How Come Only I Like: ‘Armageddon?’

How come only I like this movie? I guess I shouldn’t ask that since some actually do like it, but only in an ironic and or in a guilty pleasure sense, where they think that the only way you can enjoy it is if you turn your brain off.
So let me reiterate: Why am I the only 1 who sincerely and unironically likes this movie?
You probably know what ‘Armageddon’ is about, but just in case, I’m going to remind you anyway.  ‘Armageddon’ came out in 1998 and stars Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, as well as many other famous names.
An asteroid the size of Texas threatens Earth and NASA realizes that the only thing they can do is blow it up, but that only an explosion from the inside will destroy it.  So they gather the world’s best drilling team and send them up with their best astronauts to save the world.
Side note: This article is the first in a series titled ‘Why Am I the Only One Who Likes…?,’ and for now at least, the model I’m going to use is 1 where I address the complaints in the first section, then mention my favorite aspects in the second.
If you like this article, watch out for the next 1 I do.  Also don’t forget to check out ‘Why Am I the Only One Who Doesn’t Like…?,’ which will start soon.
At any rate, let’s talk about why I’m the only 1 who likes ‘Armageddon.’

The Complaints

The Premise

I’m going to start off with the biggest complaint about this movie since if I don’t, no one will take anything else I have to say before this seriously.  After all, this is this movie’s most infamous (and imagined) flaw.
Now when I say ‘most infamous flaw,’ I mean it.  Even people who haven’t seen ‘Armageddon’ know what it is: that it doesn’t make sense to train drillers to do astronaut stuff since it’d be easier to train astronauts to do driller stuff.
Actually, let me reiterate — I’m not the only 1 who likes this movie, I’m the only 1 who’s seen it.  I think everyone else was watching a different film with the same title and we all just got confused, because this complaint doesn’t fit with the movie I watched.
This is what I meant when I called this flaw ‘imagined,’ it only makes sense if you weren’t paying any attention.
To state the argument again, many claim that it’d be easier to train astronauts to be drillers, then for drillers to be astronauts.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it doesn’t matter since this argument is moot.
Many see this movie and, without really paying attention, think that the astronauts don’t have to carry-out any drilling-related tasks while the team of drillers, led by Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), does have to do a lot of astronaut-related tasks — except that these drillers don’t really have to carry-out any astronaut-related tasks, aside from some basic stuff like withstanding tremendous g-forces and walking in low gravity.
Nevertheless, this is where the contention that the fictional NASA in this film trains drillers to be astronauts, even though that isn’t actually what happens.
NASA doesn’t train the drillers to be astronauts, at least not fully-fledged ones; they don’t train them to fly the shuttles, or in trigonometry, or in anything not directly drilling related, with the exception of the basic things I mentioned a couple paragraphs earlier.
Instead, they get them used to the equipment they’ll have to use, equipment they’re at least semi-familiar with, as opposed to the astronauts who have no experience with it.  In fact, the drill that they use to plant to bomb was based off a design they stole from Stamper himself.
It could be argued, though, that while Stamper’s team knows the equipment, they don’t know the environment.  True, but the astronauts have no experience being on an asteroid either.
Yes, they do have to go into space, where these astronauts have been, but just because you’ve been up there, that doesn’t mean you have experience in ALL OF THE INFINITE DANGERS that that realm has to offer.
Meaning that while these astronauts have done spacewalks, satellite repairs, and faced a few close-calls here and there, they’ve never dealt with the extreme hazards of being on an asteroid.
The movie goes out of its way to explain the hazards of being on the asteroid, as Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) explains, they have to worry about “200 degrees in the sunlight, minus 200 hundred in the shade, canyons of razor sharp rock, unpredictable gravitational conditions, and unexpected eruptions.”
Their suits protect them from extreme temperatures, so I’m not sure why they mention it (I guess to dress up the drama), but no astronaut’s ever had to deal with the rest of those dangers, or anything that similar.
So they’d be almost as much out of their element as the drillers.
Also, I think the people who make this argument don’t realize just how dangerous and difficult drilling actually is.
You’re not digging a hole to plant some flowers; you have to worry about everything from hitting a gas pocket to the hole imploding, and for something that dangerous, it’s better to have people with years of experience in dealing with this sort of thing.
Basically, if you have great astronauts and great drillers at your disposal, you should use both, allowing both parties to stick to their respective fields.
Why would you risk sending people who have no experience in the most crucial part of the mission to execute it?
As I said earlier, Stamper’s team isn’t expected or trained to really do anything not directly related to drilling, with the exceptions of basic tasks like walking in low gravity or coping with high g-forces.
The drillers aren’t actually expected to be real astronauts, only the astronauts are, and that makes perfect sense.

The Aftermath

Another complaint that tells me no one actually watched this movie is the 1 about how if you blow the asteroid up, then all of the pieces created by the explosion will just hit the Earth anyway.
This is a risk…unless you blow it up before the Zero Barrier.  That term probably doesn’t sound familiar to anyone who makes this argument, since if it did sound familiar, they wouldn’t be making this argument in the first place.
As Truman explains, the Zero Barrier is the point at which blowing up the asteroid would result in its pieces hitting the Earth; that the team being sent up must detonate the bomb before the asteroid reaches this point.
And they do detonate the bomb before then.  So…yeah.

