ARMAGEDDON: more like GIRLMAGEDDON
I finally got around to watching Armageddon, and I have to say, I was surprised. All the previews I had seen prepared me for a big testosterone-soaked action movie. I mean, the previews were full of cool guy stuff: space ships... explosions... slow motion walking by big Hollywood stars... I mean, in the preview, Paris gets destroyed. How macho is that? But when I saw the movie, I realized it wasn't the trash-talkin', high-fivin', no-girls-allowed type movie I have come to expect from Jerry Bruckheimer.
Don't get me wrong. Armageddon delivered a lot of what it promised: the special effects were big, the slow-motion walking was plentiful, and all the guys in the movie displayed appropriately gritty cinema cool. That's the kind of cool where every crisis is an opportunity to show off your cojones by making a little quip or one-liner. Below I've listed some of the crises, and the one-liners they engendered:
- The space ship is endangered by asteroids: "Everybody hang on. This could get a little rough."
- They land on the meteor, and it's scary: "This place is like Dr. Suess's worst nightmare."
- Anything at all happens: "Let's rock and roll." (As is standard in action blockbusters, this line ended 50% of all scenes.)
- Someone's pessimistic prediction comes true: "God, I hate knowing everything."
- The ship is menaced by scary space bugs: "A billion dollars in space weapons and all I want is... a lousy... can of Raid!"
Actually, I think that last line was said by Matt LeBlanc in "Lost in Space," but it's such a great line that I had to cite it here. He's fighting space bugs! All he wants is a lousy can of Raid! Matt LeBlanc is the best action hero ever!
All this I could have guessed from the previews, but I was unprepared for the surprise at the center of Armageddon. It's a much better-kept secret than the "twist" at the end of The Sixth Sense, where the guy from Moonlighting turns out to be a chick. I probably shouldn't be spoiling the movie for everyone, but you've all seen it by now, right? Anyway, in case you haven't guessed from the title of the article, the numerous hints I've dropped, and the poorly doctored picture to the right, here's the secret:
ARMAGEDDON is a chick movie!
It's basically a big weepy love story. You see, it's all about the forbidden love between Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler, and the obstacles placed in their path by Liv's father, the guy from Moonlighting. During the course of the movie, Ben must prove his worth so that he can marry Liv. The film ends, as chick movies tend to do, with a wedding. Then, over the credits, there's grainy home movie footage of the wedding, filmed apparently in the 1950's, scored by sappy love songs. Like, how girly is that? Did they even do that in Notting Hill, or was it too girly even for Hugh Grant?
My major problem with "ARMAGEDDON: The Chick Flick", though, isn't that it's secretly a date movie. It's not even the fact that the plot is obviously cribbed from Jane Austen's "Persuasion", with the guy from Moonlighting as Lady Russell and Ben Affleck as Captain Wentworth. It's the fact that there are plot holes in the movie that you could drive a big pink rocket ship through.
First and foremost is the fact that Liv Tyler's dad thinks that Ben Affleck is not good enough for his daughter. That is patently unrealistic. I mean, let's face it, despite lingering questions about his sexuality, Ben Affleck's character is pretty marriageable. In fact, he's one of the most eligible bachelors on earth.
The way I see it, this mission to save the planet can go two ways:
1) The mission fails, in which case everybody dies, and it doesn't matter who your daughter is engaged to. Whether your daughter brings home an ape or Pauly Shore, you can cheerfully give your blessing. "Congratulations, honey! You're going to marry Pauly Shore. But we'll all be dead tomorrow and this nightmare will be over."
2) The mission succeeds, and the eight people who saved the earth are heroes. Heroes! How much better can you do in son-in-laws than one of the 8 people who saved the earth?
BACHELOR NUMBER ONE: "I'm an idealistic elementary school teacher in an inner city school. I really think I'm making a difference in my kid's lives."
BEN AFFLECK: "Yes, indeed, and where would your kids be without me? Dead! I guess I made a difference in their lives too. But a bigger one."
BACHELOR NUMBER TWO: "I'm a Nobel-prize winning scientist who cured all known diseases."
BEN AFFLECK: "Very impressive. How many lives did you save? All of them? I didn't think so."
So obviously Ben Affleck's only reasonable marrying-Liv-Tyler competition is presented by the other guys who saved the earth with him. And what a ragtag, motley bunch they are. Let's take a look at them.
BEAR, the big, jive-talking black guy. Not the jive-talking black guy at the beginning who gets hit with a comet, nor the jive-talking black cabbie who watches the jive-talking black guy at the beginning get hit with a comet, but the other jive-talking black guy. The big one. I guess technically, he could be a potential match, but as we learn to our horror during the movie, he wears leopard-print thong underwear, and I doubt that any father would find that acceptable.
ROCK HOUND. I mean, obviously he's not the male lead. He's Steve Buscemi, for Chrissakes. He plays his usual repellent bug-eyed, cowardly slimeball weirdo, this time adding "depraved" into the mix. As Liv herself says, "We call him Hound because he's horny." Rock Hound typically makes comments like, "I swear to God, she never told me her age."(On a side note, Steve Buschemi would NEVER be an astronaut. I mean, you get up to 1.2 G's, and there would be nothing left but a bug-eyed pancake on the floor.)
|At some point, I think this piece of a building falls on a jive-talking black guy.
OSCAR I didn't get a good sense of this guy's personality, except that he seemed like a go-by-your-gut loose cannon, essentially a blonder and more emotionally opaque version of Ben Affleck. His disadvantages include the fact that nothing he says ever makes any sense and that he has the vacant eyes of a chronic pot user. But, on the other hand, he doesn't know all the words to "Jet Plane," like Affleck. So I guess he's a possibility.
MAX: He's the big fat guy so necessary to any ragtag team. I mean, it wouldn't really be a ragtag team if they were all slim and healthy, would it? His primary personality trait, as you can well guess, is that he likes to eat. Oh yeah, and he likes the Cubs. So he's clearly insane.
CHICK: This guy is pretty boring. I think he has a gambling problem. And he's married. So he's out.
THE GUY FROM MOONLIGHTING He's great and everything, but he's Liv Tyler's dad, so that probably eliminates him as a suitor, just like you can't win the lottery if you work for the lotto board.
ANOTHER GUY There was some other schmoe who apparently was on the team, but I don't think he had much in the way of lines. Suffice it to say that no tears were shed when he died, which happened pretty early on in the movie. I think he has black hair. He's essentially a placeholder, a cipher, a drone, a zero. You can definitely make a case for him being better than Ben Affleck.
To sum up, I thought that Armageddon, while flawed, was a decent movie. It suffered from plot problems and presentation problems, but it is still a perfectly passable romantic comedy. If you should ever find yourself in the summer of 1998, then by all means, go see Armageddon! But bring a date.
You can thank me later.