Everything They’ve Built Will Fall, And From The Ashes Of Their World; We’ll Build A Better One – X-Men: Apocalypse

21 12 2016

x-men: apocalypse (20th Century Fox - 2016)

“You have no idea who you’re messing with Xavier”; a line spoken by the Mutant Mesmero in the X-Men: Evolution episode; Mindbender. An insignificant line to those who may not have seen X-Men Evolution, but to me, it is a line that took me on a journey of discovery. It was the beginning of a story Arc involving the resurgence of a powerful Mutant Villain in the X-Men World. A villain, who since the first time I heard speak of his name, I would become besotted by, and looked for any and all opportunities to find out more about him. It’s been maybe 13+ years since I first came across his name, and I know so much; and upon learning of his upcoming movie debut, I could not wait and anticipated the arrival of this film and more importantly the movie debut of APOCALYPSE.

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Released in 2016 by 20th Century Fox, produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, and directed by Bryan Singer; X-Men: Apocalypse is a super hero movie where the Uncanny X-Men attempt to save the world from an ancient Mutant who wishes to destroy Humanity. X-Men: Apocalypse is the direct sequel to Days of Future Past and stars the cast of the First Class series of X-Men Films, but which also looks to introduce new stories in the long-term and introduce and also reintroduce both old and new characters. At the same time it looks to introduce the arrival of the first major super villain for the series, and attempts to do this with the insertion of the first mutant; Apocalypse. The story is based on the X-Men comics Apocalypse Story Arc, as well as the X-Factor Story; Fall of the Mutants.

In Ancient Egypt, the Mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) rules the land with 4 followers dubbed his Four Horsemen. While performing a transferral ritual, he is entombed in his pyramid where falls into a deep sleep. In 1983, kid Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) discovers he is a mutant while at school, and his brother Alex (Lucas Till) takes him to Xavier’s School for mutants run by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Dr. Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult). In Berlin, shape shifting mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) helps rescue teleportation mutant Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from an underground fight club and takes him to Xavier’s school; where he meets Scott, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Jubilee (Lana Condor). Meanwhile in Egypt, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne) is on the lead of a mysterious organisation, who are searching for something underground, and there she comes across the remains of En Sabah Nur’s pyramid, which wakes him up, sending a vivid dream to Jean Grey who foresees the end of the World.

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Upon leaving his underground tomb; En Sabah Nur walks through the streets of Cairo, to discover that the world is under the rule of Humans. He finds street urchin Ororo Munroe (Alexander Shipp) who is a mutant capable of controlling the weather and recruits her into his team, enhancing her powers in the process. En Sabah Nur then goes on to hire mutants Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy), while still searching for a fourth. In Poland, Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), also known as Magneto, has found himself with a job at a steel factory, and lives with his wife Magda (Carolina Bartczak) and daughter Nina (T.J. McGibbon). One day at the factory, he rescues someone with the use of his powers, but this tips off the authorities. After an accident in an attempt to capture him results in the death of his family, Magneto kills the militia and then goes to kill the steel mill workers who tipped them off. When he arrives though he is found by En Sabah Nur who kills the steel workers, then takes Erik to Auschwitz where his powers were born. En Sabah Nur informs Erik that he cannot escape his past, and says that he was sorry for not being there when Erik needed him most, finally recruiting him and enhancing his powers.

Back at the school, Mystique wishes to talk to Charles, who has gone to see Moira McTaggart to talk to her about some of the research she has been conducting about the history surrounding a mysterious mutant called Nur. Upon returning to the mansion and talking to Mystique, Charles uses Cerebro to locate and talk to Erik, but En Sabah Nur uses this connection to tap into Charles’s mind, and use Xavier’s Telepathy to get into the minds of everyone around the world, and to launch the world’s entire arsenal of Nuclear Weapons. Alex helps destroy Cerebro to turn it off, but En Sabah Nur arrives at the mansion and kidnaps Charles. Alex tries to stop them, but accidentally causes an explosion that rips through the mansion killing him. Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a super-fast mutant; shows up in time and manages to rescue everyone inside the mansion as the explosion tears through it. With the Mansion in pieces, a military helicopter arrives which disables most of the mutants unconscious. The men on board the helicopter led by Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman) kidnap Moira, Mystique, Quicksilver and Hank. Before they leave however, Nightcrawler, Jean and Scott sneak on board the aircraft as it takes them to a mysterious base in the Canadian Mountains.