The Dialogue

A common, and not unfounded complaint about most Michael Bay films is the dialogue, and ‘Armageddon’ is no exception.
As far as this specific movie goes, many complain that the characters are obnoxious, and that there’s too much yelling.  I think, though, that the complaint about these characters being obnoxious comes from the fact that they yell a lot.  And yes, they do yell a lot, but always for a good reason.
If they’re in an action scene, they’re yelling over what’s going on, and if they’re not in an action scene but still yelling, it’s probably because they’re fighting, because they’re terrified, because they have 2 weeks to save the Earth from an asteroid the size of Texas.
That’s not to say some genuinely obnoxious moments don’t exist, like when the drillers are all first brought to NASA and Max (Ken Hudson Campbell) and Bear (Michael Clarke Duncan) get out of their respective limos, see each other, and greet each other in an over-the-top and loud sort of way.  But some people are just like that.
An unlikeable character is not a poorly written 1, an unrealistic character is.


I will give the detractors of ‘Armageddon’ this, the romance subplot between Grace Stamper (Liv Tyler) and AJ (Ben Affleck) could’ve been done way better, not to mention that cringeworthy animal crackers scene.  Oy.
As far as this subject goes, that 1 scene is the only 1 that annoys me.  Though I will add that the 2 of them don’t seem to have much of a reason to be together and come off more like horny teenagers.
Now that wouldn’t be much of a problem, except the narrative’s trying to tell us that they’re soulmates.
A flaw to be sure, but not a major one.  Nevertheless, I give credit where credit is do and I wanted to address this since this is about discussing this movie’s complaints.

The Humor

Another common complaint about Bay movies is that they appeal to the lowest common denominator (LCD), especially when it comes to the humor.
When I was earning my poli-sci degree in college, 1 of my professors said something that stuck with me, that people think that the bureaucracy in the Government’s broken because they only notice when it doesn’t work.
(That’s not to say that the Government doesn’t need a lot of fixing; he was just saying that the bureaucracy actually works fine 99% of the time.  It’s just that when that 1% comes around, people tend to do what he said, assume that the whole system is broken because we take it for granted that it’ll work 100% of the time).
Now what the hell does that tangent have to do with this?  Well, I think that principle can be applied to just about anything, that because we take it for granted that things will work, we only really notice when it doesn’t.
All that being said, most of the humor does work; it’s just that that handful of stupid jokes are the ones people tend to remember for the simple fact that expect all the jokes to work.
The fact that some of the characters, like Max and AJ, are pretty immature doesn’t help, either.  But some people are just like that.
Most of the humor does work, it’s just the lowest common denominator bits that don’t.

A Few More Things…

This movie does have more than its fair share of cliched 1-liners, quick cuts in action scenes, and it does lay the patriotism on a little too much.
Yet while these complaints are legit, I would say that the 1-liners and the somewhat overly patriotic nature of this movie are minor flaws, maybe medium-sized, at least for me.  It’s annoying, but I can easily move on.
The quick cuts in action scenes, though, I would say are a bigger deal since this is an action movie and, if nothing else, it should strive to do action well.
What I’m saying is that ‘Armageddon’ does action well, it just could’ve done it better.
Speaking of action, I read Roger Ebert’s review of this movie and there was 1 gripe that he makes that I think reflects how a lot people see this movie: that it’s an assault on the senses.
But this is an action movie, there’s going to be explosions, and flashes, and yelling, etc.  Realistically, it should feel like an assault on the senses; I think the complaint isn’t with this “assault” but on the fact that the movie itself feels like mindless action, hence enduring this assault doesn’t feel unrealistic, but unnecessary since anyone who does see this as mindless action would subconsciously be asking themselves: “Why am I even watching this?”

Some Final Thoughts

If art and entertainment could be objectively judged, ‘Armageddon’ would not only be an objectively good movie, but a very good movie.
The 2 major flaws just about everyone attributes to it (sending drillers up to be astronauts, and the debris from the asteroid still posing a threat) don’t exist, and the smaller ones often get exaggerated or misrepresented.
What I love most about this film is that it has some truly powerful moments, points that just hit you right in the gut.
I have no shame in saying that there are at least 2 points in ‘Armageddon’ that make me well-up, like when the drillers and astronauts are boarding the shuttles and the President’s giving that moving speech, or at the end when Harry Stamper prepares himself to detonate the bomb and sacrifices himself.
The action’s big and loud and has no shame about it, which it shouldn’t.  The characters are diverse and sympathetic, which makes them compelling; I really rooted for all of them, felt afraid when they were in danger, and sad when the characters like Oscar (Owen Wilson) or Max died.
Hell, even when the 1 ship gets torn up as they’re about to land on the asteroid and the dead astronauts come flying out — that was gut-wrenching, and we didn’t even know them!
Near everyone says that to enjoy this movie, you can’t think about it, but that’s the problem; nobody is thinking about it, so no one gets it. It’s ironic, but getting this movie isn’t a matter of not thinking, but of really thinking.


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Until next time, never stop wordbending, my fellow story-tellers.
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