Monday, March 7, 2016

Armageddon: Capsule Movie Reviews

The "Where is Everybody?" class recently viewed the movie Armageddon after learning a bit about asteroids and asteroid impact mitigation. Below are the students' reviews.

Yeah, of course there are spoilers. Did you have to ask?

Armageddon should be considered the quintessential sci-fi movie. The plot of the movie, a stray asteroid detected late coming at earth needs to be split in two with bombs dug 1000 feet into the core, leans much more heavily towards the fiction side of science fiction. Obviously the asteroid would have been detected by someone, and assuming the bombs were strong enough to affect an asteroid the size of Texas, exploding the asteroid with bombs would not split it perfectly in two, yet as a viewer I did not care. If the asteroid were not perfectly split and 100,000,000,000 asteroid shards were hurtling towards earth most of the smaller pieces would burn up before impact. The larger pieces, most likely in the size category 140m+, would cause small damage, but nothing too serious. The number of deaths would be much larger if the asteroid did only split in 2, because there is no way the asteroid would split directly around the Earth. Assuming each piece is half the size of Texas (Texas having an area of 268,820 mi²), then the damage from a meteor of size roughly 134,000 miles would cause intense damage over the hemisphere were it collides. Treating Armageddon as a primarily science based movie will cause aggravation due to inaccuracy, but treating the movie as fiction will result in maximum enjoyment.
-Adin Adler

In Armageddon, a giant asteroid the size of Texas is discovered to be on its way to hitting earth. Seeing that he cannot train NASA’s astronauts in time, Harry Stamper, and his group of people carry out their plan of drilling into the asteroid and attaching a nuclear weapon in it that will detonate and avoid the impact of the asteroid, by splitting it in half so that both parts of the asteroid would fly by earth and not hit it. The general scientific ideas in this film are overall plausible. However, some specifics regarding the asteroid and the position that they are in are flawed. In the film, the asteroid is said to be the size of Texas. However, we know that an asteroid that big would not have been unnoticed in our solar system. Also, the statistical possibility of a comet hitting an asteroid is very minimal. The nature of asteroids and the probabilities in this film are over-exaggerated. Without such exaggeration, the plot would be drastically different.
- Haeun Bang

In Armageddon, NASA discovered that an asteroid the size of Texas heading towards the Earth. A crew is prepared to land on the asteroid, and blow it up with a nuclear warhead. In the end, the protagonist, Harry Stamper stays behind in order to detonate the bomb, therefore sacrificing his life to save humanity. Despite its beautiful, tear-jerking ending, the movie was riddled with scientific errors that made its plot less realistic. First of all, an asteroid the size of Texas would not be knocked out of the asteroid belt by a mere comet. Next, everyone was unaware of this colossal asteroid until it was only 18 days away. This lack of knowledge is extremely unlikely, as there is a sufficient number of amateur astronomers spending time looking for asteroids heading towards Earth. Also, there are also many scenes in which things are on fire; from random wreckage debris to the drill, there simply should not be fire. The writers forgot to account for the complete lack of oxygen in the space, as fire does not exist without oxygen. Overall, the movie was extremely dramatic, but interesting. I found the ending to be especially tear-jerking, especially when Harry threw A.J. back into the elevator. My only fault with the movie, other than its scientific errors, lies in the multitude of clichés and the predictability. It was clear that the crew would eventually succeed in destroying the asteroid. It was clear that Harry was going to switch places with A.J. when he volunteered to take him down the elevator. However in the end, the movie overall was still enjoyable, and I admittedly cried throughout the last ten or so minutes.
- Stephanie Bao

Scientific inaccuracy in films is often forgivable. Solid plot with a logical flow, strong dialogue, and compelling characters are far more important to a good movie, and scientific truth is often sacrificed in favor of these storytelling elements. In Armageddon, however, this is not the case. Science is indeed disregarded, but the plot remains full of holes, and the characters unoriginal. Even the jokes are weak. In fact, Armageddon might have actually benefited from a little scientific accuracy.