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In Cairo, En Sabah Nur informs Charles of his plans to destroy the world of Humans, and how he plans to possess Charles’s body with the same ritual as earlier. Charles broadcasts En Sabah Nur’s message to the world, while also sending a secret message to Jean. At the base in the Canadian mountains, Jean, Scott and Nightcrawler discover a savage mutant who has been experimented on (Hugh Jackman) and release him on the men in the base. Upon rescuing the others being held by Stryker; the team travel to Cairo where En Sabah Nur has rebuilt his pyramid; and while Magneto uses the world’s magnetic fields to destroy major cities, Nur’s other recruits attack the X-Men team. Nightcrawler is able to rescue Charles from the transferral just in time, but it has left him scarred. Quicksilver and Mystique attempt to convince Magneto to join them, as they’re his family too, and Charles uses his connection with Nur to get inside his head and attack him from there, but Nur is just too powerful. Even when Ororo and Magneto join the fight against him, they still struggle, until Jean releases the raw power of the Phoenix Force, which burns Nur to ashes. Back at the school, Magneto helps Jean to rebuild the school, Moira has her memories of Charles returned to her and Mystique with the help of Hank, trains the first X-Men team.

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I was very excited about the release of this film, so much so that I pretty much went to see it as soon as it came out. I was expecting and hoping for so much. I was watching the trailer over and over again, watching cartoon clips of Apocalypse’s Quotes, as well as clips of Apocalypse from the film saying that Amazing line. I was so excited and was hoping for so much. X-Men 2 has always been my favourite, but my hopes and dreams, especially after Days of Future Past, was that this film was going to be glorious and possibly better than X-Men 2. It was my final day of work where I was working at the time, and to sort of celebrate, as soon as I got back to Lancaster, I checked the VUE to see if it was on and if I could pre-order a ticket (just so I could go home, drop my bag off and get changed). When it was true that I could, I did just that and went to the cinema with great excitement.

Upon seeing the film, my overall opinion was: right….? One thing that I have always found with films in the X-Men series is that it’s always best to give them a couple of watches to really get down to the nub of them, and that’s why I have waited until I could see it again before I reviewed it. It’s just the case that in the past when I have seen them again a second time, I have understood them a bit more. In terms of Super Hero movies they are in a class of their own as they deal with more than just guys with powers, as the X-men have other issues to deal with especially that of Mutant Racism that is so entwined within who they are. I think the issue for me was that I finished work that day too; at a job I was enjoying and was hoping that a treat may create some closure, but instead, my head was conflicting as my hopes and dreams for Apocalypse lay dashed on the pavement. Upon seeing it again though with a clearer head, I am a lot more favorable for it.

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The film has its issues, and the issues are a few. It’s not that they are generally bad; they are just issues that it doesn’t help, and could have with more development or better execution. The major issue it has is that it has a lot to fill in. In the past the series has orientated itself by keeping the team strong but the cast relatively low. The X-Men are a team and it’s important that they remain like that, but the more effective team is better than the biggest, if you get my drift; they’re not an army. The issue here is that, we have one big villain that of course has his own minions to do his bidding, but in order for it to make sense, it needs to be made up of new but still popular characters, so we therefore have a team of five people vs another team, but this time made up with characters that were being reintroduced to the series, important characters that needed to be introduced sooner than later as they have not been seen for a while (except for clips in DoFP of course). With so many characters to introduce, not to mention other characters taking some spotlight, it was going to be hard to fit them all in the allotted time, so what did the film makers do: extend it, but then again it doesn’t really work! It introduces, and well I will say, characters like Nightcrawler, Scott and Jean Grey, plus allow some development time if not a lot. However, on the other hand Apocalypse’s team is hardly introduced at all. They are sort of sacrificed for the benefit of other characters, which is actually a big shame as some of his team are made up of X-Men Superstars who have been members of the comics longer than most.

