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Hollywood pushes doomsday buttons

Armageddon misconstrued and trivialized

Armageddon, starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler, is directed by Michael Bay. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi disaster action, sensuality and brief language.


FRANK MASI PHOTO

A roughneck crew of the world’s foremost deep-core oil drillers, including (left to right) Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), Charles "Chick" Chapple (Will Patton), Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), Jayotis "Bear" Kurleenbear (Michael Duncan), A.J. Frost (Ben Affleck) and Oscar Choi (Owen Wilson), set out on a heroic journey into space to save the world from an oncoming asteroid in Armageddon.


By Peter T. Chattaway
ChristianWeek movie critic

From The Birds to Titanic, disaster movies and others that pit humans against the forces of nature have typically indulged in a religious motif or two. These motifs may point to the God behind nature and, for better or worse, convey a sense of awe. They may illustrate an act of salvation. And, at times, they may be found on the lips of characters who quote (or misquote) apocalyptic Bible passages just to push our doomsday buttons.

Armageddon falls mostly into the latter category. The film, about a massive asteroid on a collision course with Earth, had a title before it even had a script, and it’s pure marketing gimmickry. As Joe Roth, the studio chief who approved the film, told Premiere magazine, "A long, difficult word can be a real positive in a movie title. Trust me—by July 1, you’ll think of Armageddon like Haagen-Dazs."

With equally trivializing hermeneutical insight, the American president in this film solemnly declares, "The Bible calls this day Armageddon, the end of all things." Not quite. Revelation 16:16 refers not to a meteor shower, let alone "the end of all things," but to a military conflict near Megiddo, in Israel. Besides, what if the asteroid can be deflected?

There is something almost insightful in finding heroism among such coarse folk as the oil drillers, led by Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), who are sent into space to plant a nuclear bomb inside the asteroid and thus save the world. In one scene, director Michael Bay even seems to confer sainthood upon them: in a subtle visual gag, the actors stand in front of helicopters in such a way that the spinning rotor blades resemble haloes.

Armageddon is, perhaps, more realistic than Deep Impact, the other motif-laden sky-is-falling flick of the summer. It adopts a more truly global perspective, paying at least token attention to events on other continents. It also suggests—accurately, if a tad pruriently—that not everyone will look to the end of the world as an opportunity to make things right with God and their fellow man; some, instead, will use it as an excuse to sin without fear of consequence.

Bay trots his mostly male cast from one tense crisis to another without letting things get too serious. Unlike Deep Impact, which tried to be mature and thoughtful and, instead, came off as earnest and sentimental, Armageddon dispenses a steady stream of punchlines and special effects like so many Pavlovian goodies. It’s hokey, but kind of fun. Ultimately, the film’s shallowness is its own salvation.


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