In the movie, the asteroid hurtling towards Earth isn’t detected until eighteen days before its projected impact: the implication being apparently that among the hundreds of observatories around the globe, not one saw it earlier. This point is convenient (if cliché and extremely implausible) in that it adds time pressure. But if the asteroid had been detected a year or two earlier, and the oil drillers had had time to properly train as astronauts? The cast would have time to develop from unlikable losers into a cohesive, professional team of three‐dimensional characters. In Armageddon, they only have time to become unlikable losers on an asteroid. Admittedly, it would make for a very different movie, with far fewer explosions.

Speaking of explosions: the bomb used to split a Texas‐sized asteroid in half, according to a 2011 paper from the University of Leicester, would have to be about 109 times more powerful than the biggest bomb ever made. Though it would take the oil drillers out of the picture, it would be interesting to watch a movie that used one of the weirder, more delicate proposed methods of saving Earth from an asteroid: a gravity tractor, perhaps, or a device to reflect sunlight onto it until it overheated and disintegrated. It would be a welcome break from typical explosion‐heavy sci-fi/action blockbusters, and a chance to reassure an audience of average people that NASA is far more prepared to deal with asteroids than a movie like Armageddon would have us believe.
- Emma Flickinger

I thought the movie started out a bit rough, with NASA scientists unable to see the giant “Texas-sized” asteroid headed towards earth, and the desperately needed information finally being provided from a somewhat-crazed man somewhere far away in a trailer home. However, I thought the movie was quite good overall. The movie seemed to make up what it lacked in scientific accuracy with drama, suspense and action throughout the majority of the film. For instance, my original point, that astronomers would surely have been able to see the asteroid before they did, is countered by the date of the film (maybe the technology hadn’t quite caught up?) and by the provided evidence in the film that the government only allowed NASA to monitor effectively 3% of the sky. The government’s turn towards the oil drillers makes for a great film, but would never realistically happen in real life. Moving on, perhaps the greatest scientific liberty taken was of the environment on the asteroid. Although I am certainly no asteroid expert, the likelihood of the rover-like machine being able to maneuver both on the ground and in the air so successfully seems quite unlikely. Additionally, the chance that the asteroid, two seconds from entering the atmosphere, would split perfectly in two and launch both halves just far enough to get around the earth seems quite small as well. Overall, though, inaccuracies like these are common in Hollywood movies, which value entertainment over truth. Although they were distracting, the inaccuracies didn’t really detract from the the movie’s entertainment value, so I still greatly enjoyed Armageddon as a film.
- Mary Garrett

Armageddon is an exciting, end-of-the-Earth disaster film about a group of misfit oil drillers who are sent by NASA to go up into space in an attempt to stop an asteroid the size of Texas from eliminating all life on Earth. This film rarely has a dull moment since there is so much fast-paced action that I never felt disengaged as a viewer. However, while the high-speed nature of the film makes for a thrilling experience, it was far too quick for the plot to be realistic. This ended up creating an absurd story with numerous inaccurate details, some of which were too painfully illogical to ignore. For instance, the whole premise of the movie is based on NASA failing to discover an asteroid the size of Texas until it is only eighteen days away from hitting the Earth. Surely NASA, researchers from universities, or even amateurs would have been able to find an object this size well before it was close to hitting us. Then there are smaller details, such as fire burning on an asteroid with no oxygen or a nuke splitting an asteroid almost perfectly in half with none of the pieces hitting the Earth, that are also difficult to look past. Certainly the film was entertaining, but its ridiculous plot kept me from truly enjoying the film.
- Autumn Hair

The movie Armageddon tells a story where an asteroid “the size of Texas” speeds towards Earth, threatening to create an impact that would wipe out civilization and all living organisms. Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and their team of emotionally unstable drillers launch into space with a plan to insert a nuclear bomb into the asteroid and blow it into two chunks that would potentially dodge the Earth completely. It is a fun story, but considering it has a few Hollywood twists, it inevitably also has a few scientific flaws. 