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Due to this issue of extra time, the film commits some faux pas that only goes to confuse the viewer rather than enhance the film. It has characters to introduce and a lot to show; what it ends up doing is showing scenes (scenes that are very interesting I might add), making you want to see more, and basically changes scene to another perspective which is OK, but then does it again, and does not return to that original perspective for a while, say between 5 and 10 minutes. With that out of your head, you feel like you have walked in to a scene from a TV Drama completely unawares as to what is going on and with no way of finding out. It’s got all these really good bits, but doesn’t put them together close enough for them to really take you anywhere: if the gap was quicker or shorter, then it would probably be alright. You can actually see how long it feels in reality as you realize that even 47 minutes of the way through, it still feels like it’s the first act, and is still introducing people, and not creating an incidental moment that takes it to the next big thing (at least not until the end of the first hour). What does not help this further is Apocalypse’s plan to destroy several major cities at once. You just don’t feel it. You feel it when you’re there; the final battle takes place in Cairo which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re trying to show global devastation it would be better if you focused on one city then moved out. Put one city in peril, for the sake of everywhere else. The images of destroyed cities are very vivid and visionary, but because the scene is not there, it does not feel like anything. If the final battle was in say Washington, New York, maybe even Tokyo or London; these are big major cities of the world, but have the final battle there, and show the expanding devastation there, so those who go to see this film can at least connect more strongly and really feel for the destruction. I don’t like Part 1 and 2 films that are being done all the time right now, it’s a motive by the studio to make more money, not really for the film’s sake to have a stronger/better story, here however I can see an argument for a film that should have a Part 1 and 2. It’s trying so hard to cram so much into what is already a very long film, if it spread things out a bit more, and split into 2 films, then at least we could have a much better developed story and things could happen quicker and better.

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Much like said above, X-Men: Apocalypses cast can be in spots feel a little wasted. They really pushed the boat out with mutant characters and have featured an all-star cast of X-Men Comic mutants which include single appearances from mutants like Blob (Giant Gustav Claude Ouimet) and Caliban (Tomas Lemarquis) as well as small appearances from Apocalypse’s original Horsemen (Warren Scherer, Rochelle Okoye, Monique Ganderton, Fraser Aitcheson), but it is rather sad that strong characters and re-introductions to this series like Angel and Psylocke are once again pretty much shoved to one side despite how much their images were used to promote the film. I am especially a big fan of Angel and was hoping his new role would be a strong one, much like Psylocke, but again it was very little and he pretty much died a quick death. Psylocke for what time she was given did provide some strong moments, and I would like to see more of her in the future. Like previous films in the series, some major guest actors were brought in to play big but still very short parts, but their inclusion does help ripen the roles of senior characters where required, with the use of such actors as Zeljko Ivanek. But these roles are meant to be one shot spots, whereas major villains or even hero characters should have more. For instance, I thought it was rather odd, that the filmmakers go some distance to include Jubilee in the story, but leave her appearances to the very minimal, especially to introduce her in such a well-developed fashion and not include her in the final battle of which the same could be said for Havok, who was a major introduction in First Class, but not really used beyond, despite how well he is played either way.

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The uses of other characters are just weird though; for instance: I genuinely believe that Hugh Jackman has no point of being in this film other than to make a small appearance. The whole scene in the Canadian mountains shows no real major point, except maybe to introduce the post credits scene, in which case, why not create a very different post credits scene? Everything is going well and Ok, then they just slam this scene in there for no real major story point. What is a real shame though I find is that the film’s major cast (who have since become major stars since their first appearances in this series), seem to be underused. They are there, and feature prominently, but given that Days of Future Past has shown what power they can give in these roles, it’s a shame that they aren’t used to perfection. Most of this could be as an after effect of the convoluted scene by scene irritation I mentioned above, and all the while they still provide goodish performances, it just feels like they have lost effect. James McAvoy for instance seems to have returned to a docile past and feels like he needed to get younger over a 10 year period. That welcoming friendliness is still there, but the power from the previous film has gone. Jennifer Lawrence (who I consider to be my favourite actress) seems to have lost passion as Mystique, she seems to talk more than do more, and does not really deliver any reason for being there, other than maybe for being Jennifer Lawrence. Nicholas Hoult just doesn’t swing it for me much in this film, and just appears to fade into the background mostly while at the same time minutely trying to provide the emotional instability between his character of Beast and Lawrence’s character of Raven/Mystique. I know these films take place 10 years apart from each other, but I didn’t know the actors not the characters had to age in between! As for Fassbender, while he is still very capable of getting very emotional which is a very good trait of his, I think it’s getting rather clichéd that he has to get low and emotional. Why couldn’t he be the big bad strong villain that he is supposed to be playing, only to be enslaved by Apocalypse rather than just join him. Why can’t Magneto just be Magneto? Rose Byrne has a waste of a performance. She was fantastic in First Class, but due to a lack of appearance in Days of Future Past, she is brought in here, and sort of reconciles with Charles really too quickly, not allowing their relationship to really blossom, and so for the most part serves as a double-edged joke and not as the inspired cast choice that she once was.

