Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Deep Impact (1998) vs. Armageddon (1998)

By ScottDS

In 1999, we had two CGI bug movies. In 1997, we had two volcano movies. And in 1998, we had two “killer asteroid” movies: Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact and Michael Bay’s Armageddon. They both have their good qualities and bad qualities. While the former is a heartfelt, human story set against the backdrop of impending disaster, the latter is… well, it’s what Michael Bay does best – it’s the id to Deep Impact’s superego!

In Deep Impact, Elijah Wood plays high school student Leo Biederman, who discovers a comet that appears to be on a collision course with Earth. Cut to one year later as reporter Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) investigates what she thinks is a sex scandal. However, the mysterious “Ellie” in question is actually “E.L.E.” – extinction-level event. Her investigation forces President Beck (Morgan Freeman) to make his announcement earlier than planned: in short, a comet the size of New York City is heading towards Earth. A joint U.S.-Russian spacecraft – the Messiah – has been constructed to intercept the comet and destroy it with nuclear weapons. Leading the mission is veteran NASA commander Spurgeon Tanner (Robert Duvall). Unfortunately, one of the astronauts is killed and the mission fails: the comet splits into two smaller pieces, both on a course for Earth.
President Beck reveals that the US has been building giant underground “arks” and that 800,000 Americans have been randomly selected to join 200,000 pre-selected scientists, engineers, etc. Leo and his family are selected but Leo’s girlfriend Sarah (Leelee Sobieski) and her parents are not. Leo and Sarah get married so that she can come along but her parents are omitted from the list and she decides to stay with them. Jenny gives up her seat on an evac helicopter to a co-worker and visits her estranged father to reconcile. Upon reaching the ark, Leo goes back for Sarah and her family and manages to catch up with them. The smaller comet fragment impacts near Cape Hatteras destroying much of the Eastern seaboard. Meanwhile, the Messiah crew sacrifice themselves to destroy the larger fragment and the pieces break up in the atmosphere. President Beck appears in front of the damaged Capitol building and urges us to begin again.

This is a good movie. At times, it’s a very good movie. The “Ellie”/“E.L.E.” mystery is deftly handled, the characters are decent and likeable people (some more than others), and the pacing is spot on: we’re in and out in two hours. Above all, it’s a human story and the visual effects are the supporting player, not the leading man. This was the second film for TV veteran Mimi Leder, whose previous film The Peacemaker had been released a year earlier. She handles the small moments as well as she does the big ones, ably assisted by executive producer Steven Spielberg who reunites with his Jaws producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown. Unlike today when all the big genre movies seem to share the same half-dozen writers, this movie was written by two guys known for much smaller work: Michael Tolkin (The Player and Rapture) and Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost and Jacob’s Ladder) – not exactly regulars on the Comic-Con circuit.

Téa Leoni is okay – neither bad nor great – as an MSNBC reporter, back when that network was in its infancy. Morgan Freeman fits the role of president like a glove. Sure it’s a cliché now for Freeman to be “The Authority Figure” but I imagine there was still some novelty to it back then. No doubt more than one comedian has joked about the fact that “we finally get a black president and the world goes to s---!” Elijah Wood is fine as a high school astronomy geek (why do geeks in movies all have Jewish last names?) and, watching the film for the first time in years, I’d forgotten how little he’s actually in it. He disappears for large sections in the middle, but such is life in an ensemble. Robert Duvall is a warm presence as Tanner, nicknamed “Fish.” He’s tough when he needs to be, but also a surrogate father figure for the astronauts under his command.
Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell play Jenny’s divorced parents, Robin and Jason. This is the kind of subplot that would be non-existent in a movie like this today. Robin is lonely and depressed and Jason is remarried to a much younger woman. Since the aforementioned lottery doesn’t include anyone over 50, Robin kills herself. The reconciliation scene on the beach between Jenny and Jason is nicely done. The Messiah astronauts feature some familiar faces, including Blair Underwood, a young Jon Favreau, and Ron Eldard, who unfortunately is saddled with the arbitrary ageism conflict with Duvall. Admittedly, the scene in which the astronauts say goodbye to their families for the last time brings a tear to one’s eye. Omnipresent character actors like Kurtwood Smith, Richard Schiff, and James Cromwell also make appearances.

