What The Film!? is a weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the general fuckery Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try to pull the proverbial wool over our eyes. If you know a film with major plot holes or those that make you scratch your eyes out, tell us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.
This upcoming week contains the Fourth of July, an American holiday celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, a document that declared our independence from England (as it suggests, yes). The upcoming week will contain fireworks, barbecues, parades, picnics, sports, concerts, people arguing about what is and isn’t “American” despite the irony that diversity and opposing views is American, and most importantly, scaring the absolute shit out of veterans with PTSD by putting as many explosives in the sky as possible.
Like most Americans, when I hear the words “Independence Day”, I think of only one movie; a late 90’s science fiction action/disaster movie where humanity’s will to survive is tested by a new threat from outer space that forces everyone on the planet to put aside their differences to work together to make sure life on Earth doesn’t end forever. I’m clearly talking about 1998’s Armageddon. There is absolutely no other movie that could possibly fit that bill.
What most people don’t know is that Armageddon came from a story from Jonathan Hensleigh, the writer of Die Hard With a Vengeance and The Punisher, but the idea was hammered into a filmable script by none other than JJ Abrams. At one point, a studio executive thought about who would make the best Star Wars movie and decided on the guy who did Armageddon. That’s not a fair joke, JJ Abrams did some great things with this script, like calling Johnson Space Center in Houston by the name of the Kennedy Space Center, which is in Florida, or that when the meteor that breaks into pieces across the globe, every country experiences it at the same time in daylight. Or having fire exist in the vacuum of space. Or having Bruce Willis cry. Bruce Willis cries in this movie. Hey, some of these are Michael Bay decisions too, can’t be too harsh.
The plot of Armageddon is that a meteor “the size of Texas” is hurling towards the Earth and NASA decides to put a team into space to drill into it to place a nuclear device to destroy it. It’s biggest flaw being that NASA figures that the best course of action here is to train a team of workers from an oil rig to become astronauts (something that typically takes your entire life basically), rather than the much easier idea of training astronauts to figure out how to drill. In this universe, having what is basically an Olympian with a PHD learn how to use a tool that has been around since 35,000 BC is way less possible than to having a team of people who likely have multiple Blue Collar Comedy CDs in their trucks to become Olympian PHDs. Got it.
Michael Bay has gone on record before saying that Armageddon is his worst movie, and this is coming from the guy who made the Transformers movies. His biggest issues besides the rushed schedule was that the movie would delude people into thinking that if a meteor ever was on a collision course with Earth, that we could do something about it. Despite the rushed schedule, he stated that he was aware of the scientific errors and problems and kept them in for “entertainment value”. It must have worked, because in addition to being the highest grossing live-action Disney movie till Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, the movie also has a legacy with NASA where they show Armageddon in their training programs and ask potential employees to find as many scientific errors as possible. Yes, seriously.