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It really comes down to the rest of the cast to sort of make up for the casting and performance mess; and some of them do more than any other. The X-Men are a team (already made this point), and as such the characters should have more of a part in the overall battle instead of leaving it to single players to do the job. Scott Summers for instance carries attitude, but not much of anything else to make his part worthwhile. After the death of Alex, he really should have more drive, but he sort of confidently hides in his shell. The same could be said for Nightcrawler who is just there to oppose Angel, and rescue Charles, but nothing much of anything else. And even though she is not part of the team, Storm is a major character in all X-Men related media, and just to be given a few speaking roles and some small appearances, it just again feels like a waste. Quicksilver does get another appearance and a much bigger one plus uses the knowledge of Magneto being his father to increase his position within the film. His rescue of the people in the mansion plus his fight with Apocalypse are two very good and well done scenes and really help to get the final half of the film going. The film’s cast though really does come down to two amazing actors delivering Fantastic Performances. I had never heard of Oscar Isaac when I first heard he had been put in this role, but I absolutely loved his performance. On the one hand I do think Apocalypse was too well held down to begin with and was very much just used to provide philosophy and theory, we didn’t get much of a chance to see his powers until the Nuke Scene and of course the final battle. I was a bit disappointed that his comic book essence, his true powers were not really put on show, but they were minor in reference. However, much like Apocalypse in Comics and Cartoons, his performance, his voice, his presence, were powerful. They were really good scenes, and ones I could both look forward too and much enjoyed. While he did take time to be seen, he was still the main villain and presented as such. I really feel like he should make a future appearance again, a villain like that does not die-hard, but I hope that if it were to be done that Isaac be brought back to play him again and that he is more like his-self in the comics, rather than filmmaker philosophy, but here and now, still well done, and also has the best quote of not just the film, but of any film released this year.

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But for me, there was one person who was better than all the rest. From start to finish her role was pretty mysterious, but the performance provided was unlike any other in the whole film and for her to become the real hero, it was wonderful to see. I absolutely loved Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, she was just epic, and for hours and days after seeing the film, I could still see Sophie Turner whenever I thought of this film. A perfect casting in my opinion that is one I definitely want to see more of in the future (please be cast again in the future).

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The film like its previous series entries does feature a bewildering level of Special Effects, which help to not only show special powers, but also help create scenes and scenarios that cannot be made but are asked of. Some of these sections I feel could have helped in other sections where they may have helped either sped up or at least not slow down the pace of the film. The destruction of cities is very visionary, and the film works hard to create its more iconic big effects like Quicksilver’s running scenes, to destruction on a large scale, to even launching the entire world’s Nuclear Arsenal. But as I have always found, no matter how great the effect is, the soundtrack always delivers more. The soundtrack (composed by John Ottman and Michael Louis Hill) once again features that incredible X-Men opening theme and titles, but does not hold itself down to just that, as it creates some amazing pieces for some of the film’s more outstanding moments, moments such as the launch of Nuclear Missiles (which is played to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7), Ancient Egypt, Quicksilver’s Mansion Run (Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics), and of course the final battle with Apocalypse, especially the rise of the Phoenix. These two things while considered maybe separate never fail to impress or provide great moments for the series, always delivering, always enjoyable, and always powerful.

I wouldn’t consider X-Men: Apocalypse to be a disappointment, nor a bad film (it’s better than at least 2 X-Men films I can think of). It’s more like an unpolished attempt leaning on the edge of greatness. Even with its issues, it has its scenes and moments; although while largely separated for long periods of time, these scenes still deliver really fun enjoyable and powerful moments that give you a good surge of pleasure. The characters may be hit and miss and mostly underused; doesn’t mean that they still can’t bring the pain; they just need to get out of their personal pain to begin with. Apocalypse might not be the same as he usually is, but he still makes a great villain and his introduction let’s open the gates for other major super villains such as, oh I don’t know, Mr. Sinister perhaps? What I would class this film as, is a good attempt. It’s something that throughout is working ok, but never gives the final push it needs to truly breakout and be what it really can be. I had high hopes, and while it did provide hours of real enjoyment, it just wasn’t enough to truly be. Maybe it’s just that I am a fan of X-Men: a fan of the comics, cartoons, (nearly) all the films, maybe that is why it did not fully work for me? Maybe, but even still, I enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse to a large degree.

