Armageddon (1998) - Criterion Collection

Genre(s): Action / Drama / Science Fiction
Touchstone || Unrated - 153 minutes - $39.99 || April 20, 1999
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-06-07

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: Michael Bay
Writer(s): Robert Roy Pool and Jonathan Hensleigh (story); Tony Gilroy and Shane Salerno (adaptation); Jonathan Hensleigh and J.J. Abrams (screenplay)
Cast: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, William Fichtner, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Stormare, Keith David, Jason Isaacs

Theatrical Release Date: July 1, 1998

Supplemental Material:
  • Director, Producer and Actors Commentary
  • Cinematographer and Consultants Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Storyboards and Producer Design Drawings
  • Special Effects Analysis
  • Production Design Featurette
  • Gag Reel
  • Music Video
  • Trailer, Teaser and TV Spots

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Armageddon, the 1998 summer blockbuster still is one of the better action flicks ever. Is it a masterpiece of any kind? No, but it does what it's supposed to: take you out of your own life for a couple of hours and entertain you with loud action sequences, and over-the-top acting.

If you don't already know, Armageddon is the story about several rough and tough oil drillers (Willis, Affleck, Duncan, Wilson, Buscemi, et al) who are brought on by NASA to fly into space, drill a whole into a giant astroid -- whose directory is heading toward earth which will result in an entire annihilation of the planet! The rest of the plot is merely filler, with a romance between Affleck and Liv Tyler and some other comedy bits to lighten up the mood (as in any Bruckheimer film).

Many people absolutely hated this movie (critics and audiences alike), but I for one enjoyed it. The action and special effects are great (even for something from seven years ago) and the acting (despite some dumb dialogue) was decent enough to fill out the rest. Armageddon, I think, is a movie for the die-hard action fans, not for someone looking for a "smart" plot. In the end, it is merely fluff... but oh what a sinful fluff it is.


The Criterion DVDs I've seen (and own) have range from merely decent to quite good. The problem is, the name "Criterion" implies a fantastic DVD. Thus far, only Traffic was deserving. But there's another question. While I liked Armageddon and all, why in the world did it receive the criterion treatment? Yes, the visual effects are great, but they were great in Titanic and Terminator 2, yet those didn't get added. I can only assume that there's either a payoff or Criterion is owned by a certain studio. In any case, this Criterion version is good enough.

First up is a commentary track with director Michael Bay, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and actors Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, all four of whom were separated and their comments spliced in (something I usually hate). Here, it's not too distracting as the four of them have distinctive enough voices to know who is who. Bay and Bruckheimer, like any director/producer team, defend the film and slam the other asteroid flick that opened in 1998, Deep Impact. I haven't seen that film in a while, but I think it is a bit tasteless to tear down another movie, rather they should've just leave at the two films are different in nature. Period. Now, Willis (who I think does the least amount of talking) and Affleck are lively enough and give some insight into the behind-the-scenes and their relationship to each other and the other cast and crew members. Apparently, the two butted heads early on but, according to Bay, they became friends in the end (yeah, right). The surprising thing on this track is, Affleck was actually funny and dogged (a bit) on his own film by asking questions like why don't the drillers train the astronauts to drill rather than the astronauts teaching THEM to go into space; a question to which -- when posed -- Bay merely said, "Shut the f*** up."

The second commentary by cinematographer John Schwartzman plus two consultants, one for NASA, the other concerning asteroids. This is the more bland track as the two consultants, though they have things to say, aren't very lively (and I didn't expect it as I doubt they're used to recording commentary). What I did like, however, was that they didn't hold back on what is true and what is not. One explains that an explosion in space as demonstrated in the beginning of the film, would look every different in real life. It is also pointed out that an asteroid "the size of Texas" would've been spotted decades ago. So, on that front, at least the experts were honest. As for Schwartzman, he clues us in on basically the same stuff heard on the first commentary from Bay and Bruckheimer.

On the second disc, there are the standard supplemental material including:

- A gag reel which shows the light-heart moments on the set with some antics and practical jokes. Not entirely funny as other reels, but still entertaining. One funny moments, though, comes from Billy Bob Thornton as he breaks into his Sling Blade character.

- Some of the deleted scenes were obviously cut (even from this director's cut) to trim down the runtime, but some of the scenes were fun to watch, including listening to Rockhound's "fondest memories" or the Russian cosmonaut aruging with the female crew member on the shuttle.

- In the special effects section, you get introductions from several people involved with the visual effects and with that examples from the film about how a scene was made over. One such example is the asteroid as you are taken from sketches to Photoshop painting... and finally to the final deal.

- For the production design we are guided through verious stages including: The Vision of Armageddon, Wardrobe/NASA, Armadillo/Shuttles and Asteroid Set. Production designer Michael White gives commentary on each of these and clues the viewer in on how much work goes in on any given scene from a set point of view.

- Finally there are several trailers, TV spots and a teaser as well as a music video from Aerosmith.


As far as action films go, Armageddon sounds good and looks great. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio (NON-ANAMORPHIC!) looks very good and considering not only it's a Michael Bay film, but also one that is now 6 years old. The excellent special effects come across well with what seems to be a crisp transfer. As you notice, I highlighted the fact it is letterboxed widescreen so that fact alone takes it down a notch or two.

The sound, though good, would've benefited mightedly for a DTS mix as when it comes to action films would've sounded great. But for what's there, it's good enough.


Since this is a Criterion Collection DVD, it is fairly expensive therefore you damn well better really like this film. If you're only a casual fan, then the one-disc, barebones release will no doubt suffice. That said, for what is here, there's a decent amount of material, though I have seen more in other releases. The commentary tracks, though a bit on the dry side, are worth a listen if you like them.