When the asteroid is first spotted, Dan Truman, the NASA Project Director played by Billy Bob Thornton, tells the government that they did not see it sooner because they are on a budget and “it’s a big sky.” However, an asteroid that is traveling fast and is only eighteen days away from impact would be astonishingly bright and noticeable for most ground-based telescopes. Secondly, the asteroid appeared to be a jagged mass with no particular shape; an object this large should create its own gravitational force and form into a sphere (like the stars and planets we see). The last (but not final) scientific flaw occurs when a crew in an Armadillo tries to jump over a canyon and hits some rocks, but uses the thrusters to return to the surface. In reality, the thrusters would have sent them spinning farther and faster, likely in a direction away from the surface of the asteroid. Despite the few inaccuracies, the movie is thrilling, intriguing, and illustrates a fun scenario of the end of life on Earth.
- Sara Jahanian

Far from another doomsday movie, Armageddon provides audiences with an entertaining yet scientifically flawed experience. Telling the tale of a team of oil driller’s quest to save humanity from an asteroid the “size of Texas,” the movie makes use of extremely far-fetched scenarios and suspect science to tell a captivating tale that despite its flaws remains entertaining.

The status of Armageddon as entertaining relies heavily on the audiences’ ability to suspend disbelief. While the movie at large seems to achieve this goal well, certain moments leave the audience questioning the movie. The premise of sending a team of extremely inexperienced drillers to an asteroid to save the Earth is extremely far-fetched and ultimately detracts from the power of the movie. With many decisions by NASA seemingly driven by emotion, such as the decision to manually override the remote bomb detonation, the movie suffers from being too grounded in familiar elements. As entities such as NASA are well-known, the discrepancy in operation presented in the movie creates a conflict of expectations, diminishing the value of the movie. Such a conflict of interest detracted from the enjoyable story. The movie would have been better suited to take place on a new planet – as the unfamiliarity would allow for an easier suspension of disbelief.
As a science fiction movie, Armageddon mixes too much fiction within the presentation of science. The convoluted mixing of genres confounds the story itself hurting the movie overall. The unbelievable scenarios ultimately detract from the full experience of the movie. Despite these flaws, the movie is a very entertaining piece with a high re-watch value.
- Frank Kovacs

The movie “Armageddon” had many goods points and, as many other movies have, some bad points. I thought that overall the storyline was interesting, but many parts of the movie felt overdone. They did very well with the computer graphics with the chaotic scenes; however, the chaotic scenes were almost too impactful that it would take away the attention of the point of the storyline. Every time I watched those scenes, I would always have to remind myself that the point of the movie is for NASA to save the Earth from an asteroid the size of Texas that would annihilate the human population. Furthermore, there were many scenes where the astronauts kept dying one after another, and I felt that it threw off the actual climax of the story of trying to save humankind. Overall, I thought that the disaster scenes were too much to take in as a viewer to the point it would make the movie lose its value. On the other hand, the ending when Harry sacrifices himself for AJ and the world was very sentimental with his heroic effect. The last part of the movie really brought out the emotions as the team that saved the world bonded and the world had no more to worry about chaos. In general, I thought that this movie was enjoyable to watch as I experienced different emotions throughout.
- Minami Makino

Overall, Armageddon is a decent movie that presents a heroic tale of how oil drillers stopped a killer asteroid from destroying all life on Earth. Unfortunately, this movie contains a number of errors regarding the mission, the asteroid, and science in general. 

For example, when the shuttles are taking off, having them launch so close together and at about the same time is dangerous. Heat and fire are emitted, which would place the second shuttle in danger. I was also surprised that the shuttles did not somehow crash into each other, with them being so close. Another scene that did not make sense is when it was mentioned that the crew members would be experiencing 9.5 G’s for 11 minutes in the shuttles. Although it is impressive that they were able to scream throughout the duration of the 11 minutes, that amount of g-force for that entire time should have resulted in a loss of consciousness, especially for inexperienced and relatively new “astronauts”.