GENEPOOL

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I’m Asking You, Just One More MINUTE! – Armageddon

23 03 2016

Armageddon (Touchstone Pictures - 1998)

Throughout the pages of history, there have always been beliefs as to how the world might end. Many of these beliefs come down to religious or cultural beliefs, while there is also the more popular forms of the world ending ranging from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to historical suggestions such as a meteorite similar to the one believed to have killed the dinosaurs, to ones presented in media forms of recent years suggesting anything from Giant Monsters to freak levels of nature to calendar’s. The thing is, unless founded by a religious belief (like I am), there is no telling what will end the world as we know it, but thanks to many movies over the last 20 years or so, at least we have found a way to entertain these ideas by producing many films that go on to suggest ways as to how it will happen.

Released in 1998 by Touchstone Pictures, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Michael Bay; Armageddon is an action/disaster movie depicting a possible end to planet Earth by throwing a massive pebble at it. Funnily enough, Armageddon was not the only film to be released in 1998 depicting the end of the world by a giant meteorite, as Deep Impact was released only 2 and half months before Armageddon, but Armageddon fared much better at the box office even surpassing Saving Private Ryan to become the highest grossing film of 1998.

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During a routine space mission, a space shuttle crew are attacked by a group of rogue meteors. The meteors rain down on New York causing city-wide damage. Under further investigation, NASA discovers that a rogue meteorite is heading to earth. The Meteorite dubbed a World Killer is so big that no matter where it lands will destroy all life on Earth. NASA director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) and Dr. Ronald Quincy (Jason Isaacs) come up with a plan to blow up the meteorite from the inside. On an oil rig, Oil driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), considered the best of his profession is busy dealing with his mini protégé A. J. (Ben Affleck) who he finds having a fling with his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler). Harry is asked to go to NASA with his Daughter where they discover what is going on, he is asked to go to the Meteorite with a crew, and drill inside to drop a nuclear bomb in it. Unwilling to go with untrained NASA drillers, Harry demands that he takes his own un-trained astronaut crew of drillers. These include Bear (Michael Clarke Duncan), Chick (Will Patton), Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), Oscar (Owen Wilson), Max (Ken Hudson Campbell), Noonan (Clarke Heathcliff Brolly) and A. J.

Harry’s team is put through the ringer by NASA under the guidance of NASA Pilot Watts (Jessica Steen) and Colonel Sharpe (William Fichtner). It’s an uphill battle of wills as between NASA crews and General Kimsey (Keith David) against the oil drilling crew. While on Base, A. J. and Grace’s relationship heats up; rather annoying Harry in the process. As time goes by, the crews get into shape for the flight, but not before time. With just a few days left to go, a rogue projectile from the Meteorite crashes into the South Asia Sea, killing thousands. With the truth out, NASA prepare to launch. The plan is to send up 2 crews in highly modified shuttles, Harry leading the Shuttle Freedom, and A. J. leading the Shuttle Independence. The crews launch and dock with a Russian satellite to refuel, meeting Russian Cosmonaut Lev (Peter Stormare). The refuelling operation goes haywire, with the two vehicles departing as the station explodes, with Lev joining the crew of Independence. The two shuttles, having slingshot around the moon, converge behind the meteorite, however the Independence crash lands with most of the crew dying except for A. J., Bear and Lev. Freedom lands successfully, but miles off course however.

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The Freedom crew begin drilling into the meteorite but already encounter problems as the surface is made out of iron, and the machine is being run by a badly designed drilling program. Harry confronts Sharpe, but their exchange is seen by everyone at NASA who begins to worry that they might fail. Kimsey is ordered by the President (Stanley Anderson) to override the system and to detonate the nuclear weapons even though the hole has not been drilled yet. Truman orders his men to stop Kimsey, but it’s met with unsuccessful results. With the bomb ticking, Harry convinces Sharpe to turn off the weapon. Drilling recommences and gets off to a good start, however Rockhound having gone insane causes yet more problems that lead to the drilling operation failing, meaning that the team has failed overall. In the nick of time, A. J. and his team, having drove the Armadillo drilling vehicle from their crash site to the Freedom drilling site arrive and get back to work. With less than 2 hours remaining, the teams manage to drill the hole.

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With 30 minutes remaining, the team are attacked by a meteor storm, which causes detonation problems for the bomb. The team draws straws to decide who stays on the meteorite to detonate the bomb, with A. J. drawing the short straw. When he goes outside however, Harry pushes him back on the shuttle, taking up the job of staying to detonate the bomb. Harry makes a final tearful farewell to his daughter and says how proud he is of her and his crew, especially A. J. with less than 5 minutes remaining, the Shuttle has problems launching off the Meteorite, but thanks to some quick bodging from Lev, manages to take off. With less than 1 minute to go, Harry slips up, but manages to detonate the bomb with only seconds remaining. The Meteorite explodes into two pieces, which fly and miss earth by miles with the crew back on Earth being hailed as heroes.

