Touchstone Pictures // 1998 // 151 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // June 23rd, 1999
Earth's darkest day will be man's finest hour.
Described as a two and a half hour trailer, Armageddon is the embodiment of the Hollywood summer blockbuster.
Lets face it folks, Armageddon has one sole purpose, to entertain. When the masses shuffled into movie theaters last summer to witness the flashy spectacle that is Armageddon, they seemed to forget the film's purpose. Instead of strapping in for a rollercoaster ride, moviegoers seemed to investigate every aspect of the film's storyline and characters, wrongfully hoping for some kind of Academy Award winning performances. Needless to say, the masses were disappointed (as most of you already know). The film was panned so much by the critics I didn't even go to see it in theaters; stupid me. When I finally purchased Armageddon on DVD I was glad to be able to say, "This is why people buy DVD!"
No, there aren't features up the wazoo. Instead, Buena Vista provides the DVD fan with a near perfect video transfer with an air shattering Dolby Digital 5.1 mix begging to blast your speakers out. Maybe some of you out there bought into DVD so you could watch classic films like Casablanca, but I bought it so I could go home and have a hell of a time watching the great blockbuster films like Terminator 2. As I said before, the Armageddon disc allowed me to do this, and I couldn't be happier with it.
For those unfamiliar with the film, Armageddon is the story of an asteroid the size of Texas heading on a collision course with Earth. Naturally this would mean the destruction of the entire planet (considering the comet in Deep Impact was only the size of New York City). NASA Director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) comes up with a solution to the asteroid problem; send a team of oil drillers to the surface of the asteroid to drill a nuclear weapon into the heart of "the rock" and then, naturally, blow it to hell. It just so happens that Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) is the best oil driller in the world, so he and his team of roughnecks (including Ben Affleck, Steve Buscemi, and Will Patton) have 18 days to "save the world." For me, Armageddon excelled where Deep Impact failed, it made modern day space travel (or some variation of that) exciting! The film has some nice plot twists once the drillers set out into space and onto the asteroid, making the movie easily watchable for its two and a half hour run. Not only does the film hold your attention for an extended period of time but so much happens all the time that rewatching the film is almost required to pick up on everything. Armageddon is driven by action, humor, music, and even some cheesy patriotism; and that's all I could ask for from a film of its caliber.
Despite the fact that the video transfer is non-anamorphic, the 2.35:1 letterbox image is near perfect. One has to really focus on the picture to really notice any problems with the transfer. Then, there is the audio. I remember seeing a news report about people bringing in ear plugs before seeing Armageddon, and they had good reason to! The 5.1 audio track released with Armageddon in the theaters was phenomenal and it translates right over to DVD. You'll feel the ground shaking explosions of the film unless you make sure to turn your subwoofer down before playing the disc (and why the hell would you want to do that?!).
Buena Vista also offers up not just one, but two (!) trailers for the film on the disc along with Aerosmith's music video for "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." The quality of the music video was really surprising to me. The video is just as good as the film and so is the audio, except for the fact that it is only available in a 2 channel track. It's not a Collector's Edition but for Buena Vista it's a bit of a stretch.
Of course we'd like to see a few more extra features and an anamorphic transfer but, for me, the film with stunning video and audio quality was enough for me to decide to purchase this disc. Criterion released a collector's edition of Armageddon a few months after the Buena Vista release. The cost of the Criterion disc ranges from $15-25 more than the Buena Vista title. You get a two-disc set for the extra money, a similar transfer, and a ton of extras (including commentaries and outtakes). But then again, this is Armageddon, not Gone With the Wind. Not many people are too interested in what it took to make this film, only the final result. Save your money, the film itself will be the only thing you watch more than once.
Summer moviegoers have become too picky in the past few years. First they champion mindless fare like Independence Day but then they turn their backs on Armageddon. Maybe Will Smith has something to do with it, but for me there's nothing more enjoyable to do on a summer evening than destroying my eardrums and frying a few brain cells with a great summer blockbuster, especially if its on DVD.
Acquitted on all counts (how can you punish the mother of all asteroid films?).
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 151 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Aerosmith "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" Music Video
* Theatrical Trailer
* Teaser Trailer