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Enough with this anomaly horseshit!




A movie that appears expressly designed to make NASA-designated space seem sensible by contrast, given pretty much everything here is so transparently, gleefully ridiculous. Armageddon, the biggest movie of its year, is now universally derided, it seems. Or perhaps just by the voices on the Internet, and Joe Public still quite likes it. There’s a disclaimer on the end credits, to the effect that “The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s cooperation and assistance does not reflect an endorsement of the contents of the film or the treatment of the characters depicted therein”, but who are they trying to kid? NASA helps save the world? Of course they want their name on there in neon lights. Armageddon delivers an embarrassment of riches in its celebration of apocalypse porn, with a glut of fakeness – nukes*, asteroids, space travel, previous extinction events – strung together by Michael Bay with customary abandon. Were it just an extremely dumb piece of space-vacuum propaganda, that would be one thing, but it also feels the need to go on interminably. Fine when you have Peter Stormare or Owen Wilson or Steve Buscemi on screen. Not so much when its Ben and Liv.

Street Vendor: That dog’s eatin’ my Godzilla.

And you can guess why their star-crossed-ness featured prominently. Yes, Titanic. Alas, Affleck and Tyler have zero chemistry and negligible star wattage (that didn’t stop the former Batffleck winning several career second winds, and he’s still going strong now he’s deceased). Really, though, Armageddon’s there less because of Jim Cameron and Deep Impact – of which, screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin told how a Disney Exec basically took notes regarding his pitch and presto… – than Independence Day. Disaster – or apocalypse – porn was suddenly back in, big time, and graded all the way from a Twister to Godzilla stomping round New York (Bay swipes at this, quite amusingly, with an opening strike taking out a load of Godzilla toys, but crucially not the adorable dog in the vicinity, as that would be unforgiveable). Was such fare purpose built, predictive-programming style, to perch the inevitability of mass depopulation in the public’s mind? The more recent rip-off/cash-in AmireGeddon made explicit this agenda, referencing the desirability of reaching the (now defunct) Georgia Guidestones’ preferred population of 500,000.

Max: Let’s drill through this turd.

If attention to such matters is back in vogue, in the wake of the coof, the jab and associated conspiratorial terrors, initial attention to these movies could understandably be more localised. Post 9/11, any movie shown “coincidentally” depicting mass NY carnage and/or terrorist attacks was liable to be identified as pointing to its years-in-the-making design (and, while I would never seek to pour could water on such suggestions, there is also a practical aspect to be weighed up. If you’re going to make a movie depicting disasters, you’re going to want to reference easily recognisable landmarks to sell it. Indeed, it’s been suggested the Twin Towers were built with the plan to blow them, so anything blowing them in the intervening period could simply be argued as “because they were there”, like the end of Planet of the Apes).

Harry: Hey, you guys wouldn’t be able to tell us who actually killed Kennedy, would ya?

Mark Tokarski revisited Armageddon a few years back (2016) and called attention to immediate references to terrorism, jumpers and 9/11 before the first strike hits and subsequent exclamations of “We’re at war!” and “Saddam Hussein is bombing us!” I’ll admit, I didn’t see the “Rumsfeld lookalike” in the US President (Stanley Anderson, who earlier played the same role in Bay’s The Rock), but I do now I look at them both. 

Colonel Sharp: You and your men are the biggest mistake in the history of NASA.

Some of his observations are of the “so de rigueur they’re redundant” nature, however: the President is almost always depicted as being a genuine article in movies, just as he is in “real life” (as in, not a puppet); the gender-lines material, of women who can do it in a man’s world, seems positively innocuous with 25 years hindsight (indeed, the token female astronaut almost precisely mirrors the “reactionary” Top Gun: Maverick, also Bruckheimer, from last year). Particularly since, in almost every respect, Liv Tyler is without agency and simply there to love her man/men. And the men all do manly things, motley assortment as they are.

Lev: This is how we fix problem in Russian space station.

The anti-environmentalist element is certainly curious, not a part of the movie I remembered, with Greenpeace called out as hypocrites in much the manner Greta and her airmiles are now. Tokarski suspects Greenpeace is a CIA creation, quite plausible in the Hegelian nature of these things, but the ultimate purpose of this, given the ultimate purpose is/was the carbon currency redesign of global society and ridding us of oil, not because it ran out but because it was time to switch to something less green and more profitable/ supporting the transhumanist city grid, is less clear; yes the Russians are “unpredictable” but the most salient aspect of the “quasi-allies” part is the movie’s paradigm conceit (I mean as far as nominal enemies go, Shanghai is wiped out, despite China being a foremost global partner in sustaining the coof charade). I like the idea of the Deepwater Horizon PP idea being positioned here, though. 

Oscar: This is space! ‘Course, we’re just in the beginning part of space. We-We haven’t gotten to “outer” space yet.

