Directed by Michael Bay
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 151 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Review Date: April 18, 2010
Director Michael Bay’s film work is distinguished by things that go boom. A lot. He also loves films that mix all of that loud action with assorted thrills, humor, tears, and romance. He’ll never be accused of subtlety, and his films generally require a strong suspension of disbelief. That said, for brain-dead popcorn entertainment, his movies are hard to beat. Armageddon is only one of his many films that subscribe to this formula for success. The Blu-ray release we’re presented with here finally gets the audio and video to the reference levels that one always suspected the movie was capable of reaching technically.
The Earth is headed toward oblivion as an asteroid the size of Texas is making its way toward impact, the kind of impact that scientists call a “global killer.” In sixteen days, the planet will be destroyed unless a team of astronauts can land on the flying piece of metal, plant a nuclear bomb inside, and explode it in space far enough away so that its fragments after detonation will miss the Earth. To do this, it’s decided that an expert drilling team rather than a crew of experienced astronauts would be more appropriate for the job, and who better to lead a team of drillers than Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), a man who’s been working oil derricks his entire life and holds several patents on the best drilling equipment available? His crack crew agrees to come along with him on the adventure even though they’re a bunch of loose cannons with almost no time to train for such a dangerous mission. They are racing the clock to get two teams to the asteroid hoping that at least one of them can be successful in carrying out the mission.
Needless to say, the plot (screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh and J.J. Abrams among many other hands) is punctuated with derring-do and enough trauma for ten small movies (and peppered often with a smart aleck sense of humor at the moments of most dire circumstances). As Abrams would do later with Lost, one problem always leads to another, all the while the clock is ticking and things only seem to go from bad to worse. At 151 minutes, there is a lot of time to fill, so the men rush rather blindly from one problem to another while anxious onlookers on Earth bite their lips in anguish and hope for the best. This kitchen-sink style of plotting is frankly rather shoddy and unfinished, and there are logic gaps and inconsistencies that would frustrate any viewer who’d stop for a few minutes and think about the events that are transpiring, but the huge nature of the project keeps things lurching forward constantly guided by Bay’s experienced hand with messy extravaganzas such as these. It’s a cinematic roller coaster that asks only of the viewer to grab on and don’t look back. For the film to work, one must not think too much.
Bruce Willis again must act the courageous savior, and he’s as effective as always in this kind of role. The physical demands are far more important here than the emotional ones, but when the time is ripe for feeling, he never lets us down. As an action hero, he truly is more adept at emotional delivery than many of his contemporaries and is perfectly cast here. Of the supporting players, Will Patton delivers the most complete portrait of a man torn by duty and responsibility. Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler provide the youthful romance that makes this picture somewhat different from Con Air or The Rock, also produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, but the roles don’t require anything special of either actor, and the love stuff is one dimensional. Billy Bob Thornton does well with the rock-steady NASA command official, the same type part Ed Harris did so compellingly in Apollo 13. Though Steve Buscemi is used for comic relief and plays a role similar to dozens he’s enacted over the years, he is sometimes irritating here as the wise guy genius who never knows when he’s wearing out his welcome. A little of him goes a long way. William Fichtner as the shuttle commander is the most interesting character underdeveloped in the script.
The film’s theatrical 2.35:1 Panavision aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color, brightness, contrast, sharpness: all are at optimum levels and are worthy of highest praise. After suffering with nonanamorphic transfers for many years with this film, finally the movie looks as it should on home video. Blacks are infinitely deep and engaging, and shadow detail will impress even the severest critics. Details in the facial features, fabrics, and the rocky metallic surface of the asteroid will definitely make an impression on the viewer. The film has been divided into 27 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is reference quality audio in every respect. From the amazing split surrounds which are constantly engaged to the frequent pans across and through the soundfield, you’re sure to be delighted with the impressive work on display here. And the intense bass levels in the LFE channel which are engaged constantly with all of the film’s bang and boom will also make a technophile smile with delight and complete satisfaction.
The same few pitiful bonuses from the film’s nonanamorphic DVD Disney release have been ported over for this Blu-ray issue. Sadly, none of the film’s technical artists who accounted for the film’s immense box-office success (especially impressive in light of the almost concurrent release of another asteroid-hitting-Earth film Deep Impact) get commentaries or documentaries crediting them for their accomplishments.
The bonuses are all delivered in 480i.
The teaser trailer runs for 3 ¼ minutes.
The theatrical trailer runs for 2 ½ minutes.
Aerosmith’s music video of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” runs 5 minutes.
There are 1080p trailers for Prince of Persia, Surrogates, When in Rome, and The Sorceror's Apprentice.
3/5 (not an average)
Disney missed a prime opportunity to deliver a true special edition of one of their biggest box-office sci-fi successes with this Blu-ray release of Armageddon, but at least the film has never looked or sounded better, and it’s a real pleasure to have a reference quality edition of the film at long last.