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Armageddon (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 14, 2010 by  



Over a decade later and “Armageddon” is a film that just shines on Blu-ray.  Gorgeous visuals, immersive lossless audio… I was definitely impressed!  But if you are a owner of the original Criterion Collection DVD release, you may not want to discard it just yet as this Blu-ray release skimps on the special features.

Image courtesy of © WDSHE. All Rights Reserved. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Armageddon

DURATION: 151 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1 Widescreen), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz, 24-bit), Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Touchstone Pictures

RATED: PG-13 (For Sci-Fi Disaster Action, Sensuality and Brief Language)

RELEASE DATE: April 27, 2010

Directed by Michael Bay

Screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams

Adaptation by Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno

Story by Robert Roy Pool and Jonathan Hensleigh

Music by Trevor Rabin

Cinematography by John Schwartzman

Edited by Mark Goldblatt, Chris Lebenzon, Glen Scantlebury

Casting by Bonnie Timmermann

Production Design by Michael White

Art Direction by Geoff Hubbard, Lawrence A. Hubbs, Bruton Jones

Set Decoration by Rick Simpson

Costume Design by Magali Guidasci, Michael Kaplan

Starring:

Bruce Willis as Harry Stamper

Billy Bob Thornton as Dan Truman

Ben Affleck as A.J. Frost

Liv Tyler as Grace Stamper

Will Patton as Grace Stamper

Will Patton as Chick

Steve Buscemi as Rockhound

William Fichtner as Colonel Willie Sharp

Owen Wilson as Oscar

Michael Clarke Duncan as Bear

Peter Stormare as Lev Andropov

Ken Hudson Campbell as Max

Jessica Steen as Co-Pilot Jennifer Watts

Keith David as General Kimsey

Chris Ellis as Flight Director Clark

Jason Isaacs as Ronald Quincy

Grayson McCouch as Gruber

Clark HEathcliffe Brolly as Noonan

Marshall R. Teague as Colonel Davis

Anthony Guidera as Co-Pilot Tucker

Greg Collins as Halsey

J. Patrick McCormack as General Boffer

Ian Quinn as Astronaut Pete Shelby

From the blockbuster-making team who produced and directed Pearl Harbor and The Rock (Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay) comes Armageddon, available for the first time on Blu-ray™ High- Definition! Starring the explosive talents of Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Will Patton, Armageddon is a meteor storm of action adventure moviemaking that has you on the edge of your seat forgetting to breathe! When NASA’s executive director, Dan Truman (Thornton), realizes the Earth has 18 days before it’s obliterated by a
meteor the size of Texas, he has only one option – land a ragtag team of roughneck oil drillers on the asteroid and drop a nuclear warhead into its core. Spectacular special effects, laugh-out-loud humor,
great characters, riveting storytelling, and heartfelt emotion make Armageddon an exhilarating thrill ride you’ll want to experience like there’s no tomorrow!

In 1998, the summer blockbuster “Armageddon” from director Michael Bay (“Transformers”, “The Rock”, “Pearl Harbor”) featuring a screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh (“Die Hard: With a Vengeance”, “The Punisher”, “Next”) and J.J. Abrams (“LOST”, “Star Trek”, “Cloverfield”)  became a tremendous success in the box office.   Making over $553 million worldwide, the film was loved by viewers despite being panned by film critics.

Starring Bruce Willis  (“Die Hard” films, “Surrogates”, “Lucky Number Slevin”), Billy Bob Thornton (“Sling Blade”, “Monster’s Ball”, “Friday Night Lights”) and Steve Buscemi (“Pulp Fiction”, “Desperado”, “Fargo”),  “Armageddon” would launch the careers of many talent such as Ben Affleck (“Good Will Hunting”, “Chasing Amy”, “Pearl Harbor”), Liv Tyler (“Lord of the Rings” films, “The Incredible Hulk”), Owen Wilson (“Bottle Rocket”, “Marley & Me”, “Drillbit Taylor”), and Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”, “The Whole Nine Yards”, “Daredevil”).  The film would also star a good number of talents such as William Fichtner, Will Patton, Keith David, Peter Stormare, Ken Hudson Campbell and many more.

“Armageddon” was previously released as a standalone DVD which was then followed up by a director’s cut (featuring two minutes extra footage), special features heavy DVD release from the Criterion Collection and over a decade later, we are treated with an HD version of the film on Blu-ray.

“Armageddon” revolves around an asteroid (the size of Texas) which hurling towards Earth in 18 days. Several smaller asteroids have bypassed Earth’s atmosphere and have caused destruction in various cities worldwide.  But this huge asteroid and its collision on Earth can easily destroy humanity.

The only option that NASA can give is by detonating a nuclear bomb inside the asteroid (800 feet deep) and splitting it into two and hoping that the asteroid will miss Earth.  And the only one with the expertise to drill that deep is offshore oil driller Harry Stamper (played by Bruce Willis) and his crew which include A.J. (played by Ben Affleck) who has a secret relationship with Grace (played by Liv Tyler), the daughter of Harry.  A.J. has  a problem of taking orders and the fact that he was secretly dating Grace does not put him in the best position with Harry.