Unfortunately, the first adjective that came to mind after finishing this movie was “slight.” Certain things are either rushed or never seen. We never see the construction of the arks, nor do we see the last-ditch effort to destroy the comet with missiles: we only hear about it on the radio after it fails. They can’t show everything but in a movie about the end of the world, sometimes it’s nice for the audience to actually see how we prepare for it. James Horner’s score is treacly to say the least, and ILM’s visual effects are okay. The killer tidal wave (seen in the trailers) hasn’t aged very well. The best effect might be the real traffic jam staged by the filmmakers on Virginia State Route 234, though I could NEVER believe that Leo would actually find Sarah and her family in the middle of it!

And then... Armageddon! There once existed a geek-friendly magazine called Cinescape, before the Internet rendered it obsolete. One issue featured a chart comparing these two movies: Deep Impact was labeled “A sci-fi version of On the Beach” while Armageddon was labeled “Con Air meets The Rock in outer space!” And it is. An asteroid the size of Texas is 18 days away from colliding with Earth. NASA decides to bury a nuclear device inside the asteroid that will split it in two, with each fragment flying safely past the Earth. Since it’s apparently harder to train astronauts to drill than it is to train drillers to be astronauts, NASA director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) decides to hire the world’s best oil driller: Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), who brings along his crew of numbskulls. Harry’s daughter Grace (Liv Tyler) just happens to be in love with one of the roughnecks, A.J. (Ben Affleck). The crew undergoes a short and rigorous training program and after an asteroid fragment destroys Shanghai, the plan is revealed to the public.

The crew takes two shuttles – the Freedom and the Independence – and after a seizure-inducing side trip to the Russian space station, Freedom lands safely while Independence is presumed destroyed. Long story short, A.J. and the surviving Independence crew use their mobile drilling vehicle (the “Armadillo”) to reach Harry’s team. During a subsequent rock storm, the bomb’s remote trigger is damaged which means one man has to stay behind. (Naturally.) A.J. picks the short straw but Harry pulls his air hose and shoves him back inside the shuttle. After Harry and Grace say their heartfelt goodbyes, he blows up the asteroid, which indeed splits in two with both pieces dodging the planet. The film ends with home movie footage of A.J. and Grace’s wedding. And, uh... America!! [smile]
Allow me to quote from the Criterion DVD booklet (yes, this movie has a home in that exalted collection). This is Jeanine Basinger, film historian and Michael Bay’s professor at Wesleyan: “It is true that Armageddon, a perfect example of Bay’s work, illustrates his ‘take-no-prisoners’ form of storytelling, in which he trusts an audience to figure things out. (One of its strengths is its minimum of dreadful exposition that over-explains the inevitable pseudoscience.) Yes, it gives audiences a lot to absorb. Yes, it cuts quickly from place to place, person to person, event to event. But it is never confusing, never boring, and never less than a brilliant mixture of what movies are supposed to do: tell a good story, depict characters through active events, invoke an emotional response, and entertain simply and directly, without pretense.”

To quote Jack Benny, “Well!” Truthfully, this movie is Citizen Kane compared to some of Bay’s subsequent work. At this point, he still had Jerry Bruckheimer to keep him under control. Bay’s style might be filmmaking on steroids but in 1998, he was only just starting to overdose! Bruce Willis can often be on autopilot, but here he’s the consummate everyman-turned-hero. Ben Affleck knows exactly what this movie is and he even asked Michael Bay why they couldn’t just train astronauts to drill. Bay’s response? “Shut the f--- up!” This film was also my first exposure to Michael Clarke Duncan and Owen Wilson, who are seen here in their “purest” form: the gentle giant and the likable bumpkin. Peter Stormare is a blast as Lev, the loopy Russian cosmonaut who hitches a ride after the space station is destroyed. Will Patton is Harry’s “aww shucks” sidekick. I used to think Patton was naturally like that but after watching The Postman and No Way Out, I realize he often overacts and this movie is the outlier!

