Bruce Willis IS America (Pre-9/11, now it's Kiefer Sutherland)

A part of this view­ing listCri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #40: Michael Bay’s Armaged­don.

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.