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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 07/02/1998,


Not long into Armageddon's two-and-a-half-hour length I found myself thinking, "Let the planet go -- nothing is worth this aggravation." Dull, crass, cliché-ridden, and vaguely racist and jingoistic, the film offers no evidence of human life worth saving from the Texas-sized asteroid that's hurtling earthward to put a merciful end to things.

Unlike the turgid Deep Impact, which morosely pondered issues of hope and reconciliation in the face of annihilation, Armageddon celebrates the perceived blue-collar virtues of beer, broads, and baldly manipulative emotional schmaltz. Mankind's saviors are a dirty dozen or so cartoonish oil-rig roughnecks headed by Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis, looking unnervingly like Frank Sinatra in Von Ryan's Express) enlisted by NASA head Dan Truman (a bemused Billy Bob Thornton) to fly a pair of space shuttles to the celestial intruder and nuke it. "Talk about the wrong stuff," says one observer in a training sequence that shamelessly rips off Philip Kaufman's adaptation of the Tom Wolfe classic. Indeed.

After a journey whose suspenseful mishaps more resemble the annoyances of a long commute, the motley team go to work on a set worthy of the original Star Trek. Interrupting the tedium are intermittent meteor showers (There goes Shanghai! There goes Paris! How is it these objects always manage to find a major metropolis?), low humor with an addled Russian cosmonaut, and a close-up of Steve Buscemi's teeth that's the most frightening thing in the movie. With its climax focused on computer keyboards and Ben Affleck operating a drill ("792! 795 . . . !"), this doomsday scenario is literally a bore.

-- Peter Keough