On the Criterion commentary, two NASA gurus spend most of the time nitpicking the scientific flaws, which are many and varied. My biggest problem is this: so the asteroid is the size of Texas but what if a fragment the size of, say, Rhode Island hits the Earth? It’d still be an extinction level event! Oh, and we still have the clichéd scientists versus the military conflict as General Kimsey (Keith David) initiates “secondary protocol” to detonate the bomb remotely, much to the chagrin of Truman. This leads to the requisite bomb defusing scene and shuttle pilot Sharpe (William Fichtner) just happens to have a gun... in space! There’s something to be said about getting the most out of your premise but in a movie about the possible end of the world, these subplots are rather unnecessary. Seriously, a good 20 minutes could’ve been cut from the movie with little to no effect! Technical aspects are top notch all around, including the Oscar-nominated visual effects by the late Dream Quest Images and Trevor Rabin’s “America: F--- Yeah!” score.
This brings up another issue. There’s nothing wrong with blue-collar working-class heroes… but Bay doesn’t have to denigrate scientists to make the blue-collar guys look good. Here’s action movie scholar and author Eric Lichtenfeld: “How hard would it have been to craft a scene where those ideas are introduced, and for logistical reasons, none of them are tenable, and then Bruce Willis and his team are the only option, as opposed to showing why all those ideas are ridiculous? It’s not that the movie can’t have a butch hero stopping the [asteroid]; the problem is that you don’t need to make Bruce Willis look good by making the smart people look bad. It’s a very cynical view of the audience, and it’s a view of science and intellectualism that is full of contempt, but that’s what Michael Bay does when he talks about critics, or his education.” No argument from me!

So what do we have? Two movies about a similar subject, with large ensemble casts, and some heartfelt moments. Deep Impact isn’t exactly subtle but I give 1st place in manipulation to Armageddon. The shot of the kids running with their toy space shuttles past an old poster of JFK? Just... wow. The former was smaller than I’d remembered while, oddly, the latter was just as entertaining (and dumb) as I’d remembered. Deep Impact is the better quote unquote “film” while Armageddon is glorious junk food... and admittedly, 90s nostalgia plays a part here, too.

“The fate of the planet is in the hands of a bunch of retards I wouldn't trust with a potato gun.”

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

I never saw Deep Impact. I don't remember much about Armageddon. I remember that the scene where Bruce Willis yanks Ben Affleck back to safety and takes his place was cool. What I remember most about Armageddon was that as my wife and I drove home discussing the movie, we were about halfway home before we realized we were shouting.
"WASN'T THAT COOL?" "HELL YEAH IT WAS!"
LOL! Ya gotta love Michael Bay. :)
GypsyTyger

ScottDS said...

Gypsy -

I don't have to love him, but I can give him props where I feel it's due. :-)

As I said, compared to his work in recent years, Armageddon is still fun in its own dumb way. I guess it's a thin line to walk - how dumb can a movie be without being offensive? (Like Transformers 2.)

rlaWTX said...

I love "Armageddon". I watch it every time I come across it on TV.
I laugh at the same points.
I always get teary when Willis says goodbye to Tyler and when the little boy comes running with the shuttle toy at the end. Always. (I had gotten over teariness at the former until after my dad passed away, since - every time I see it.)

Deep Impact seems like I should like it better.

ScottDS said...

rla -

I don't remember but it's possible I got misty-eyed at the end of Armageddon. :-)

Again, why do we like this movie but hate on so many others like it? It's interesting and maybe one day we'll figure it out.

Deep Impact was good, just small. But is that a bad thing? Are we conditioned to expect certain things from our disaster movies?

Jason said...

I’m glad someone else remembers Cinescape (I have virtually every issue), and I read that issue on Armageddon and Deep Impact quite a few times!

If I was to compare these movies, they’re about the same thing, but they don’t take the same approach. For me, Armageddon was better at what it delivered – a loud, explosive, kind of stupid Dirty Dozen-esque actioner, than Deep Impact. DI wanted to be a more serious, dramatic movie, and I think it succeeds – mostly. Some of the characters seemed to get lost, primarily Elijah Wood’s (I’d still rank “When Worlds Collide” as the better movie for this approach). I think YMMV as to whether Tea Leoni’s character arc was interesting after “Ellie” was revealed to the public. On the plus side, I did like Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall.

I remember that upon release, Deep Impact got its share of kudos for trying to be a bit more than an average summer blockbuster, and it helped that it was holding up better at the box office than the hyped-to-death Godzilla. Yet today it’s almost forgotten, as Armageddon clearly made the bigger splash (pun intended).

As for Armageddon, I like it. I saw it twice in the theaters, and seeing it on a big screen was a great experience. Lots of thrills, lots of yucks, with only Ben Affleck being somewhat annoying for me.

ScottDS said...

Jason -

Cinescape actually reprinted one of my letters (related to Star Trek, obviously). :-) I think I still have that one.