Another issue lies within the size of the asteroid, which is mentioned to be “the size of Texas.” That would make it about 1400 kilometers in diameter (for reference, Ceres, the largest member of the asteroid belt, is 900 kilometers in diameter). For all astronomers to miss something so large until it was 18 days away from impact seems highly improbable. In addition, I would think that it would take more than one bomb buried a small fraction into the asteroid to split it in half. The idea, however, seems like it would work. The explosion would push the two halves apart and alter their direction so that they can pass around the earth and avoid collision.
- Amanda Monteavaro

I can usually appreciate a movie featuring saturated personalities and emotional left-turns in the plot geared towards frequently shocking the audience. However, it turns out to be disappointing when a certain movie with potential, a movie producers invest in so much talent and money spent on production effects just to sell out materially for big box-office sales on the first week. The main problem with movies, like Armageddon is that they are ill-focused and temporary excitement over meaningful film. Because of the lack of uniqueness, the value of a film like Armageddon vanishes quickly with the progression of time, even after selling big in the box office. At the time it was made, Michael Bay knew he could impress the audiences of the time with overdone flashy CGI animations and such a revered acting crew alone. But just years later, when the impressions of the production effects fade away and become out shined, there is not much left to offer for this movie beyond a cliche, save~the~earth, love story (not saying I didn’t come close to tearing up a little bit).

One clear example of how their misguided focus hurt the overall production value of the movie is that the writers of the movie were not even focused enough on the plot to challenge themselves to write a creative realistic story of an asteroid (not too hard, right?). Armageddon lacked so much factual consistency to a point that interrupted my focus on the purposeful and emotional developments in the plot.

At the time the movie came out (1998), logical development of the plot mattered less, because the audiences could be distracted by the new CGI implementations or impressive explosive effects. For this reason, the movie used to be able to shadow sloppily put together sequence of events, described in phony-science language. As we watch this movie now, Armageddon is stripped to what it really is, because of how much movie-production capabilities have improved with technology; Armageddon is a cliche-love-save-the-earth flick-- and with no impressive production shock, the movie’s factual mishaps only accentuate the sloppy plot development even more. I am the last person I know who enjoys pointing out scientific inaccuracies displayed in movies, but because the plot was so dependent on the physics of an Asteroid plummeting towards earth, the factual inconsistencies overall negatively impacted my ability to follow the timeline and critically reflect about the characters and purpose of narrative.
- Sean Moore

Before saying anything else, I would like to state that the point of the movie was not to educate people on astronomy or any other field of science. It is simply to entertain their audience. There are many scientific errors and many plot holes, so I will just go over one of each, hoping to cover as much of the movie as possible. Harry Stamper, a deep core oil digger, is recruited by NASA to drill a hole into an asteroid the size of Texas and using a nuclear bomb to it up before it kills everything on Earth. That being said, the movie itself is still pretty ridiculous.

The plot hole I want to bring up is that why would the NASA want to recruit an oil digger and have to teach him and everyone else in their team how to be an astronaut rather than teaching astronauts how to dig holes. If time is of essence, that would be a much more logical solution.

On the more scientific side, by showing why the asteroid should not even exist. They said that the asteroid, which is the size of Texas, was knocked out of an asteroid belt by a comet. An asteroid that big would have been discovered a while ago, and we would have known of its danger since a while back. Additionally, most comets have nuclei around 6 miles wide. Even if a comet twice that size hit an asteroid the size of Texas, 268820 miles, it would not budge out of the asteroid belt. According to science, this movie should not even exist. And even ignoring science, logically this movie should not exist.