The US government and NASA depend on Harry and his crew which includes Chick (played by Will Patton), Rockhound (played by Steve Buscemi), Oscar (played by Owen Wilson), Bear (played by Michael Clarke Duncan), Max (played by Ken Hudson Campbell), Noonan (played by Clark Heathcliffe Brolly) and a few others including the NASA pilots to prepare for the drilling on the asteroid. NASA head Dan Truman (played by Billy Bob Thornton) is the person responsible in making sure they are trained quickly and also responsible in leading the NASA operation on Earth.

Earth’s survival depends on these individuals.  Can they get to their location, drill 800 feet and detonate the bomb in time?

VIDEO:

Having owned the previous releases of “Armageddon”, I can easily tell you that “Armageddon” looks absolutely awesome on Blu-ray!  “Armageddon” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) with colors that are vibrant and a film that sports many colors that simply, I was impressed by the picture quality.  Granted, some video stock footage will look slightly dated but those sequences are very short and if anything, your eyes are just in awe of how awesome and colorful this film is.  From the detail of the character’s skin to the lighting inside NASA as we see the lighting on the characters from green, to blue and of course the overall look of the asteroid and special effects are still wonderful to look at.  Over 12-years-later and the film manages to hold up extremely well!  Strong contrast, solid backs and I don’t recall seeing any major compression, edge enhancement or DNR.

So, for those who loved the film and were so upset with the non-Anamorphic release back in 1999, fortunately we have a 1080p (2:35:1) version of the film and also a version that just looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Armageddon” is absolutely immersive.  The film features an English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit) and Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.  But as you can expect from a Michael Bay film, he manages to utilize audio and in this film, with all the action, you can expect an immersive audio soundscape.  There are just so many times throughout the film where you hear the audio coming from the fronts, especially from the surround channels but then you can also detect LFE throughout.

Needless to say, when the Criterion Collection DVD release of “Armageddon” was released in 1999, a lot of us who reviewed the film were going crazy about how awesome the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was but after listening to this lossless soundtrack, I was absolutely floored.  “Armageddon” is a film that truly belongs on HD and the soundtrack is just impressive!

Subtitles are presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

This is probably where “Armageddon” on Blu-ray is not too awesome.  As the first DVD release was barebones, the Criterion Collection had audio commentary tracks, gag reel, production gallery, featurettes and many, many more special features.  Needless to say, the Criterion Collection version was truly a complete package when it was released in 1999 but in 2010, the Blu-ray Touchstone Pictures release, while not barebones, has very few special features.  Included are:

  • Aerosmith’s MTV Award-Winning Music Video “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Teaser Trailer

I know that many critics and reviewers have a problem with Michael Bay films but I love sci-fi action films, I love being entertained by films that feature continuous action and Michael Bay is a master of it.  Granted, when I watch a Michael Bay film, for me “Armageddon” is a popcorn action flick in which I expect nothing deep, nothing too intellectual and when it comes to disaster films, you want to see devastation and see humanity overcome all obstacles.

“Armageddon” was a film that I really enjoyed when it was first released and had the opportunity to review the original DVD, the Criterion Collection release and now this Blu-ray release.

Needless to say, the biggest question that fans of the film are going to ask is if this release is worth it and whether or not they should toss away their DVD versions of the film.  Well, for one, if you have the original barebones release, yeah, you can trade or sell that one online but if you have the Criterion Collection DVD release, you definitely will want to hold on to that release as those special features are probably not going to be seen in any future “Armageddon” release in quite some time.

But when it comes to picture quality and audio quality, this Blu-ray release of “Armageddon” is fantastic.  The Criterion Collection release was not anamorphic and it was a release before the current remastering that Criterion Collection is known for in recent releases.  So, Disney who have been releasing awesome Blu-ray releases have done fans a great service by giving us awesome picture quality and fantastic lossless audio.  Sure, I would have loved a English 7.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack but this 5.1 lossless soundtrack definitely brings this film to a new level.

I was comparing the Blu-ray release with the DVD releases that I had and it was like night and day in terms of PQ and AQ, this is definitely the definitive version of “Armageddon” to own.  But because those Criterion Collection special features are not included on this Blu-ray, it definitely knocks a point off this Blu-ray release.  I was a bit surprised not to see the commentary, gag reel and other featurettes were not included in this release and its a shame that Disney didn’t include it on this release.  So, if you do own the Criterion Collection DVD release and enjoy the film, you may not want to get rid of your copy.

Overall, “Armageddon” is a film that has its share of fans who love it and those who hate it and that can be said about many disaster films that have come out since the early ’70s.  I personally enjoy these type of films and the better the special effects, the better the film holds up overtime and granted, they may be farfetched (“Armageddon” is used as an actual training management program at NASA in which managers must find out how many inaccuracies the film contains) but for viewers, when it comes to these films, these are perfect “get-away” popcorn flicks.  Something that Michael Bay, J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Hensleigh are very good at with their films.

But if you are a fan who really enjoyed this film, “Armageddon” on Blu-ray in terms of film presentation (PQ & AQ) is highly recommended!

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