Despite the laughable fact that this movie is included in the Criterion Collection; and the almost certain financial & business-tactical reasons for its inclusion, I’m going to try to review this film in good faith. This Michael Bay blockbuster came out in 1998, and that’s important, because I can’t imagine a film like this being made at all post-9/11. Yeah, I went there. The film is a self-congratulatory projection of America at the height of its pride, but before it had gottenth to the fall; an America that fancied itself so invincible that it could kick a Texas-sized asteroid’s ass in 18 days. An America with no problems. This is a movie made in an America that had forgotten what it is like to be humbled. (And if you think it’s just coincidence that the asteroid is “Texas-sized”, you’re an idiot).
Despite the not-so-laughable fact that the entire world is threatened by the asteroid, the only ones who can save the day are Americans. Americans who are arrogant dicks. (Redundant, I know.) America is the theme of this movie, not cosmic annihilation. Most noticeably, there are flags draped everywhere, they are like sacred tapestries, and nearly every scene is constructed to honor or promote American-ness in some way. Plus, Bruce Willis; probably the most stereotypically “American” action hero. There’s nothing original here, the film is basically a HGH version of the played-out “can we disarm the bomb in time?” trope.
Armageddon might be the most quintessentially American movie of the post-WWII era. Its genius is that of an idiot savant, but because this movie lacks anything approaching self-awareness, the glory of its bravado & obvious tackiness capture what it means to be American in the purest of terms. Michael Bay set out to make a blockbuster about America’s big balls and succeeded, but in his quest to present us with two hours of subconscious masturbatory zeitgeist-stroking (thereby turning us into lab rats who don’t even have to hit the crack button) he managed to remove anything vaguely approaching a compelling narrative. The movie is pablum; there is no there there, and that is the only reason it is possible to make the grandiose claims I’m making about this film. If you are a thoughtful person, letting the tits, explosions, & smart-mouthed dialogue flow through you is like sitting zazen and penetrating through the impenetrable mu of the American psyche through the force of sheer bafflement. You will grasp for any sort of meaning and come up empty, and at the uttermost depth of your despair, when you surrender to the idiocy; enlightenment. This film is the archetype.