However, there are many movies as scientifically wrong and logically unsound as Armageddon, and from an entertainment stand point, it was exciting and they did have an emotional ending. It was a bit too cliché for me personally but I do not see why people should not watch this movie.
- Ata Numanbayraktaroglu

Armageddon tells the story of a group of oil drillers who work together to stop an incoming asteroid from hitting the Earth. With elements of drama, humor, and science fiction, this film gives viewers a fulfilling 2.5 hours that leaves them pondering what they would do if the world really were ending. Main character, Harry Stamper, is faced with a tough decision when he is asked by NASA to save the world in 17 days. Although this small time frame is quite unrealistic for an asteroid of its size, it has the audience rooting for an unexpected group of heroes to save all of humanity.

For the past few years, NASA has been researching many ways to prevent impact from meteorites and among these possibilities, nuclear explosion may have the most uncertainty. The scientists in the movie were able to calculate the thrust, speed, and timing required to perfectly split the asteroid in half, which even the characters realized was highly idealistic. Once on the asteroid, the group had trouble drilling through its metallic layers as asteroids are made up of a mixture of iron, oxygen, silicon, etc. As a result, suspense is built up during the final moments as the characters struggle to drill in time so that the audience is attentive until the very end.
- Shreya Punya

Ever wonder what the fate of humanity is? The science-fiction movie, Armageddon, gives us one possible outcome. In the near future, an asteroid is about to collide with the earth within eighteen days. The government and NASA decide to train a team of oil drillers to plant a nuclear bomb on the asteroid and split it in half to avoid earth. Of course, things go wrong along the way, but in the end, the drillers successfully blow up the space rock just in time to save the planet. Now, for the facts: NASA has already documented almost all of the near earth objects larger than one kilometer across, which means a Texas-sized asteroid as described in Armageddon would have been spotted sooner. Most estimates of the size of the dinosaur-killer asteroid are around 10 kilometers, and the movie's is several times that size. This also makes it hard to believe that a nuclear weapon would destroy it, much less, split it evenly in half. The asteroid in the movie would certainly have been beyond our capacity to handle in just eighteen days, or any period of time, for that matter, and we would certainly have seen it coming . Even if Earth's fate is to be hit by an asteroid the size of Texas, there is little humans could do to prevent it.
- Krishna Rao

Michael Bay’s Armageddon (1998) is founded on an interesting premise: a massive asteroid will collide with Earth, completely destroying the planet. The plot of the movie, packed with cliches and sloppy science, highlights everything that humanity should not do in this scenario. Cringe-worthy inaccuracies include the highly improbable size of the asteroid (given we would have seen one ‘the size of Texas’), the meteorite showers showing vastly different angles of approach of meteorites, and the insane fact that the plan NASA came up with was giving drillers astronaut training to go to space and land on the asteroid (as opposed to teaching astronauts how to drill), to then nuke the asteroid from its center. Science aside, the movie has a certain goofy appeal to it when the ridiculous plot is coupled with cliches, such as the timers stopping at the very last instant, forgetting the color of the correct wire to cut, Buscemi being socially awkward, and every interaction between Affleck and Tyler’s characters. Hopefully, Armageddon is not an accurate representation of how humanity would face annihilation from a near-Earth object, but just an example of how much science is distorted for the plot of an action film.
- Ricardo Roche

Personally, the best parts about the movie were the actors, the graphics, and the story. With a movie with so many talented actors, like Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck Owen Wilson, and Liv Tyler, it is only normal that some scenes were performed beautifully. The graphics of the movie were also done really well like the asteroid, the journey to space scenes, and the explosion of the asteroid. More importantly the story was a really interesting story that easily fascinated the audience with the sci-fi aspects. My favorite scene was the scene where they were refueling on the International Space Station because it really conveyed their urgency and how it would be like in real life. However, what I thought was bad about the story was how unbelievable it is. In this day in age, the chance of an asteroid that size not being detected until that close is very unlikely. There are numerous projects like spacewatch, and catalina that are constantly surveying the skies. The chance that an asteroid about the size of Texas not being detected until it was that late was just very unbelievable and made it seem like it a made up story.
- Tommy Sha