Criterion Files #40: ‘Armageddon’

By  · Published on April 1st, 2011


In a sea of some of the most important pictures the world has known to date ‐ why? In a collection spanning nearly one-hundred years of film history and inclusive of a large portion of the greatest filmmakers we’ve ever known…why? With a library containing movies which focus heavily on visual artistry and emotional complexities and probably have a combined budget *possibly* equal to that of this film…why?

With another picture released the same year about pretty much the same thing made by a studio from the same country garnering stronger critical reception and sporting an [in]arguably more plausible solution and execution to the prevention of the end of the world via meteors the size of really, really big things…WHY? Why is this mammoth-sized summer blockbuster which is a masterpiece of the color orange alongside some of the most revered pictures of the last (nearly) 100 years?

The answer is simple, concrete, and indisputable:

Ben Affleck = Academy Award Winning writer = Good

Billy Bob Thornton = Academy Award Winning writer = Good

Owen Wilson = Academy Award Nominated writer = Better than not good = (also Criterion Collection alumnus)

Michael Clarke Duncan = Academy Award Nominated Actor = Good enough to be better than Owen Wilson and Ben Affleck at being nominated for the profession he was hired to do for this movie; thus making him better than good-and-a-half.

Liv Tyler = hot = a good belly for animal cracker sex = we’re done now

Steve Buscemi = Independent film legend = not good to imagine having sex with animal crackers

Bruce Willis = Bruce Willis = circular equation resulting always in Bruce Willis


Michael Bay = The actual reason why this film is included in the library of some of the most important pictures in history.

On this day, we present Criterion Files #40: Armageddon. No Joke.

What’s More Important than the end of the world?

Offhand, it’s a bit funny (a big bit…like, the size of Texas) how much writing talent is actually associated with this film. Along with the names given above (Affleck, Thornton, and Wilson) who have had their names called out by the Academy for their writing skills, both J.J. Abrams and Tony Gilroy had their hands on the script at some point or another as well. Yet, with all of these gentlemen gifted with the ability to construct great blueprints to tell great stories something had to have occurred in order for us to have gotten the film that we did. Right?

Well, something did. Someone decided to make it, and that someone(s) decided that Michael Bay would be the one to do it.

At this point in his career Bay only had two features under his belt, Bad Boys and The Rock. The latter was actually a well-received action film and the former hinted at a filmmaker capable of displaying a unique energy in his frame. At the time it looked as if Bay had the chops to possibly be another John McTiernan and despite any criticisms of the end products of his first two films most everyone agreed that Bay had *something* to make his name worth remembering. There’s just too much kinesis to shrug off.

Then, Armageddon comes and it is Michael Bay high on pure injections of Michael Bay. The cameras are on merry-go rounds, no camera shot seems to last longer than 10 seconds and I’m pretty sure the film stock sat in a tanning booth for a weekend.

So, in a sense, because of all of this Armageddon may not necessarily be the picture we maybe think it should be based on Bay’s visual style, the large cast of veterans and up-and-coming talents, and the names attached to the script it is probably the film we may associate most as very representative of Michael Bay. It has all of his trademarks in extremely potent doses and it’s the first film in his directorial career that signified what kinds of pictures he would eventually continue to make ‐ large-budgeted, light PG-13 summer blockbusters.


The Criterion Collection is certainly ample with its supply of important figures in the history of cinematic directing. Important is probably the key word, and important doesn’t exactly fit the bill when discussing Michael Bay. However, an alternative to that word that one could also apply to the works of the directors represented in the Collection would be “relevant.”

Michael Bay may not be the most acclaimed filmmaker of his generation (or even really acclaimed at all at this point), but he most certainly is a figure that isn’t likely to be forgotten years from now. Other directors of his ilk (Roland Emmerich, Jan De Bont) won’t fare as well. But…Michael Bay, get used to his name, because you’ll be hearin’ it for a while.

This special presentation of Criterion Files (which you can normally read on Wednesdays) is brought to you by the letter “explosion.”

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