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Things Only Adults Notice In Armageddon

In the years leading up to and immediately following the turn of the 21st century, it seemed that humanity became collectively obsessed with the end of the world. Hollywood churned out one blockbuster after another, each dealing with the question of what sort of threat might usher in the end of civilization as we know it, what it could look like, and most importantly, how humanity might deal with it. Would we resign ourselves to our horrible fate, or would we rise to the occasion?

In Michael Bay's 1998 bombastic space adventure Armageddon, the answer to the latter question is a resounding yes. Armageddon sees Earth faced with a Texas-sized asteroid threatening to smash straight into its surface, which would subsequently wipe out all life on the planet. The planet's only hope is for NASA to join forces with an elite team of oil drillers to fly into space, drill a hole into the asteroid, plant a bomb, and blow it up. Easy peasy. 

Obviously, it doesn't take a rocket scientist, or even an eighth-grade education, to see that the premise of Armageddon is a little ridiculous. But even though a lot of the silliness of Armageddon is obvious no matter what age you are, there are certain aspects that don't really stick out until you're watching it as an adult. From the perplexing to the downright cringe-worthy, here are things only adults notice in Armageddon.

In Armageddon, Harry and his crew are happily destroying the planet

The plot of Armageddon can be boiled down to a simple sentence. Oil drillers save the planet from a killer asteroid. However, while Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) and his crew definitely go into space and blow up a meteor, it's a little disingenuous to say they're saving the planet, given their professions back on Earth. Granted, climate change via offshore drilling isn't going to kill us all simultaneously in the next few days like Dottie the asteroid, but it's still a little difficult to reconcile that Harry and his ragtag team of roughnecks heroically volunteer to save the Earth, only so that they can return home to continue destroying it.

At the beginning of the film, Harry is even introduced by hitting golf balls off his rig, aiming at Greenpeace protesters on a boat. Harry's actions are framed in a positive light, as ZZ Top's "La Grange" plays cheerily under the scene, contrasting Harry's cool, tough guy vibe with the angry protesters, making it clear just who the hero is in this scene and who's the buzzkill. Harry and his friends wind up saving the planet from the asteroid, but it's hard to ignore that they had every intention of continuing to destroy it the second they got back home.

Harry should've asked for immunity

Harry doesn't get a lot of opportunities to parent his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler) during the course of Armageddon, but what we do see leads to some significant concerns. Grace is a grown adult who works in public relations for Harry's company, yet the beginning of the film sees her hiding under the covers from her dad like a little kid ... and for good reason, based on how Harry reacts. Despite Grace being an independent adult, Harry's response to finding her in a consenting relationship with one of his employees is to grab a shotgun and attempt to shoot her boyfriend, A.J. (Ben Affleck).

He doesn't cause any lasting damage, but Harry does manage to shoot A.J. in the leg, which begs the question, when Harry and his crew are making their demands to the government before going into space, why not ask for immunity for the possible assault charges that could be filed against him? The way the scene plays, it feels like it's not the first time Harry's violent temper has gotten away from him, and other targets may not be as forgiving as Harry's future son-in-law. Granted, Harry winds up nobly sacrificing himself by the end of the film so it winds up being a moot point, but if Harry had survived, he could've been looking at serious jail time — especially if what he did to A.J. was part of a bigger pattern.

Adults will notice that Rockhound's jokes are pretty disturbing

Repeatedly throughout Armageddon, Harry refers to his crew as a group of "roughnecks," and while that's a standard term for people who work on oil rigs, it also describes Harry's friends pretty accurately as they're often engaged in "rough" activities, such as gambling, going to strip clubs, getting tattoos, and evading police. Up close, of course, these roughnecks are presented as a group of lovable ne'er-do-wells with hearts of gold and the best of intentions, who we have no problem cheering for as they endeavor to save the world.

But when it comes to Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), the rougher aspects of his character don't seem all that lovable at all under closer examination. Throughout the film, Rockhound makes numerous jokes hinting that he has a pattern of dating or making advances towards underage girls. Even if you take him at his word that Grace is exaggerating and he didn't actually show her how to use tampons when she first got her period, it's hard to overlook the numerous times he thinks he's being arrested for his interactions with underage girls. Considering Rockhound's level of paranoia about getting caught with a minor, it forces you to ask what he's already gotten away with.

