Armageddon, 1998. Directed by Michael Bay. Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan.

Big budget NASA propaganda film in which a crack team of oil drillers must land on an asteroid the size of Texas, drill to the center, and plant nuclear bombs to destroy the asteroid before it destroys the earth. While I am all for supporting the often maligned, undeniably underfunded space program, it is difficult for me to excuse Armageddon for its many excesses on the basis of my own political leanings. This is a movie that hurts to watch, not only because the testosterone level is higher than usual even for the films of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, but because it is too loud, it is edited too fast, and it is painfully stupid. It piles scientific illogicality upon scientific illogicality, loses all track of internal time, and has characters doing absolutely stupid things in order to stretch the plot beyond the bounds of normal movie length.

This movie is loud. It layers explosions, collisions, impacts, shouted dialog, Earth/asteroid-quake rumbling, and Aerosmith songs, to name a few, one on top of each other so that the entire movie is pummellingly cacophonic. The visual sensibility is largely the same. It edits so quickly during its action sequences that one has trouble actually perceiving what is going on. Beyond this, it shakes the camera. Hard. I'm sure this movie has pretty damned good special effects, but it cuts away from them so quickly that it is hard to tell. I challenge anyone to describe the actual shape of the asteroid.

The only time the visual pace slows down is for character development that is so broadly drawn, so cliched, so maudlin, that one prays for the asteroid to strike and wipe everything out so the earth can start over. In Armageddon's defense, it isn't boring--which is a step up from Deep Impact--but getting roughed up by a mugger isn't boring either. And after two and a half hours of this, the audience starts to show bruises.