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Upon thinking of how Armageddon stands out on its own compared to other Disaster films of its kind, it’s really hard to start off. Compared to many other disaster movies of its kind such as the aforementioned Deep Impact, it seems nearly the same. Meteorite comes towards earth, and people go out to destroy it, sounds very similar doesn’t it? Well yes, and it is easier to compare the film to Deep Impact in comparison to the load of straight to DVD releases from companies like The Asylum and many other, cheap knock offs of films like this which attempt to do the same thing. However, Armageddon stands out more. Yes, it is a story of a Meteorite coming to Earth. Yes it will Destroy Earth if it gets here. Yes a Space Agency of particular mention send out a team to destroy it before it gets here. It all sounds like same formula used over and over again, however in the meantime, Armageddon does something different. Usually with science fiction films like this, there is great need for scientists and specialists in astrophysics to do the job, but it’s the case here, that the people asked to do the job instead are blue-collar working class men. People who aren’t geniuses at school, but people who know what good solid hard work is and how well it pays off when done well and right. These guys are not your average heroes, but from their way of life are people to look up to. Armageddon therefore does 2 sort of things at the same time to stand out more. One, it takes real people, real underdogs and puts them in a terrifying situation which they are not trained for to use their craft to save the world. And two, it takes space travel, out of the hands of the experts who started and hogged it for their own needs, and gives it back into the hands of those who on any other occasion would never go up in a shuttle, but provides them with the ultimate dream. It sets up the ground work quite well, and maintains that while the Earth is coming to an end, these working class heroes need to be trained up. It doesn’t ignore the issue; it keeps it in mind to prepare those who are going to solve the issue to be able to do it. It’s sort of like The Hunger Games, the training up of contestants to fight in a horrific battle, but doesn’t automatically start there, first they have to train.

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However this is a film; and films are never that simple. This is a full powered, 2+ hour film, and they are not going to fill it with an easy fix. So, things are added to spice up the plot. You have an unapproved relationship taking off; you have the animosity between the trained NASA crews who believe hiring the crew is a mistake, while the crew more sort of admire them, but don’t respect the treatment. Things then just get worse. From this I have this sort of belief as to how Michael Bay makes these films, and it all stems from this film: the idea that things just keep getting worse. This does not really spark until the crews finally go into space, where the space station blows up, one shuttle crashes, the drilling equipment has problems, a platoon of soldiers try to take over the operation in a mindless act, the equipment fails, a storm happens which causes problems for more equipment, someone then has to stay behind to blow up the bomb, and then the shuttle doesn’t take off. It makes everything that happened in the first hour seem easy in comparison. But all of these things, are directed in such a magnificent way that they cause real feelings to the Death of characters, the mindless act of a country leader thinking he owns the world into jeopardising the mission, trying to dig a hole in space (which turns out to be quite suspenseful), to both launching off a rock and then detonating a bomb in space with only seconds left. This film’s synopsis, setting and direction is done with such fluidity that there is always something going on that grabs you by the throat and pulls you ever closer to the screen as the film reaches its ever building climax, even if it’s still 30 minutes away.

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Armageddon’s stellar cast of characters carry a lot of the film’s tension and motion too, it’s not just down to the directors action/disaster talent. Some of these though are rather hit and miss. Now I don’t want to necessarily compare the works/talent of Michael Bay with that of Roland Emmerich, that fight will require some real thought. No, all I meant was how much difference there is in the choice of acting talent as to who gets bigger roles than others. With Armageddon though, there is a lot of room for comedy given its early premise and into this fold we do get some comedy acting from people like Owen Wilson delivering some punchy one liners, Michael Clarke Duncan being a real softy despite his size, Ken Hudson Campbell showing how hard he is despite being more of a big teddy bear, and Steve Buscemi being rather daft in a sexual innuendo way. These guys do serve the film’s wit and comedy section while also providing time to show off a more serious and poignant side, however, despite being pretty good at the end, I feel Michael Clarke Duncan could have delivered more early on. Wilson and Campbell I thought were more like comedy fillers, but Duncan was only briefly shown early on, and doesn’t really show much throughout this film until the Shuttle crashes, which think is a shame because he was pretty good in my opinion. But this is a very serious situation, and to this end we need people who are deadpan serious and in no way funny; which we do. This is what I meant when I mentioned Emmerich above.