Tokarski skips over “the obvious NASA and nuke programming” because he thinks readers are well past that (quite possibly), but he still appears to buy into the idea of the NASA-informed universe (ie, that we’re on a globe, spinning in a vacuum), illustrative that most of us have our own bridge to cross no matter how aware we are (of which, crediting disinfo-agent Miles Mathis unqualified is never a good idea).

Rockhound: I swear to God, she never told me her age.

I’ll be completely honest and admit I found a whole host of very funny moments in Armageddon. Unfortunately, though, this is a 2-and-a-half-hour movie, and there’s a far vaster host of moments that are risible, plain suck, are boring or frenetic. I remembered Lev (Stormare) dying, but it turns out he doesn’t. Too likeable. Much like Rockhound, victim to Terry Nation-esque Space Dementia. That’s loveable Rockhound (Buscemi), for whom a running gag is concern lest he be arrested for statutory rape (evidently one of Bay’s little amusements, since sex with minors also preoccupies TJ Miller in Transformers: Age of Extinction).

General Kimsey: The fate of the planet is in the hands of a bunch of retards I wouldn’t trust with a potato gun.

Around about The Rock, Bruckheimer had the savvy idea of mixing up his formula, bringing in solid thesps and getting in writers who could jolly up the dialogue. By the time we get to Armageddon, and past Con Air, we have a new formula of hip actors – a selection from Coen and Tarantino movies including Willis, Buscemi, Stormare – and indies (Wilson, Batfleck, Thornton). Indeed, the blemish in retrospect is the romantic leads, one less overtly crippling at the time (it would entirely subsume Pearl Harbour). Willis probably wouldn’t have gone within a mile of it, had he not got himself into hot soup by walking off The Broadway Brawler (somehow, he kept appearing in just enough hits during this period, despite contrastingly gargantuan turkeys. The movie is riddled with talent (Will Patton, William Fichtner, Jason Isaacs, Keith David wasted as a hard-ass) and cost the Earth (Godzilla was similarly expensive, but grossed less).

Harry: We gotta hop. We’re fallin’ behind. Dig, dig, dig. Chew this iron bitch up.

I’m sure someone’s done an analysis of Bay’s upped cutting rate as his career has progressed, but the much-criticised style seemed positively restrained against his more recent form. Most notable, however, is the general high quality of FX work. Given how he decried the end movie, protesting his having insufficient time to complete his edit (the last hour in particular), it’s all the more impressive. Certainly, you compare FX standards in Bay or Emmerich pictures of the period to modern CGI fests, and there’s no doubting who comes out on top.

US President: I address you tonight, not as the President of the United States, not as the leader of a country, but as a citizen of humanity. We are faced with the very gravest of challenges. The Bible calls this day Armageddon, the end of all things. And yet, for the first time… in the history of the planet, a species has the technology… to prevent its own extinction

The Bay formula has been one of too much being never enough, 151 minutes being the rule rather than exception (reaching 184 with Pearl Harbour). The result is a fitful affair, at its best during the opening sections, on the Mir, and in the altercations with the drill bits/remote detonation, but frequently diverting into disarray, be it endless montages, Leaving on a Jet Plane or the annoyingly protracted final countdown. Trevor Rabin’s score attempts to hit all the most absurdly emotive beats possible – aided by Liv’s “dad” and a best-selling soundtrack – with the result that the President’s patriotic speech is hilariously OTT (I never fail to find Bay’s flag-waving montages a source of grandiose amusement, along with the concomitant heroic gestures: “And I have never, never missed a depth that I have aimed for”). 

Narrator: This is the Earth at a time… when the dinosaurs roamed a lush and fertile planet. A piece of rock just six miles wide… changed all that. It hit with the force of 10,000 nuclear weapons. A trillion tons of dirt and rock hurtled into the atmosphere, creating a suffocating blanket of dust… the sun was powerless to penetrate… for a thousand years. It happened before. It will happen again. It’s just a question of when.

Chuck Heston is on hand at the outset to set the scene, ensuring we know the score with the recently retconned history of the Earth, the one with dinosaurs (fake) roaming/ruling 65 million years ago (fake by almost 65 million years, and that’s without the other 4.5 billion years adding insult to injury) before being wiped out by an asteroid (fake, they don’t exist) that hit with the force of 10,000 nukes (which don’t exist*). It’s entirely appropriate, then, that the verification of this new extinction-level threat – the size of Texas – is called upon when the shuttle Atlantis is destroyed (the actual Atlantis was never destroyed) during the repair of a satellite (which are not in space, but held up by balloons); step forward the Hubble Telescope (fake imagery) and NASA (fake up to the eyeballs).

US President: Dan, we didn’t see this thing coming?
Dan: Well, our object collision budget’s a million dollars. That allows us to track about three percent of the sky.

Indeed, it’s little wonder NASA willingly cooperated with Bruckheimer, known for bending over backwards for such business (hey, at least he’s upfront about it, amending screenplays to ensure he gets tens of millions knocked off budgets through gratis use of men, locations and hardware). The potential for Top Gun-style heroising of NASA was too tempting a carrot, regardless of “inaccuracies”. The running theme of the movie is that NASA is undervalued, and that we need them in case of just such an eventuality (although the makers admit that, should something like this happen, it would be curtains regardless). Despite having 11,000 employees, the agency’s understaffed and underfunded (above). What’s more “For 30 years, they questioned the need for NASA. Today, we’re gonna give ’em the answer”.

