Stars: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Will Patton, Peter Stormare, Keith David, Steve Buscemi. Written by Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams. Directed by Michael Bay. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi disaster action, sensuality and brief profanity.

An asteroid the size of Texas is heading towards Earth, and if it collides with our fair planet, no life will remain. Our only hope of survival is to fragment the asteroid far enough away so that the individual pieces will miss the globe on their new trajectory. But shooting at the great rock won’t accomplish this goal; the only way this plan can work is if a drilling team lands on the asteroid, drills a shaft 800 feet deep, and deposits a nuclear bomb into the heart of the beast.

Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) is arguably the world’s best deep core driller and is therefore chosen by NASA’s executive director, Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton), to perform this vital mission. Harry is given the latitude to recruit his own crew and so brings along the bunch of roughnecks who have worked for him for years. Their free-wheeling style is at odds with the strict military-like comportment of the astronauts who will pilot them into space, but this is one case where putting aside differences is absolutely vital.

The mission launches as planned, but that is seemingly the last thing that goes off without a hitch. Murphy’s Law is put into play time and again as every conceivable thing that can go wrong does, but the men and women who hold mankind’s fate in their hands are consummate professionals. One setback after another is not enough to thwart the mission, although not everyone who began it will be returning. The stakes are just too high to accept defeat, even when the attempt seems all but futile.

"Armageddon" should by no means be mistaken for science fiction; it is an action flick all the way. The one-liners and two-dimensional characters will clue in those who think that anything more than mindless entertainment is in store. The film wants desperately to be this year’s "Independence Day" cheer-fest, but fails at even this lowly aspiration. The subplots, involving forbidden romance and the constant butting of heads between mission leaders, are flimsy at best and annoying at worst. They could have, and should have, been trimmed to control the film’s 2.5 hour bloat. It is obvious though, that other trimming has taken place because scenes don’t always flow in a logical manner. For instance, a round of training in the desert is suggested, but the next scene involves underwater training instead. Another time, three of the drillers are hauled away to jail, but the next day they fall in with the rest of the crew without any mention being made of their incarceration or how they were freed.

"Armageddon" is, quite simply, a mess. It’s just another big-budget disappointment in a season replete with them. Decent special effects can’t make up for a terminally weak storyline. Just ask the makers of "Godzilla".

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