Note: @DaveG34 and I have agreed to debate the merits of the movie Armageddon. Background info is here. The statement up for debate today is, simply: "Armageddon is a good movie." I represent the PRO side; Dave represents CON. My opening statement is below; Dave's is here.
IF YOU THINK ARMAGEDDON IS A BAD MOVIE, YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE SPACE DEMENTIA
By Lauren McILoveThisMovie,Man
In defending the movie Armageddon, one finds more than her fair share of opponents. Roger Ebert gave the movie one star, calling it "an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained." Countless other reviewers shared his assessment, piling on critiques of its acting, writing, and pacing--not to mention gaping holes in scientific reasoning that you could, I dunno, fit a Texas-sized asteroid through.
Today, I stand up to those critics, and to my debate opponent Dave, to say that Armageddon is indeed a good movie. Now, defending Armageddon is no easy task--but then again, neither is AWESOMELY DRILLING A HOLE IN AN ASTEROID AND SAVING THE WORLD. But that didn't stop Harry Stamper, A.J. Frost, and their lovable band of blue-collar drillers-cum-NASA world-saver-ologists. So it won't stop me, either--because I LIKE this movie, dammit. And you can be all Bruce Willis and tell me not to like it because it's not good enough for your daughter, but at the end of the day I'm still going to go lie by a barn with this movie and let it traipse animal crackers over me while talking to me in a bad Australian accent, because I see the goodness of this movie even if you don't. And hopefully, much like in the movie, you will come to see my viewpoint in the end, just like Harry warmed to A.J. (Hopefully you will NOT be nuclear bombed/obliterated upon coming to this realization.)
The crux of my argument for this movie is thus: you can't deny how unbelievably thrilling and moving it is, even with all its little flaws. See, what its discreditors fail to appreciate is that Armageddon achieves the very height of cinematic drama and suspense by brilliantly combining several of the most compelling themes ever to appeal to human nature into one riveting tale.
Since our earliest beginnings, mankind has been fascinated with the concept of how our world will end. On a grand scale, the movie touches on this mesmerizing concept of armageddon, and combines it with yet another eternally enthralling concept: man's struggle to use his wits to defeat the relentless forces of nature. Few things strike our collective conscious so profoundly as teamwork, whether it is in the larger struggle of humanity as it marshals whatever technology and progress it has at hand to defeat the natural forces that would destroy it without a care or thought--or in the microcosmic setting of a few regular Joes banding together under a gruff but determined leader to achieve success in a daunting, near-impossible task. The layering of these themes within Armageddon rouses fear, pathos, pride, and good ole-fashioned patriotism. Add to that the human angle--a romance blooming in a time of impossibility; a father guided by love for his daughter and hope for her future--and BAM, YOU JUST GOT GOOD MOVIE-D IN THE FACE. The dynamics between Grace (Liv Tyler) and Harry (Bruce Willis), Grace and A.J. (Ben Affleck), and Harry and A.J. make the urgency of the crew's doomsday mission that much more palpable by focusing our attention on a trio for whom everything is at stake. I don't care who you are, that's just good-ass storytelling.
Armageddon has its awkward moments--my defense would be incomplete if I didn't acknowledge them head on. For example, the science is admittedly preposterous. The movie's Wikipedia page has an entire section entitled "Scientific Inaccuracies," which notes: "NASA shows the film as part of its management training program. Prospective managers are asked to find as many inaccuracies in the movie as they can. At least 168 impossible things have been found during these screenings of the film." Fair enough. But I have to ask--need the science hold together for a movie to be good? I'm pretty sure a lot of the shit in Harry Potter wouldn't hold up in a NASA training room either, but people seem to like that.
Maybe that's not enough to convince the real science sticklers out there, but try taking the words of Susan Sontag into account. In her essay "The Imagination of Disaster," Sontag writes that "Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art...to this day there is nothing like the thrill of watching all those expensive sets come tumbling down." Fucking exxxxxactly, Susan, THANK YOU. I took science class to learn science. I'm watching Armageddon on FX at 11 p.m. on a Monday because shit's blowin' up and it's awesome.
Ehhh, the dialogue in the movie is, uh, occasionally . . . thin. I'll just give you that one. But allow me to point out that Armageddon was the highest-grossing movie of 1998. Why? Because people liked it. WHY? Because we can't all be the NASA scientists in the movie who know the best way to do everything and be right. (Those guys were nerds and lame anyway, as a matter of fact.) As the movie points out, sometimes perfection isn't what you need to get the job done. Sometimes you need the rag-tag team of not-good-enough elements to magically come together in literally world-saving Gestalt. Maybe that's what's going on with this script--did you ever stop to think of that? DID YOU?
It is my ultimate position, then, with regards to the topic of this debate, that no, Armageddon is not a good movie; it is a great one. My thoughts about it can, in fact, be summarized with pretty much all of the lyrics to its signature song, Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing." Every moment spent with this movie is a moment I treasure, and when it's on I don't wanna miss a thing. And I totally don't feel weird about calling a movie baby and saying I want to listen to it breathing, because people, according to the transitive property of movie-song logic, Steven Tyler was basically singing that song about his daughter. So I'm the more normal one here.