I bought the first issue not even knowing it was "Issue #1" of anything, but I soon started subscribing and I still have the special double-length issues.

Yeah, that's something that seems to come up here a lot: the idea that as long as a movie accomplishes what it sets out to do, it's a success, whether its sights were high or low. That's why, for example, National Treasure and The Mummy entertain while Crystal Skull fails.

And yeah, the consensus on Deep Impact seemed to be, "How novel! An effects movie that puts people first!" It wouldn't surprise me if it's seen as almost "old-fashioned" today. Leoni's arc kept me interested so it worked for me. I just didn't like the cliched "You're old! You're just here for publicity!" conflict with Duvall and Eldard.

5minutes said...

I have to give some credit to Armageddon because it was the 2nd movie I ever saw with my then-girlfriend-now-wife. Having said that...

I'll give Deep Impact this much credit: it really tries (though it mostly fails) to be a meaningful ensemble piece. Yes, there's action, but the real driving force behind the story, besides the paranoia of a meteor impact, is the characters and their relationships. The weakest point, IMO, is Tea Leoni, who rivals Kristen Stewart in the "emotionless-deer-in-the-headlights" category (can't even make me believe she's afraid of death as a 1,000-foot tsunami approaches).

Bay's movie is brainless fun, just like all of Bay's movies. It's not offensive or even really bad (although it's got its share of groan-inducing moments, mostly involving animal crackers), but it's most certainly, utterly, and completely brainless. It presumes that its audience has an IQ of 40 and then runs with it screaming "'MURICAAAAAAAA!!!!!" along the way while slapping you in the face with the flag and a winking Bruce Willis.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents.

K said...

When the little boy with the shuttle toy runs by the poster, I always think - "Hey look, Bay ripped off "The Rocketeer".

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Sorry I haven't commented yet, but it's been kind of busy. I need to run to Denver, but I will have more thoughts when I return.

By and large, I am much less charitable to Deep Impact than you are. I think it's just a dull film that never grabbed my attention for even a moment. Armageddon is better in that regard, but I really disliked the fast cuts.

More later...

T-Rav said...

"No doubt more than one comedian has joked about the fact that 'we finally get a black president and the world goes to s---!'"

And they were right.


(Oh come on, someone was going to say it.)

ScottDS said...

5minutes -

That's sweet. :-)

That's why I used the word "slight." Deep Impact gets points for trying but it just seems so small in retrospect. I guess it had a certain novelty value at the time and, in comparison to today's summer blockbusters, it seems even smaller.

Oh yes, the animal crackers. I ran out of room, otherwise I might've mentioned that scene.

Brainless fun is okay, but too many recent movies have been too brainless (and mind-numbing) to even work in the fun department. (See: 2012.)

ScottDS said...

K -

I just roll my eyes at that scene. I'm all for Rockwell-style Americana but it was just too much! :-)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Yeah, the fast cuts. The destruction of the Russian space station is the worst in this regard but to be fair, it's the only time when I lose track of where the characters are. In this movie, the fact that this only happened once is a miracle! (Most action directors aren't very good with geography.)

If I reviewed Deep Impact based on memory, I might've been less charitable (the fact that I barely remembered it). But since I was watching it fresh nearly a decade after the fact, I found myself enjoying it.

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

It wasn't my joke... but yeah, funny stuff. :-)

Jason said...

Peter Bart's "The Gross" talked about the fast edits of Armageddon. Apparently, Bruckheimer wanted to trim the movie better, smooth out Bay's cuts, but the fast-paced production schedule left no time for him to do so. (Bay's style, where the very beginnings and ends of a scene would be chopped to speed the storytelling, was termed "frame f---ing")

I recall the critics at the time really, really couldn't stand the movie's cutting style, including Roger Ebert, who stamped Armageddon as the year's worst movie. Though personally, I do find Bay's style preferable to the shaky cam style, where the picture shakes so much you can barely tell what's going on, and if THAT is also fast cut, it's painful to watch.

shawn said...

Saw Deep Impact at the theater, saw Armageddonon the tv.

Impressions- Deep Impact is a drama about the end of the world. It is more subdued and character driven.

Armageddon as Scott said, it's Micheal Bay with a little restraint. Much more action in this movie, and the effects are stronger.

