Armageddon's Charlton Heston-voiced opening narration, an account of how an asteroid seems to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, is an ominous touch in every sense of the phrase. The text of the speech sets the stage for the threat of mass destruction promised by the movie's title, while Heston's voice assures that the threat will be addressed in the most American way possible. And it is, thanks to a photogenic, ragtag bunch of misfits headed by Bruce Willis. Willis plays the world's greatest oil driller, recruited by NASA head Billy Bob Thornton to plant a nuclear bomb in the belly of an earthbound asteroid. Will Willis overcome his creepy attachment to his daughter (Liv Tyler), and reconcile with her oil-drilling lover (Ben Affleck) in time to save America and the rest of the world? What suspense there is in Armageddon naturally lies elsewhere. Will, for instance, director Michael Bay (The Rock) continue to find an excuse to place an American flag in every other shot? (This at one point includes a shot showing that the patriotic astronauts have gone to the trouble of planting one on the asteroid they intend to blow up.) Will Tyler be photographed in a way that doesn't make her look as if she's posing for a Revlon ad? Will this be the one film featuring a ragtag bunch of misfits in which the lovable fat guy makes it out alive? Fortunately, the near-incomprehensibility of the numerous action scenes and the disposability of the rest of the movie allow plenty of time to contemplate such things. The entire second half seems to consist of nothing but vibrating close-ups of heads shouting lines like, "I'm not leaving without my men!" and "We're jumping over that canyon!" As with The Rock, Bay directs Armageddon in a way that seems more concerned with constantly assaulting the senses than anything else, hoping perhaps that the quick cuts and constant explosions will distract from his film's many flaws. Unless you're extremely easily entertained, they probably won't.
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