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Sure, no one will ever confuse ARMAGEDDON ($30) with great cinema, but this movie was never intended to be anything other than mindless entertainment. ARMAGEDDON delivers everything one expects from a formulaic summer popcorn movie- a big star, big screen action, big laughs, a big loud soundtrack and even bigger special effects. Hell, I know I got my $5.00 worth when I went to the discount matinee.

As the title implies, the plot of ARMAGEDDON concerns the end of the world. Of course, watching the end of the world would be a complete downer for an audience, that is why ARMAGEDDON offers a story about a group of unlikely heroes dispatched to stop the cataclysm. ARMAGEDDON opens with a meteor shower that devastates the island of Manhattan. However, the shower turns out to be a precursor to the main event. In eighteen days time, an asteroid the size of Texas will strike the Earth. The force of the impact will be far worse than that of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs- not even bacteria will survive this global killer. With few options, NASA devises a plan to launch two experimental space shuttles, rendezvous with the asteroid and deliver a nuclear weapon that will obliterate it in space. Unfortunately, a surface explosion will not stop the asteroid; the only way to destroy it is to blow it apart from the inside.

Since only the best will do, NASA enlists an "expert" to drill though the surface of the asteroid and deploy the nuclear device. Bruce Willis stars as Harry S. Stamper, the "expert" selected by NASA. Harry owns and operates his own deep core oil drilling company. No one knows the fine art of drilling like Harry and his men; they have worked every type of terrain on the planet and have met with success, even under the most adverse conditions. However, despite their expertise in drilling, no one will accuse Harry and his team of misfits of having "The Right Stuff" to become astronauts. Undeterred, NASA places Harry and his men into accelerated astronaut training, preparing them for the rigors of space flight and the job of drilling through the surface of the asteroid. In addition to Bruce Willis, the cast of ARMAGEDDON also includes Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare. Director Michael Bay effortlessly guides his actors through the film’s most unbelievable moments while maintaining intensity. Bay knows how to push all the right buttons, creating a perfect mixture of action, special effects and sentimentality. Sure, the story has holes in logic that one could fly an asteroid the size of Texas through, but Michael Bay has managed to tie ARMAGEDDON up into one neat entertaining little package.

Thanks to Touchstone Home Video, ARMAGEDDON arrives on DVD in a great looking Letterboxed presentation that restore the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical framing. However, ARMAGEDDON is the type of film that cries out to be released on DVD with the anamorphic enhancement for wide screen televisions, however a frustrating corporate policy has prevented it. Despite the lack of the anamorphic enhancement, the Letterboxed transfer is usually quite satisfying. The image is always sharp and finely detailed, although there are a few brief moments where the transfer looks somewhat flat- more like video and less like film. Color reproduction is virtually flawless, with strong saturated hues and no evidence of chroma noise. Digital compression artifacts were well hidden, thanks to a good authoring job and the extra space afforded by the dual layer presentation. The layer switch was a bit rough on my player, but not too disruptive.

Sound-wise, ARMAGEDDON delivers an explosive Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. Standing too close to the speaker while the soundtrack is played back at high volume levels could knock the viewer into orbit. Bass reproduction is intense and the mix makes the most of the discrete nature of Dolby Digital to bounce sound from speaker to speaker. At times, the sound is enveloping and overwhelming, yet the perfect compliment to the visuals. Despite the wall of sound, the mix maintains the dialogue, preventing it from being buried under everything else. The DVD also includes a French language soundtrack, plus English subtitles. The simple interactive menus supply access to a theatrical trailer, a theatrical teaser and the Aerosmith music video for "I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing."


Armageddon (1998)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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