I haven't seen either film in years, but I remember liking Deep Impact more at the time. However, I think Armageddon is probably more re-watchable.

Patriot said...

ScottDS.....I'm always amused when movies have a "lottery" or some sort of selection system for who will live and who will die when the world goes to hell. Of course politicians will always be there...and fecund good looking people. Who else? Scientists? Check. Hipster artistes? Check. Liberal do-gooders? Check. Goes to show how Hollywood types think who would be important in post-apocalyptic world.

I think one of the best, to me realistic depictions of that world was Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. If you haven't read it, you should. Still holds up 35 or so years after it was written. It's depiction of who, and how certain people survive, seems spot on. I actually went out and bought the series "How Things Work" after reading the book!

Anyhoo....good reviews. Both movies are good entertainment, yet not something I would have in my collection. Having seen each one once, that's enough.

ScottDS said...

Jason -

I totally forgot about it but Bay recently "apologized" for Armageddon, then later said he was misquoted by the reporter. He admitted that, while he likes the movie, he wishes he could've had more time in post-production.

I'd like to think, had he been given another month or two, perhaps some of the edits would've been smoothed a bit, as per Bruckheimer's wishes.

ScottDS said...

shawn -

I would have to agree with you.

In fact, it would surprise me if Joe Q. Public even remembered Deep Impact today.

ScottDS said...

Patriot -

Not all "artistes" are "hipsters." :-)

I don't own Deep Impact, though I had wanted to get it for a long time. It's out on Blu-Ray but I'm just not interested in purchasing it. Armageddon, on the other hand, is still in my collection after all these years - the old Criterion DVD with non-anamorphic transfer. I have yet to get the Blu-Ray (which is missing most of the extras).

I've heard of that book but I never read it. I am, however, aware of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

"In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely."

Too true.

rlaWTX said...

just for the record - my teary-eyed scene is at the very end when Chick's (Will Patton) kid comes running up after they land... not the Rockwell scene earlier.

rlaWTX said...

ScottDS, add that law to the "Peter Principle" and we get modern American government.

ScottDS said...

rla -

Yep!!

And I enjoyed Will Patton's character arc (such as it was). I'm a sucker for father/son stories. :-)

Anonymous said...

I liked Deep Impact but I really loved Armageddon, in fact I bought the DVD (when it was on special). I consider Armageddon to be one of my favourite "Proud to be American Movie" along side Independance Day.

It is big, dumb and fully unashamed of the fact and I like that, it doesn't try to be anything other than what it is. I laughed, I cried, I sang and I cheered while watching it and still do whenever I re-watch it, which is about every other year or so.

Also worth a mention was Steve Buscemi, he had been in quite a few movies before this, but this movie helped bring him to a wider audience and he was great comic relief in the movie.

Patriot, I have a copy of Lucifers Hammer, great book. Most likely to hard to film though if they tried they would ruin it.

Scott.

T-Rav said...

Frankly, I can't say whether I prefer Deep Impact or Armageddon. The latter's flaws are quite a bit more glaring to me in hindsight, but I kind of respect the fact that it's not afraid to wear its emotions on its sleeve. Plus, it's got an awesome soundtrack. Deep Impact is a very well made movie, though, with a good cast. And it doesn't go so obviously off the rails with the science. No way the people in Armageddon could move around like that on a 98-mile wide asteroid; not to mention, waving a gun around inside a spacecraft? Really?

ScottDS said...

Scott -

Agreed about Buscemi. This movie gave him a wider audience and also introduced us to Owen Wilson and Michael Clarke Duncan. Hell, it may have even introduced some people to Billy Bob Thornton (this was only a couple years after Sling Blade).

Yeah, it's big and dumb but you mention that it doesn't try to be anything more... and I think that's the difference. Too many of these movies today are trying to have their cake and eat it, too: in trying to be something more, they lose the fun part. It's not necessarily political either - some movies are just "overwritten."

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

Ugh, the gun. Like... really?!?!?! :-)

The factual errors are actually pretty fascinating:

"During the scene where it shows people all over the world, just before the shuttles take off, it is daylight everywhere."

Whoops!! (To be fair, one place looks like it might be dusk, but still...)

"After the shuttles drop their boosters and again after they fire their retros they bank and turn in space like fighters do in the atmosphere. Spacecraft don't move that way. They don't corner like a racing car."