Harry: I mean, you’re NASA for cryin’ out loud. You put a man on the Moon. You’re geniuses. You’re the guys that think this shit up. I’m sure you got a team of men sittin’ around somewhere right now, just thinkin’ shit up and somebody backin’ them up.

Of course, if we translate “thinkin’ shit up” as “Makin’ shit up”, Harry’s above appeal is pretty much spot on. That crashes crudely into focus when we see footage of “Neil Armstrong, 1969, bouncing on the Moon. He’s bouncing up there because there’s less gravity up there than on Earth. This will be similar to the asteroid, so watch it”. Kubrick may have shot that stuff, but it’s ropey as can be, hence making sure it’s shown on a tiny monitor here. Bay obligingly gives us all sorts of sounds and explosions in space to mix things up, but we’re still supplied with hoary old favourites like how the Moon is “200 degrees in the sunlight. Minus 200 in the shade” (it’s almost as if they’re asking for ridicule) and allowing use of the actual weightless pool (because it near-enough simulates a vacuum, you know). Elsewhere, the quality of the real deal simply isn’t up to par, so there’s a Bay’d up NASA Mission control and spruced-up X-71 (so in this scenario, despite not having funding, there’s still enough cash for a planned Mars mission and joint venture shuttles with the Air Force. Obviously, black budgets are coming in handy).

Truman: NASA’s in emergency launch preparation in cooperation with Russian, Japanese and French space agencies on the most massive joint space venture in history.

We’re told “At NASA, we don’t take chances. We double up on everything”, even if that hasn’t prevented the Challenger crew visibly turning up alive and the egregious greenscreen “mistakes” made in their space-station livestreams. But Armageddon’s also a visible reminder that this deceit is a global thing, thus whatever states of opposition exist, at the highest level they too are stage managed. The Russians lie about space, as do the Japanese and the French. Add nukes to the mix and you have a whole raft of nations. At one point, we see the Apollo 1 memorial, possibly a reminder of what happens when astronauts don’t get with the programme.

Quincy: Half the world’s population will be incinerated by the heat blast. The rest’ll freeze to death from nuclear winter.

And the apocalypse porn keeps on coming. Martial law has been implemented in 42 countries. And to prove that this kind of thing goes way back (at least as far as its rewrites circa 1700), we can expect “Basically the worst parts of The Bible”. 

Rockhound: This place is like Dr Seuss’s worst nightmare.

In amongst all this, I couldn’t help notice a predilection for the number 11. Movies are well known for their affinity for 23, but is there a particular reason for 11 cropping up here? You can find various definitions of the prime number’s meaning, often relation to spirituality, intuition, the mystical, but to take a less unequivocally positive one – since this is movie layering – Collins Gem Guide to Predicting gives it as “special mystical awareness, possibly balanced between good and evil”. In Armageddon, we are told NASA will have to “wake up 11,000 people” (their staff), the asteroid is heading “Right for us at 22,000 miles an hour” (11×2, another prime number), “That’s like 11 words or something” (when Harry tries to apologise to AJ), “Take it to 11,000” (during the simulated drilling “You’ll be upward of 11 Gs”), “Give me a projected impact: “East Asia, 11 minutes”, “Gentlemen, remember the Russian space station has been up there for 11 years” and “Nine-and-a-half Gs for 11 minutes. I’d start praying about right now”. Yeah, it’s probably nothing.

Harry: Houston, you have a problem. 

So, the global number one champ of 1998 (Godzilla was third). Independence Day was the champ in 1996, Titanic in ’97, of course (others in pole position: Die Hard with a Vengeance and its New York bombing in ’95; Jurassic Park proclaim dinosaurs are real and should be preserved even when the consequences are a disaster in ’93). Following 9/11, there’d be reflections of the shattering event (War of the Worlds, Cloverfield), with the occasional Emmerich disaster affair to keep imminent annihilation in our minds (The Day After Tomorrow, 2012). Of course, at a certain point, such disaster fare filtered into the comic-book and toy spheres – MCU, DCEU, Transformers – and was much easier to present as localised or reversible doom. Did Armageddon have a deep impact? It was only superficial in its damage, but with significant aftershocks.

*Addendum 24/06/23: So, I’ve been chasing the wrong conspiracy with this one, it seems. It’s almost inevitable that, when you think you’ve grasped the nettle of some subjects, you instead get stung to blue blazes. There’s long-standing theorising concerning the legitimacy of the nuke threat, and of nuclear technology generally, it took me a while to warm to it (probably in the last three or four years). Warm to it I did, though, and it seemed Q & A answers were confirming the counterfeit nature of the subject (this, however, as tends to be the case, was based on misconception of the parameters of the response).

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