" section, which features the song that was so important to the success of the movie. The video is included here, along with a very brief Aerosmith interview, and a promo ad for the soundtrack. My only complaint here is that the interview and the video are not encoded on separate chapters, so that every time you want to watch the video, you have to sit through the interview. Not a major problem, but still mildly annoying.

This movie is definitely an acquired taste. It's one of those movies where upon first viewing, you will either like it or hate it, there really isn't any middle ground. However, the spectacular presentation of the movie should definitely serves as incentive for a purchase. The video and audio are both superb, and the features are jam-packed. The only question is if it's worth the higher price than the movie only disc. If you're buying it for the movie and could care less about the features, then probably not. But if you are interested in the features at all, then definitely get this version, it's well worth it. Strong recommendation for those that have seen the movie and liked it, as well as feature buffs. Recommendation to rent for everyone else.

(3.5/5, NOT included in final score)




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