Even the new Star Trek movies are guilty of this: ignoring the laws of physics to show spaceships moving like F-16s (and not submarines).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I struggled to finish it when I watched it and I felt the same when I saw it again recently. It feels like Contagion to me, like they thought they were doing something special or "more real" or definitive, but they just ended up doing the same things you see in every similar made-for-Sci-Fi-Channel film.

On the other hand, Armageddon, to its credit, has a very different vibe and has not been copied... except by Michael Bay repeatedly. So it does stand out against all non-Bay films.

In terms of the cuts, what I noticed watching it the first time through was that they couldn't leave the camera alone and I started to count how many seconds they had before the camera had to change angles. There were whole stretches where you didn't get anything longer than three seconds. And I think 8 seconds was the longest I saw in the film. That's a recipe for ADD.

One of the scenes that I find the most interesting in this film involves the scene where they are walking along the red carpet. The scene is beautifully shot, but a total joke if you think about it. Look at the way he's aligned the uniforms, repeating some, to match the colors and how they have two helicopter gunship hovering a few feet above the troops, facing each other. It makes a great image, but it's utter nonsense... and it would presage Bay's descent into the big shiny.

djskit said...

As throwaway mention, but a review of "On the Beach" would be nice to see. I've watched the movie several times and I can't quite articulate what's wrong with it. Could be the "leftism can't create good stories" but I'd like see the gang here take a crack at it.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, Let me think about that because I had the same reaction... "this movie is just wrong". Let me see what I can come up with! :)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I'll probably mention this in a future disaster movie review but this genre has its own cliches and conventions and I suppose, even when the filmmakers try not to do them, they end up doing them anyway.

I don't think the filmmakers of Deep Impact felt they were making an "ORIGINAL" piece of work; but they no doubt believed that what they were doing was not the norm. It's not even a reflection on them as it is a bad reflection on the industry at the time (and now).

I will say one thing about Armageddon - for better or worse, it's probably the definitive killer asteroid/meteor film of our time and it's gonna be a long time before someone else comes along and does one (similar to how Twister is still the definitive killer tornado film of our time).

On the other hand, we're starting to see more Titanic productions (two miniseries in 2012 alone). Sooner or later, we'll get another big-screen version of the tale.

In fact, these movies may have prevented this movie from getting made: Bright Angel Falling from Peter Hyams and James Cameron.

Anonymous said...

ScottDS,

Oh, you had to spring 'Armageddon' on me- and on my associate, Science. No, we're not going to bash all the scientific errors this time. (We had time to prepare for 'Moonraker.' We were busy and this caught us off-guard.) I'll just let this clip to the talking for us. (It has less snark than the usual fare.) Also, I think Science cried himself to sleep last night after being reminded of 'Armageddon's' existence.

Funny stuff out of the way, the asteroid is supposed to be the size of Texas? The rock that wiped out the dinosaurs is believed to have been only 4 to 5 miles in diameter.
I also was reminded of when the Shoemaker-Levy comet hit Jupiter in 1994. In terms of size, it wasn't very big. (maybe just over 3 miles in diameter.) It broke up into about 20-some fragments before hitting the gas giant. However, I remember astronomers at the time saying that if something that big hit Earth, well, forget tidal waves. (The largest fragment hit Jupiter with a force of 600 times the world's nuclear arsenal.) It would probably blast away 1/4 of our planet's mass.
And if this movie's asteroid is the size of Texas, I think this would be a likely outcome...

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

"Amateur footage of the destruction of Alderaan."

That is all kinds of awesome. :)

Anonymous said...

Also, there's something else that irks me about 'Armageddon.' (Well, that and the fact that it's rare to see meteors fired at Space Shuttle Atlantis by an Arkellion Battlecruiser/Klingon Bird of Prey/Imperial Star Destroyer. Those things use more efficient ammunition.)
This film along with 'Space Cowboys' received full cooperation from NASA because the space agency hoped it could used as a recruiting tool. (Think 'Top Gun' and the U.S. Air Force and Navy.) But did any of them read the script?

The scripts for both films essentially say that unless you- by some unbelievable trick of fate- happen to be the only people who can somehow save the planet, you are NEVER going to get into space. And it doesn't stop there. NASA administrators are naive at best, incompetent at worst. Astronauts are total jacka$$&$, who slavishly ignore common sense, are peons to the man, and only serve as an extra obstacle to the everyman hero accomplishing his goal. That, and the political and military hacks are only out to serve themselves and/or cause as many explosions as possible.
Who would want to sign up with an outfit like this?

