out of 5 (first part of film)
out of 5 (second part of film)
|* this is based upon the accuracy of the geology portrayed in the movie.
A "good" movie may still suck geologically - or visa versa.
to what I may portray in my geology classes, Armageddon is NOT the worst geo-movie ever
made (that honor belongs to Volcano); but it comes pretty darn close. The first time I saw
this movie (in a theatre), I almost walked out of it. After a mere 24 seconds into the
opening scene. I was so annoyed by what I saw that night that years later, I absolutely
refuse to pay any money rent it. In order to do this review, I had to wait for it to
replay on television. Having watched Armageddon again, I realized that I was somewhat
overly critical with my initial opinion. The first part of the film (Earth-based) is
actually not too bad. It is the second part of the film (Asteroid-bound) that really
where to start in this geo-review of Oh-MY-God-den? How about the very beginning. In the
beginning, (twenty four seconds in to the film to be exact), Moses (AKA Charlton Heston)
tells us through narration that the dinosaurs are about to get wiped out by a 6 mile wide
asteroid. My oh my. Who's idea was it to get Chuck "Voice of God" Heston to
declare apocalyptic destruction on the most successful group of animals ever to walk on
the Earth? I can't decide if it was a brilliant idea, a bad idea (it brings divine
retribution into the theme of the movie), or just coincidence. Anyway you want to look at
it, the narration in conjunction with the actual impact was way too-Hollywood for my
liking. Yes, there would have been death and destruction. Yes there would have been
large-scale forest fires and tsunamis. Just not to the extreme that was portrayed in the
movie. Did anyone else think that they were watching a rerun of Star Trek II with that
scene of the Genesis Wave? A planet circling fire storm is not likely to occur from a 6
mile wide asteroid impact. You don't need it to kill of dinosaurs. The resulting climate
shift would do it within a few hundred years. But I forgot. For a Hollywood movie, death
and destruction has to be instantaneous. I thought about Star Trek twice watching
Armageddon. The second time was for even more ridiculous reasons.
the dinosaurs are gone. Sixty-five million years later, it's our turn. Our first warning
comes in the form of meteorite swarms that take out (in order), the Space Shuttle, much of
New York City (including Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building and the NY Public
Library) and an inflatable Godzilla. Quick views of the World Trade Center and the
collapse of several buildings brought back sad memories of 9/11. The special effects in
this scene were spectacular, if not particularly realistic. I felt like I was watching a
"snowball" fight between Pyro (from the Xmen) and the Human Torch (from the Fantastic
Four). Note to the special effects people: rocks from space hit the Earth as rather cold
objects. While it is true that they "burn" while travelling through the
atmosphere, it is only the outer most "shell" that melts. The interiors of
"basketball-sized" meteorites remain cold; that's the real temperature of space.
It's okay to have them hit buildings and taxi cabs and inflatable Godzillas, but go easy
on the fire storm effects.
we determine that the Earth is screwed (18 days to Armageddon!), NASA attempts to do
something about it. Billy Bob Thornton (Truman) suggests that we send the World's best
deep core team to blow up the asteroid (now found to be "the size of Texas")
along a fault plane. The asteroid is too big to try and deflect. It's the fault plane or
nothing. I still am not sure how they found a fault plane in an object 10's of thousands
of miles away. We can find faults below the Earth when we record reflecting seismic waves,
but you kind of have to be on the object to measure these reflections. Hmmm... Maybe NASA
is just smarter than we think. They have all this neat new stuff no one seemed to know
about like new titanium-plated space shuttles (2 of them!), multiwheeled, enclosed
drilling platforms (2 of them!), high tech launch platforms (2 of them!) etc. Who paid for
all this stuff? While they have plenty of toys, they seem totally incapable of operating a
drilling platform which they stole from the World's best deep core team. Hence their role
in the space mission. We need them to go to space to save the world,
catch up with Harry (Willis) and A.J. (Affleck) and Rockhound (Buscemi) on a drilling
platform in the South China Sea. Harry is busy hitting golf balls at the Rainbow Warrior
as it protests ocean pollution. I kind of liked this scene, but not for the comedy.
Geologists are among the World's most vocal proponents of conservation. We study the
Earth, so we know how easy it is to permanently screw it over. I like the scene because it
reveals the hypocrisy that many zealots have toward their cause. The ship burns fuel that
came from the very activity that the protestors were protesting. I don't mean that we
should be pointing fingers at Greenpeace, just that we have to be realistic here. We need
petroleum; we need to protect the Earth. They are NOT mutually exclusive principles. We
need to develop safe (environmental-wise) methods to recover resources from the Earth.