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Disaster movies carry a lot of characters because big disasters affect a lot of people; and while the big stars get the big roles, you also get lesser known actors (or at least of the time) who become stars in their own right, despite that here they fill rather small roles. For starters there is someone like Quincy played by Jason Isaacs. A competent scientist who for most of the film acts like a bumbling fool, but given a shot gives off his own small but still powerful performance not as an expert or fool, but as a very serious and intelligent specialist. We then have Jessica Sheen as Jennifer Watts. Watts acts like a trainer before doing a more pilot role later in the film. She shares very little dialogue compared to those around her, however she is a very strong and likeable character. She is very serious about her job and works hard, but she is not bullish like Sharp or Kimsey, she is rather likeable on the whole suggesting a nice person deep down if it wasn’t for her job. Keith David meanwhile plays something of a secondary antagonist as Kimsey, someone who doesn’t believe in the plan and wants to be as bullish as possible. He talks like a man without a conscious and thinks the way he talks and acts, in the process becoming someone who is very unlikable. This comfortably leads onto Sharp. Sharp is something of a side antagonist until the later parts of the film. Much like Kimsey he is rather bullish and believes he can do anything by himself and his own techniques. He is rather miserable to watch as he feels more like a hindrance than a help, but deep down he has genuine worry and feelings towards the mission, and it’s not simply through being a grunt that he acts this way, but from his own personal worry. In the third act he comes out as a really likeable character as he comes to trust those around him instead of trusting just himself. Even in the last few moments, he worry’s but has more faith in someone who began as his enemy.

A8

Armageddon does also carry a lot of tertiary characters who only get a few fleeting appearances, but who’s acting in their self is still pretty good fun to watch. You have people like the NASA flight director (Chris Ellis), the bloke at the end saying “1 Minute” as he watches the meteorite coming ever closer to earth (unfortunately could not find out what he is actually called), then there is people genuinely on the mission and more upfront with the cast like Noonan, and the NASA communications guy (Matt Malloy). To this we get someone like Lev. Lev is more of a comedy character but with a serious bite. He is more human than anyone else in the film and serves as both light relief and a human connection to the audience creating terrific moments such as how an ordinary person would react up in space, and how too they would fix a busted space shuttle.

A5

I don’t really know what to think about Willis in this film. He lays a working class hero and is obviously a man to respect, it’s just he seems not to be in the depth of his more action based roles. Here he plays something specialist and organiser, but still with the vocal range of an action star. He definitely carries that level of respect the role carries, and also the commanding presence, but for me just doesn’t feel like it works, or at least stand out enough. He does of course make the final stand and ultimate sacrifice, but I just don’t know what to really say about him (sorry Bruce). Billy Bob Thornton stands out a little more as he is both a very respectful guy and is something like Bruce’s equal in an opposite way of life. He however carries something of a burden on his shoulders, as he is a man who has worked hard to get where he is, but at the same time regrets the direction he has taken, and so feels the need to work harder to prove that his chosen direction is as worth it, but more for him than anything else. As a role, he was one to look out for and enjoy, not necessarily a man of action, but more a man with a brain to bring it. Ben Affleck is in a similar situation to Willis I think. He stands out as being more of a rogue or maverick, to Willis’s tough but serious and professional way. But much like Willis, I just don’t find that he stands out all that greatly to be enjoyed fully. It’s probably more the dynamics and confrontations between the two that really make both parts work and the earlier situations between the two are really funny. However, it’s more of a father son relationship story, with the Son seeking guidance and acceptance from the father who considers him something of a disappointment, but then grows to liken him, and accepts as well as love him, and the same the other way round, with the son, showing a higher level of faith in the dad upon his acceptance. Liv Tyler meanwhile plays a more adult based role compared to the two people flanking her. She plays a more professional, more knowledgeable based role to that of Willis, while also having a rebellious youthful side to allow her to fall for Affleck. Her moods change quite a bit though. Sometimes she can be very feisty, and angry, while others are very emotional. It’s hard therefore to recognise what age she is supposed to be playing as she seems to get younger and older consistently in different scenes throughout. This constant change can be quite annoying as you see someone’s character change; however her emotions and strength are what really make her.