'Top Gun' wasn't this incredibly cynical. It celebrated fighter pilots and that's why it's popularity has endured and inspired people to enlist. 'Armageddon' is the exact opposite. Honestly, NASA, what were you thinking?

Side note: I remember that 'Armageddon' was scheduled to air on FX the night of February 1, 2003- the day Shuttle Columbia was lost. Because of the film's depiction of Atlantis being destroyed, the film was pulled that evening.

P.S. Am I the only one who, after Atlantis touched down for the last time, wanted to see the orbiter's payload bay open and watch the CanadaArm be extended with a big sign that said, "[explicit deleted] you, Michael Bay!" I think that would've been fitting.

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I get the feeling that the Deep Impact people thought they were doing the "definitive serious" asteroid film... the non-schlock version.

But in the end, it just kind of bored me and it never really rose above the stuff you see on SciFi. In fact, one of my favorite "asteroid" films is actually a SciFi film starring Stephen Baldwin and Dirk Benedict: Earthstorm.

It's more a moon explosion film, but the principal is similar. It's crap. But I enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked it, Andrew!

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, You make some good points about this thing not working as a recruitment film for NASA. Apollo 13 was probably better because it shows a great environment where really creative people work together in very out-of-the-box ways to save astronauts you really like.

ScottDS said...

Rustbelt -

I just watched the video… my God, it's worse than I thought! I never even noticed some of the issues (like the newspaper reporting the destruction of the shuttle just an hour after the fact).

The video also pointed out that the fragments have no effect, despite passing within 400 miles of Earth. I remember a similar problem with Independence Day - Roger Ebert asked in his review why the alien ships aren't affecting the tides. I guess this applies to any alien invasion movie.

Re: NASA corporation, this was probably more in Jerry Bruckheimer's department. (The guy knows good PR. Bay just likes big toys.) I'm sure they felt like they were making this nice tribute to the astronauts and the space program but, yeah, they're not portrayed in the most flattering light. And as I mentioned above, the guys with glasses need not be denigrated by the guys with hard hats.

NASA, by the way, did NOT support Red Planet since it portrayed one astronaut killing another.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

That reminds me - there was a TV movie titled Asteroid that aired on NBC (I think) in 1997. It starred Michael Biehn, Annabella Sciorra, and Don Franklin (a.k.a. the first officer on seaQuest). It was pretty much what you'd expect but it was a big deal back then. I had totally forgotten about it!

It's crap. But I enjoy it. - That should be the title of your next book. :-)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

P.S. - There are a few late comments in yesterday's Indy thread, including a fascinating link I found.

P.P.S. This is for you and Rustbelt... another short video clip. :-D

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That would be a great title for a "guilty pleasures" review book, wouldn't it? LOL!

Believe it or not, there actually are some Sci-Fi Channel films I do enjoy. None of them are great, but they're still a fun way to spend a couple hours.

I vaguely remember the Biehn film.

T-Rav said...

Rustbelt, I know you're joking, but if that asteroid had really been the size of Texas, that would make it the largest asteroid in the solar system, massive enough to actually be spherical, and based on the math scientists have done with a similar collision with one of Saturn's moons, there's an outside chance it could have broken planet Earth apart.

So I guess they are quite literally "saving the world"; on the other hand, I defy anyone here to believe that any nuclear device exploded a mere 800 feet below the surface of such a massive object could ever make it break in two. Yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

ScottDS said: "NASA, by the way, did NOT support 'Red Planet' since it portrayed one astronaut killing another."

Thank Heaven for that! At least somebody was paying attention!

Unfortunately, I can't comment on 'Deep Impact' since I haven't seen it. But with the end of the world for certain, it really sounds like a downer.

-Rustbelt

T-Rav said...

Paging Andrew....cleanup on comment #42....

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, To quote Poltergeist... this comment stream is clean. :)

Anonymous said...

T-Rav, I believe in the movie (I could be wrong, I haven't seen it in a while), they said that they were placing it along a fault line. This would be the first case I know of where an asteroid had plate tectonics. (And from what I remember from college astronomy, Earth is the only planet with plates.)

