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Published on Aug 20, 2012
Guilty pleasure time ... with a capital "G", because 1998's ARMAGEDDON is one of those films we so despised upon it's initial release (laughably bad science, and dialog from the "SGT. ROCK INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO" handbook)... we ultimately ended up over the years loving it for it's sheer audacity. Based on a story credited to Robert Roy Pool (OUTBREAK) and Jonathan Hensleigh (DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE), and pitched as "THE DIRTY DOZEN save the world", it concerns NASA's "Hail Mary" attempt to prevent the end of all life on earth by an oncoming meteor the size of Texas, by launching a crew of blue collar oil drillers (lead by cinema hero faves Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck) in a space shuttle to intercept the oncoming object, drill to it's core, then place within it an atomic device which will hopefully shatter it to pieces before it reaches our planet.
Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (TOP GUN, BEVERLY HILLS COP, CRIMSON TIDE), ARMAGEDDON was destined to be big, stylish, fast paced, ... and extremely loud! - all of which it was at the hand of then still fledgling director Michael Bay. To date Bay's films (including PEARL HARBOR, two BAD BOYS installments, THE ROCK, three TRANSFORMERS films and THE ISLAND) have grossed over $3 billion, making him one of the most successful filmmakers in history. But at the time of ARMAGEDDON, he had only the first BAD BOYS to his credit as a feature director, and was mostly known as the man behind the lens of award-winning Miller Lite and Victoria Secret commercials, as well as music videos for artists as varied as Tina Turner, Lionel Richie, Wilson Phillips and (seriously) Donny Osmond. Hard to believe today, but at the time Bay was so inexperienced in handling the rigors of a huge special effects-dependent film such as ARMAGEDDON, Gale Anne Hurd (THE TERMINATOR, ALIENS, THE ABYSS) was brought in to co-produce and oversee that end of the film making process.
Opening in July 1998, Bay and Bruckheimer's film differentiated itself from the similarly themed DEEP IMPACT (which had opened 2 1/2 months prior) in a number of ways. One was by taking a more action / humor slant, reminiscent of the "impossible mission" sagas of the 1960s such as the aforementioned DIRTY DOZEN, and even the Clint Eastwood war / caper comedy KELLY'S HEROES. This as opposed to IMPACT's more somber character-driven tone of say the Stanley Kramer / Gregory Peck end-of-the-world drama ON THE BEACH (1959). ARMAGEDDON's more up tempo vibe would also greatly rely upon it's music score by Trevor Rabin (with additional contributions by Harry Gregson-Williams).
For a more detailed bio on Rabin, refer to our earlier TunePlay posting of NATIONAL TREASURE. Suffice to say, after coming to attention as a member of the progressive rock band YES in the 1980s, Rabin successfully segued into a career as film composer. His ARAMAGEDDON score is all the more impressive as it was only Rabin's fifth assignment in this capacity, and only his fourth as a solo composer - his 1978 debut on the South African blaxploitation film DEATH OF A SNOWMAN featuring material spread between him and three other musical contributors. In keeping with the "blue collar" origins of ARMAGEDDON's heroes, Rabin identifies them with a straight-up blues/folk guitar & harmonica motif first heard in "Oil Rig". Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" became the film's chart topping / Oscar winning love ballad. But for our money, the beauty and simplicity of Rabin's instrumental rendition of the "Armageddon Theme" packs more emotion as it becomes a combo "Love Theme" for Grace Stamper (Liv Tyler)'s feelings for both her fiance A.J. (Affleck) and her father (Willis), who at first frowns upon the couple's engagement. The score's standouts are certainly the "anthem" version of the "Armageddon Theme" as heard in the rousing "Launch", and Rabin's infectious mechanical-industrial toned "mission" motif - first heard in "Harry Arrives At NASA". Also dig the funky bass rifts of "Demands". Great stuff!
And hey, to all cyclists out there. We've discovered the rhythm and pacing of Rabin's score is great accompaniment to long afternoon or evening biking trips. See if you agree.