Armageddon (1998)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck
Extras: Trailer, Aerosmith Music Video

In the Bible, the word "Armageddon" names the location where the world begins to come to an end. Director Michael Bay’s "Armageddon" shows the end of the world in a different way. The film boasts amazing visual special effects, giving the viewer a taste of the destruction of the planet. Bay flexes his filmmaking muscles to create a dramatic race into space in order to save the Earth, creating a film experience that is absolutely dazzling. Without warning, the Earth is subjected to a massive meteor shower, devastating many of the planet’s cities within seconds. Scientists try to find out more about the shower, searching the sky for clues, when they make a terrible discovery. The meteorite swarms were harbingers of a much bigger threat: An asteroid the size of Texas is heading for the Earth in a direct collision course. It becomes clear that the impact of an asteroid of such a size would cause such dramatic upheavals in the planet’s atmosphere that all life would be killed. Desperate for ideas, NASA summons the concept of drilling a hole and exploding a nuclear device deep within the mother asteroid’s core. Sadly, none of NASA’s astronauts is capable of drilling rock – and so Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), a veteran oil driller, is brought on board. Stamper gathers around him a motley crew of handpicked roughnecks who represent the best oil drillers in the world. Suddenly, the existence of the world is in the hands of men on a suicide mission. Only 18 days are left until the asteroid’s impact. Due to the urgency of the mission and the fact that the men have no astronautical experience, the mission becomes a constant struggle of conflicting personalities and the fears of men out of their element. All the while, meteor showers continue to pummel the planet.

"Armageddon" features approximately 240 effects shots, most of which were created by the film’s in-house effect team and DreamQuest Images. The same people who created the visual effects for "Dante’s Peak" now unify their knowledge and experience to create "Armageddon’s" breathtaking special effect sequences. Apart from simply amazing explosions and scenes of sheer destruction, the film also features some truly spectacular outer space images, especially the elaborate pictures of the mother asteroid surrounded by atmospheric haze and its multicolored gaseous trail, that are absolutely fascinating. Combined with the numerous practical effects, the film’s outer space sequences ably convey the atmosphere of dread inherent in attempting to survive in this hostile environment, creating a claustrophobic feeling of encumbrance in sympathy with the drillers’ plight.

The final explosion, as the asteroid’s surrounding gases are blown away in shock rings depicted in concave shapes, is faithfully based on real images from the Hubble telescope, taken of an actual supernova explosion. Its awe-inspiring beauty is clearly the icing on this exhilarating film. Despite the film’s considerable running length of over 150 minutes, you will be hard pressed to find a single moment that does not glue the viewer’s eyes on the screen. The movie is a lesson in cinematic storytelling, establishing a highly thrilling premise and then letting the viewer partake in an action-ride all the way to end. While the film’s story might be simple and the script might exhibit some gaps and flaws, the way in which it is converted into images is stunningly good. Part of the fun is that the film keeps the viewer nearly as much on his toes as the actual characters on screen. With wicked twists and furious, unpredictable changes in the plot, the film will leave you panting in disbelief when the end credits start rolling. The atmosphere the movie creates is so engrossing and complete that it almost feels that the viewer saved the Earth just moments ago. It is a movie experience that is clearly perfect in its visceral impact and delivery.

Buena Vista have now released "Armageddon" on a gorgeous DVD, and much to my surprise, the disc even contained a number of bonus materials. The disc contains the film’s <$PS,widescreen> transfer in its theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Although not <$16x9,anamorphic>ally enhanced, the image is highly detailed and bursts with detail. Colors are strong with deep blacks that perfectly blend with the image’s letterbox – a sign that the black level has been perfectly set for this disc’s transfer. The image does not exhibit any signs of <$pixelation,pixelation> or other compression artifacts and the colors are stable, without noise or bleeding, with absolutely natural fleshtones. The outstanding picture quality of this disc is clearly a result of the additional space the use of a <$RSDL,RSDL> disc offers, although Buena Vista has always been known for the superb transfer and compression quality of their strictly non-<$16x9,anamorphic> releases. The disc’s layer change is seamlessly placed at 1:11:11, exactly on a scene cut.

Just as impressive as the image quality is this disc’s audio transfer. It features a highly active 5.1 <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack that will give your speakers a really good workout. The surround effects are effective and highly directional and an overall bass extension that oftentimes goes well below 25 Hz. Enhanced by an interesting musical score by Trevor Rabin, much of the film’s impact is heightened by the precise placement of important cues. Interestingly, the score contains a number of rather Celtic-sounding motifs, which create an attractive flair that is completely different from the standard opus normally found this kind of film. Nevertheless, it also contains heroic themes that aid in establishing the sense of magnitude and destiny. The disc contains English and French language tracks but contains no subtitles. As a bonus – which is surprising considering Buena Vista’s otherwise Spartan releases – the disc also contains Aerosmith’s award-winning music video "I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing". It is the film’s theme song, and nicely captures the film’s emotional experience. It also proves (once again) that Aerosmith have firmly established themselves as the leading band for rock ballads in the 90’s.

"Armageddon" is a fun movie. Spectacular, heroic and truly grand in scale, the film will keep you on the edge of your seat for its entire length. It is a special-effects fest that races through the story at breakneck speed and creates stunning visual and pulse-pounding visceral effects. Don’t expect much depth in a movie like this, but if you are looking for some mind-blowing, riveting, popcorn entertainment, Buena Vista’s "Armageddon" will deliver just that… with a SERIOUS bang.