A6

For me however, the film’s best character is that of Chick played by Will Patton. I have seen Patton in a variety of TV shows, but for me, this is his best performance. He plays something of a sidekick and loyal worker/companion to Willis throughout, and would be fair to say would probably even die for him. Patton though has a different backstory compared to everyone else. He has a major gambling addiction which has completely separated him from his wife, to whom he feels eternally guilty, and still loves and cares for as well as his son. Out of everyone, he receives the higher redemption, doing something which gives him a second chance at his family. He delivers strength, he delivers wit, he delivers emotion, he carries more than anyone in this film and has some of the film’s best lines, including the high-powered one which I used for this review’s title. A fantastic actor and an incredible performance.

Will Patton

Like many science fiction disaster movies that have come before and after; Armageddon boasts an incredible level of special effects. Effects ranging from the Meteorite, shots in space, explosions, the lot. There’s not much that can be said much than that, given the level of reality that the film is set in and the low-level of need for space based science fiction. Well, if you are going to have scenes on the ground you may as well use real stuff. However, for the lack of special effects other than the use of space, Armageddon does great work in all forms of its effects, and in particular creates one of the best pieces of movie magic in the history of cinema. Space based movies have been made before of course, however not many of these films have really shown the launch of a space ship. The only one previous I can think of is Apollo 11, and that Launch is pretty cool, but what Armageddon does has not been done before or since. The space program has always been seen as something special and exciting, and the space shuttle’s none-the-less. The point of this film is that ordinary blue-collar working class hero types go into space to save the world, but right now they are on the ground, so eventually, they will need to actually go into space, and so, to mark this moment, the film goes all out to capture the moment, to capture the feeling, to capture the excitement of both being there, watching it, and being in the space shuttle. Using great levels of effects that are either models or real shuttles, combined with camera cuts or repositioning’s it makes the launch themselves something proud to behold. But then, the launch is not enough, the ships then need to actually get into space. This is the moment when the shuttle’s become CGI models, but made with such great detail that they look near copies of the models used during the actual take-off moment. But it’s not just the special effects; Music plays a great detail in the scene. It begins with a sort of operatic vocal back track and a tune of awe and wonder, slow, like the initial launch. This then cuts just as it builds to go slow again just to show the significance of the opening launch. The music then builds one more time into a very patriotic, and heart wrenching guitar solo that just takes over from the start. It really does make you feel emotional, because you are witnessing a great moment here, one that is really hard to explain if you have not seen it before. Then as the tone changes from the launch to the flight, the guitar and mixers take over to produce less a slow operatic performance, to something more modern, but still delivering power. It sounds less like a wonder, and more like a mission. It still drives the tension and worry, but still packs in a level of action and power that on the one hand still brings a near tear to your eye, while also just enjoying the spectacle of a space shuttle launching. The Space Shuttle program may be over, but it has given us one pure moment of Movie Magic that will be cherished for decades to come.

The rest of the soundtrack (composed by Trevor Rabin) delivers quite well too. Yes while the film is known for the inclusion of the Aerosmith song I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, I think it is over used a little bit. I like Aerosmith, but this is not a favourite of mine, although that could be me preferring more a form of heavy rock than melody. There is another track of theirs in this film that I do like and does sort of prove the above point, but it’s nice to see Aerosmith in film form either way. Their song sort of provides a backbone however to most of the films melodious moments. My joy with the soundtrack (other than the above mentioned launch scene) though comes in the form of the films way of delivering a scene in the right way, by building huge levels of tension in strong tense scenes. The one that stands out is the last scene where the final few seconds tick by, and Harry Stamper tries to reach for the bomb detonator with very little time left. Yes there are other good pieces of soundtrack, including the scene at the Armadillo Testing area, the recruitment scene (which also happens to be another piece by Aerosmith), and the inclusion of the ZZ Top song La Grange; but simply picking up the score is hard to do, and can only be achieved through the really memorable moments, and this is one of those scenes.

Armageddon is a power packed Disaster movie that really works hard to put you in the situation and works hard to make it apply to you as much as possible. It delivers a realistic and believable setting for an end of the world scenario, and works really closely to the time limit to make it as tense and as action packed as possible. It features scenes of beauty and scenes that you will not be able or want to forget. It provides a cast of minor’s, majors and absolute stand outs and comes with effects and sound to boot. While maybe not likely to win awards despite being more popular at the cinema than those that do, Armageddon is in no way bad, rubbish or pants. It is an incredibly enjoyable film that packs a consistent punch that will have you gagging for more and more while also hoping for a breath of fresh air. Armageddon is as powerful as the name suggests and deserves a spot in the Disaster Movie Hall of Fame (if one exists?) as much as its peers and contemporaries.

GENEPOOL








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