Geologists are trying to do this. Most geologists have a lot more respect for the
environment and Greenpeace than Harry had. Besides, we don't spend a lot of time on the
golf course hitting little white balls with a stick. Now were it hockey pucks...
where was I? Oh yes. NASA needs Harry and his team to save the Earth. Here's where the
story line in the film went from almost realistic to crap. I found the 1950's werewolf
movies more plausible than Armageddon from this point onward. NASA apparently stole
Harry's plan to build the drill platform in order to explore on Mars. They can't get it to
work because they put parts on backwards. Let me get this right. NASA develops a drill rig
for exploration on Mars that requires human manipulation to work. Drilling, despite what
Harry says, is not that difficult of a thing to do. It is easily automated. If you are
developing a drilling rig to explore Mars, the first one you make is remotely controlled.
Why did the writers introduce a stupid story line whereby several questionable
personalities (a couple of them big enough to be multiple personalities) had to go along
with the rig in order to drill the hole to place a bomb. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Here is a
more realistic plot. Harry and one other (A.J.?) are asked to travel with the space
shuttle crews as consultants while the remote control drill rig is working. They do not
receive any formal training because they do not need it. They are just there to provide
expert advice. However, when they start to drill, something goes wrong and the only
solution given the short time frame is that Harry and A.J. have to operate it manually.
The reason why this would have been a much better story line is that you could see how
they dealt with little to no training prior to the mission. Instead, we are expected to
believe that this bunch of boozed up, out of shape, borderline psychopaths that received 5
days of intense training was capable of moving around an asteroid as if it was a river
plain in Texas. Yeah, right.
major geo-flaws in the second part of the movie are too many to list separately. The
worst by far was the asteroid itself. Who designed this? Who ever it was, I suspect that
he/she had spent too much time watching Star Trek, The Next Generation reruns. The
Crystalline Entity should have received guest star credit for this movie. (If you are not
a STNG fan, the Crystalline Entity was a large spiky beasties that gave Data and Picard
trouble and tried to eat people in a couple of episodes). Asteroids may have rough bits,
and spiky shards of ice and rock, but they don't look like porcupines. For crying out
loud, NASA has had images of asteroids for years. They are rather smooth. Why did the
producers choose such a clearly artificial appearance for the asteroid in Armageddon?
Was it just so that AJ could utter one line? (see worst line of the movie below).
also bothered me that the producers totally ignored common sense while our heroes were on
the asteroid. When an astronaut falls, there is a very serious risk of damage to the space
suit or the support pack on his/her back. You fall; you could die. But not in this movie.
Our heroes are blasted across the asteroid (watch out for the spiky bits!), are battered
around in crashing space shuttles, have large boulders of spiky stuff roll right over top
of them without being crushed, dangle from the underside of wheeled vehicles as they fly
through space and bounce off of jagged rocks and even survive rock storms (???). And you
thought blue jeans were tough. Whatever these space suits are made out of needs to be
distributed to police around the world. Goodbye kevlar.
seemed to be a variable in this movie (on Earth it's reatively constant at 9.7. m/s2). The
space borne drilling vehicle shot into space quite easily due to the low gravity of
the asteroid, but everything else seem to be affected by higher gravity (e.g., people
walking on the asteroid's surface, drilling pipes dropping to the ground). And when is
Hollywood going to finally get the story straight about sound in space. Pipes do NOT make
a noise when they hit the ground on an asteroid. Rocket engines do not make a roaring
noise when viewed from space IN SPACE. And one other thing that really annoys me (and
probably most astronomers/physicists too), just because the Space Shuttle has wings does
not mean that it banks when turning in space. Wings work in an atmosphere, they are
only decoration in space (Star Wars and Star Trek get equal blame for this common error).
last part of the movie is awash with sentimental sop which really made me cry (it was
really, really, painful watching this part). People died, mostly doing heroic things.
Harry and AJ sorted out their relationship. AJ was proven right all along, Chick got his
wife and kid back, Rockhound found a woman, Truman got his badge, Bear didn't die (Hey;
the black guy does not die in this movie), Lev became a real Russian hero, NASA is
appreciated again. The world becomes a better place, or so we are lead to believe. I
really hoped that the asteroid would win this round.
aware that there are many people that really loved this film. Sadly, I am not one of them.
I am normally a Bruce Willis fan (the Fifth Element is an all time favorite film of
mine), but this film could have been, and should have been, so much better. Deep Impact,
which was released about the same time as Armageddon, was much more realistic and
therefore must be considered the better film (remember this is a geo-review page). The
best thing I can say about Armageddon is that Liv was in it (yes I know it is sexist, but
I really do like here), and that her dad performed that song. It, at least, was worth
hearing a second time.
|Most noteworthy lines in the movie:
"I got a
double doctorate from MIT at 22, Chemistry and Geology. I taught at Princeton for two and
a half years. Why do I do this? Because the money's good, the scenery changes and they let
me use explosives." (Rockhound to a NASA person when undergoing psychiatric
"This is how we fix things on Russian space station! " (Lev when
asked to explain his curious method of using a hammer to fix expensive electronic
equipment. I do the same with my computer)