Wednesday, 6 October 2010

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.