NASA's first plan is better

The ridiculousness of NASA's plan has been one of the most common criticisms of Armageddon for as long as the film has existed, but it bears repeating that teaching astronauts to drill makes a lot more sense than teaching oil drillers to be astronauts. What's sometimes overlooked in critiques of the film's plot is that the much more logical plan to send astronauts into space actually was NASA's initial plan. At first, Harry is only brought in as a consultant to help teach the astronauts how to competently use the drilling equipment before they go into space. However, that plan is rejected by Harry, who volunteers himself and his crew to go into space instead.

It's particularly silly since Harry doesn't even really try to teach the astronauts how to drill before he offers up his own alternative plan. All he does is take a brief look at the rig NASA has assembled, inform them that they put it together wrong, and then refuse to do any more than that. As a kid, it may seem logical that NASA was so bad at assembling Harry's drill that he knew the entire operation was doomed, but as an adult, it seems like it would've been far simpler for Harry to just show them how to put the equipment together correctly. At the very least, he could've given them a tutorial in equipment assembly and usage before throwing up his hands and declaring it all a lost cause. But according to Armageddon, teaching oil drillers to become astronauts is actually the path of least resistance.

Bear running from the police doesn't seem nearly as funny in 2020

When Harry gives the names of his crew to NASA, he warns them that rounding them all up may be harder than it seems, since the drillers tend to scatter the second they leave the rig. This is followed by a montage of government officials tracking down the drillers, most of whom seem pretty nervous about the agents' arrivals. When it comes to the hulking Bear (Michael Clarke Duncan), we see him riding his motorcycle away from a bunch of police cars, yelling, "Come and get Papa Bear!"

For much of Armageddon's intended audience in 1998, this part of the montage just seemed like a funny way of highlighting yet again the "roughnecks" with whom Harry associates, setting them up as underdogs so that their eventual victory would be that much more rewarding. However, in 2020, it feels very different to watch a Black man fleeing from a squadron of police cars, with no understanding of why he's being pursued in the first place. The 21st century has brought a lot more awareness to issues of police brutality and systemic racism, and it's impossible to set it all aside so that we can chuckle at Bear's high-speed ride away from the police.

A.J. got his business up and running way too quickly

When the government picks up Harry from his rig, A.J. is still right by his side, although Harry had just fired him. However, when Harry goes to recruit him for NASA's mission just a day or two later, A.J. already has his own oil business up and running. He's got land, signage, and a drilling rig of his own, none of which look brand new. The timeline of Armageddon is extremely tight — just a couple weeks from the time the asteroid was discovered until it's blown up — which doesn't leave a lot of time to get a brand new business off the ground.

Even if A.J. moved very quickly after getting fired, he likely wouldn't have had time to get all of the pieces in place to already have his own business up and running just a couple days later. The only logical explanation is that A.J. was already striking out on his own before Harry let him go, making his firing actually pretty fortuitous. Maybe A.J. thought Harry would react better to his relationship with Grace if A.J. wasn't Harry's employee, or maybe A.J. really did just want to be his own boss. Regardless of why he was striking out on his own, it's interesting that neither A.J. nor Harry ever addresses the fact that had Harry survived, A.J. would've been his competition.

Other Bruce Willis movies exist in Armageddon

In 1998, when Armageddon was released, Bruce Willis was one of the biggest stars around, and Armageddon acknowledges this by nodding to a couple of the actor's other films. At one point, while Max (Ken Campbell) is undergoing his NASA physical, he looks at the gigantic syringe being wielded by a doctor and tells him, "You stick that in me, I'm gonna stab you in the heart with it." Then, to make the reference crystal clear, he says, "You ever see Pulp Fiction?"

This refers to the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction, specifically the scene in which Vincent Vega (John Travolta) revives Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) following a drug overdose by sticking her in the chest with a large hypodermic needle. Pulp Fiction also starred Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge, an aging boxer who winds up an unwitting murderer, meaning that somewhere in the world of Armageddon, Bruce Willis exists alongside Harry Stamper.

Also, while it's not as obvious of a reference since the film isn't explicitly named, one of the NASA pilots in Armageddon is named "Gruber." This could just be a coincidence, or it could be a reference to Hans Gruber, the villain from Die Hard, who was played by Alan Rickman.

Adults will notice that sexism is a running gag in Armageddon

While Armageddon does have a couple female characters that don't exist solely to be ogled by men, there isn't a woman in the film who doesn't have to withstand some level of misogyny from the male characters, ranging from well-meaning sexist condescension to outright harassment. On the milder end of the spectrum are things like NASA project director Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) gently telling Grace, "Baby, you shouldn't be here," when he thinks the mission is going sideways. His intentions were good, but there's no way he would've used the same phrasing if Grace were a man.

