Armageddon (1998)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stromare
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 a close call with the end of the world in a different way. The film boasts cool 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 still dazzling after 12 years.

Without warning, the Earth is subjected to a massive meteor shower, devastating a number 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 on 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 focuses on the concept of drilling a hole and exploding a nuclear device deep within the mother asteroid's core to split it in two and alter its trajectory. 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 with only 18 days 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" combined their knowledge and experience to create "Armageddon's" breathtaking special effect sequences. While these effects are no longer quite as impressive a they were when "Armageddon" first hit theaters during the early days of the digital revolution, the scenes of sheer destruction are still memorable. In addition, the film features some beautiful outer space images and views, including the mother asteroid surrounded by atmospheric haze and its multicolored gaseous trail. 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 bombastic 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, lacking logic altogether, the way in which it is converted into images is what made Michael Bay such a prolific director. 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. It is a movie experience that is perfect in its visceral impact and delivery.

After years of teasing high definition fans with clips from the film, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has finally released "Armageddon" on Blu-Ray, and the wait was well worth it. Presenting the movie in a flawless 1080p transfer, the movie looks like, well, a $135 million bucks. Unlike modern day bombastic blockbusters á la "Transformers," "Armageddon" does not yet have the over-polished, sterile digital look. Instead, it still features a film-like quality throughout that has been lost almost entirely in the current crop of movies. Occasional grain adds to the overall experience, making sure the presentation is as faithful to the original movie as possible. Colors are incredibly strong on this transfer, bolstered up with deep blacks that create in immense visual depth for the images. The level of definition is every bit as good as you would expect from such a big budget movie presented in high definition, and won't disappoint a bit.

Just as impressive as the image quality is this disc's audio transfer, arriving in a super-aggressive DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track. It is hard to describe the exact qualities of this track – simply imagine, your whole home theater is sonically exploding – literally. Reproducing the original master tracks ,the mix is brutally effective and kicks your subwoofer into overdrive. On the same note, your surround speakers may get a serious wake-up call also and wonder what just happened to them. "Armageddon" is orgiastic in every sense, and the Blu-Ray format is perfectly suited for a presentation that is as over-the-top as this.

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 created an attractive and unique flair during the movie's original release. Sadly, because of its haunting effectiveness, this musical element has been heavily overused in recent years and no longer works its magic as well as it used to. Nevertheless, the score also contains heroic themes that aid in establishing the sense of magnitude and destiny.

Sadly, the release is practically a bare-bones affair. Like their 10-year old DVD version,
Buena Vista Home Entertainment has added only the Aerosmith "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" music video and the movie's theatrical trailer to the release. To rub some additional salt into the wound, they even present them in DVD's standard definition. Blech!

"Armageddon" is a fun movie. It is a popcorn movie, though – remember, it's a michael Bay flick. 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, this Blu-Ray version of "Armageddon" will deliver just that… with a SERIOUS bang.