That being said, I decided to do a little math and compared the state of Texas to a few things. First, Texas is roughly 773 by 790 miles. Using that length, this Texas-sized asteroid would be:

-roughly 1/4 the size of Mercury
-36% the size of our moon
-48 times larger than Mars' moon Phobos (itself a captured asteroid)
-1/4 the size of Ganymede, Jupiter's (and the solar system's) largest moon
-near half the size of Neptune's largest moon, Triton
-just over half the size of Pluto

(This is all rough math, of course.)

Okay, this movie lied to us. This thing IS too big to be an asteroid. This is a "Wild and Murderous Moons" movie!
Wait a minute...it orbits the Sun, but has not cleared its celestial orbit of other objects. That might make it a "Dwarf Planets Gone Crazy" movie!

Tagline: The Solar System Wants Us Dead. But We're Not Going Down Without a Fight!

Good grief! I think I have space dementia, too! (Thanks for the clip, Scott!)

I need some Tylenol...

-Rustbelt

AndrewPrice said...

Dwarf Planet Gone Wild?

Wow... celestial porn!

Koshcat said...

I have to agree that Armageddon was the better movie. Disaster movies should be larger than life which it achieves. Who cares if the science is wrong. It is impossible to go faster than light speed too but many of us love Star Trek, Star Wars etc. I'm not there to learn something I'm there to cheer on BRUCE!

I think the problem with Deep Impact is it is the wrong premise. It was a film that should have used a different issue less earth ending.

Would the asteroid be a Maguffin?

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I have to agree with that. "End of the world" sounds great, but it's not really. That's kind of a clean blow... dead in an instant along with everyone else. It's not really horrific and it limits the dramatic possibilities.

"The living will envy the dead" works better. It has a bigger impact and it allows different results for different characters.

Interesting, I read somewhere that the biggest fear soldiers have is not being killed, it's being maimed. I think the principle is the same. We don't fear a quickly, painless death... we fear a horrific life.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I'm told the center of the asteroid is pure Maguffin... with cheese.

Koshcat said...

I have to agree that Armageddon was the better movie. Disaster movies should be larger than life which it achieves. Who cares if the science is wrong. It is impossible to go faster than light speed too but many of us love Star Trek, Star Wars etc. I'm not there to learn something I'm there to cheer on BRUCE!

I think the problem with Deep Impact is it is the wrong premise. It was a film that should have used a different issue less earth ending.

Would the asteroid be a Maguffin?

T-Rav said...

In all honesty, "Dwarf Planet Gone Wild" does sound kinda dirty. :-)

Rustbelt, that would mean the asteroid is not only by far the largest of its kind, but has more mass than all the known asteroids in our solar system combined. Which means Bay just deliberately flipped all of science the bird with that one.

(And to judge by the Transformers movies, apparently he's unrepentant.)

Tennessee Jed said...

Wow. a two for one review, Scott, and a good one to boot, although my attention span is no longer as good as it once was. I kind of liked the "Deep Impact" film at the time. Tia Leoni was pretty forgettable, and Morgan Freeman was good as an authoritative figure. That was back before Freeman felt the need to inflict his race baiting politics on us all. Regarding "nerd" kids in movies with Jewish names, heck 95% of all kids in movies are Jewish. I hadn't really noticed about the "nerd" thing, but it seems more honest than naming than "Smith." Anyway, of the two films, I remember Deep Impact more than the other one. I kind of liked the CGI of the tidal wave at the time.

rlaWTX said...

Science? Seriously? I thought he stopped watching movies a loooong time ago!



[grrrrr spammy mcspamalot stoppers grrrr]

ScottDS said...

Kosh -

There might be a difference between science being wrong (no movie is perfect in this regard, or even half-perfect) and science being BLATANTLY WRONG, so much so that the layman can figure it out. :-)

Light speed, sound in space, etc. have simply become genre conventions and we accept them.

A different premise? Interesting. I never thought of that. Perhaps a hurricane or earthquake instead of a comet?

ScottDS said...

Jed -

I liked the CGI tidal wave, too, but it doesn't really hold up today IMHO.

Re: your attention span, I try to keep my reviews to three MS Word pages or less. Obviously, a double review will run a tad longer. I don't plan on doing any more doubles anytime soon. :-)

Re: nerds, I wouldn't say 95% of all kids in movies are Jewish, but 95% of all nerds/geeks seem to have Jewish last names. I wonder if its because typical Jewish last names just sound more interesting: Abramowicz is a more memorable character name than Smith!

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