In an example of more blatant harassment, several of the drillers spend their training time with Lieutenant Watts (Jessica Steen) whispering about her physical attractiveness. When she calls them out on it, Rockhound loudly jokes about wanting Watts to kick him in the balls. These aren't the only examples of male characters making sexist remarks to female characters in Armageddon; they're just the ones directed at main characters. Sexist comments played for laughs isn't really anything unique for action movies of the '90s, but watching it in a post-MeToo era, the rampant sexism really stands out.

800 feet would not be anywhere close to deep enough

NASA's plan to save the Earth makes sense at first glance. They want to drill a hole 800 feet into the center of the asteroid so they can place a nuclear bomb at the core and blow it apart. It seems practical, and every time anyone discusses the plan, the image that comes to mind is of the giant lump of rock being blown apart from the center. The only problem? The asteroid is supposed to be the size of Texas, which is nearly 800 miles wide.

Even with its proportions shifted significantly to make it into a three-dimensional rock and not a flat plane, an asteroid the size of Texas would be many miles thick, not just a few hundred feet. There's no way drilling 800 feet would get you anywhere near the core, meaning that the bomb they planted wouldn't be in the center of the rock but right near the surface. Rather than blowing the asteroid into two neat halves, detonating the bomb would just blow a chunk off the top. In coming up with its world-ending mega-asteroid, Armageddon accidentally invented a rock so large that it made its own plan impossible.

There's no way Sharp could've made it back in time

At the end of Armageddon, after the hole in the asteroid is finally dug and the bomb is placed, the characters are appalled to realize that they've lost the ability to detonate it remotely, meaning that one of them must stay behind to do the job manually. Harry winds up volunteering for the job, but as he waits for the space shuttle to clear the detonation site, he himself is blasted away by one of the many exploding gas pockets on the asteroid, which means it takes longer than anyone expected for him to finally detonate the bomb.

Colonel Sharp (William Fichtner) is piloting the space shuttle with the surviving crew members back to Earth, but when he believes Harry isn't going to detonate the bomb, he says he'll go back and do it himself. Chick (Will Patton) talks him out of it by asking for one more minute, and Sharp complies. The only problem with this is that they literally don't have a minute. This exchange takes place when the shuttle is only a minute from "zero barrier," the point at which the mission will have failed even if the bomb does go off. Not only could Sharp never have made it back in time to detonate the bomb, but Chick's request for one more minute is essentially asking Sharp to give up.

Armageddon doesn't have a happy ending for millions of people

The ending of Armageddon is presented as bittersweet. Main character Harry dies, but he goes out a hero, nobly sacrificing his life to save his daughter and the other people of Earth. As the credits play, we see that enlarged photos of the four oil drillers who died on the mission to save the planet are displayed prominently at the front of the church during Grace and A.J.'s wedding, acknowledging the losses that had to occur in order to achieve this happy ending.

Except ... the four men who died on the asteroid are hardly the only casualties of Armageddon. Although the planet is saved, Paris and Shanghai are completely destroyed by meteor showers earlier in the film, and New York takes quite a beating as well. The ending of the movie acknowledges the personal losses to the film's central characters, but really, the events that preceded the asteroid would've been cataclysmic, and they would've been recorded as some of the worst natural disasters in history. Harry's final words may have been a triumphant, "We win, Gracie," but for the millions of people who'd lost their lives back on Earth, they've already lost.

Rockhound is in big trouble

Rockhound is just a consistent source of trouble during Armageddon, but come the end of the movie, he's probably the one with the most to worry about. Despite showing up at A.J. and Grace's wedding at the end of the film like he doesn't have a care in the world, Rockhound is likely in a lot of trouble after returning to Earth. The night before departing for the asteroid on the Freedom, Rockhound borrowed (and subsequently spent) $100,000 from a loan shark at a 60% interest rate, with no way to pay back his debt since he assumed he was going to die in space.

Rockhound briefly mentions that he's worried about his debt after the crew has completed their mission, but it's never treated as much more than a throwaway joke. However, Rockhound's inability to pay his debt could easily be a problem that will follow him for the rest of his life, depending on exactly how ruthless this loan shark is. Sure, Rockhound stuck around for A.J. and Grace's wedding, but it's not outside the realm of possibilities that after the last piece of cake was cut, Rockhound had to go on the run.