"The best thing that can be said for this film is that it makes a conscious effort to be different."

- Numskull

Armageddon (1997)

Director: Gordon Chan Ka-Seung

Producer: Gordon Chan Ka-Seung

Writer: Gordon Chan Ka-Seung, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu

Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Michelle Reis, Lau Sin Yi, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Lui Mai Go, Chow Jing, Kim Yip Kwong-Kim, Wong Chui Ling, Wayne Lai Yiu-Cheung, Hugo Kwong

Running Time: 112 min.

Plot: As the end of the millennium approaches, the world's top ten scientists are mysteriously getting incinerated. Dr. Ken Tit-Sun, a man haunted by the death of his fiancee, attempts to get to the bottom of the large-scale mystery with the assistance of various law enforcement officials.


NUMSKULL'S REVIEW: No, it's not that questionably titled Bruce Willis movie about the rock from the director of...uh, The Rock. It's a silly but ambitious sci-fi venture from Gordon Chan, whose penchant for long, still, dialogue-heavy shots was put to much better use in Beast Cops. Andy Lau plays Ken Tit-Sun, one of the world's most successful scientists. He runs a company that's about to introduce technology that lets people surf the web and watch movies (as in, any movie, any time) on a regular TV. Michelle Reis plays his dead girlfriend Adele, who got squished by a bus because she was too stupid to look both ways before crossing the street. She first appears in too many flashbacks, then pops up as a ghost (which, for some reason, doesn't phase the other characters all that much). Anthony Wong plays Chiu Tai-Pang, the complaining, unenthused cop whom Ken Tit-Sun selects to protect him from whatever or whoever has been causing other famous scientists to spontaneously combust (you'd think he would at least pack a fire extinguisher, but nope). And the audience plays with themselves while waiting from something interesting to happen; Armageddon takes much too long to get off the ground. If it were a longer movie, this wouldn't be so bad, but at 112 minutes, it results in a sort of half-assed attempt to cover up the less-than-masterful way in which the story is told.

It is revealed, in too languorous a manner, that an organization called The Brotherhood of Technology, led by some bulletproof redheaded know-it-all named Connors, is behind the mysterious deaths and is trying to bring about the end of the world as we know it, with or without R.E.M.'s music. Religious apocalyptic theories come into play, particularly the Seven Signs of the Apocalypse from the Bible. (Hey, speaking of Bruce Willis, wasn't his ex in a movie about those? This can't be coincidence. I'm freakin' out, here.) Conveniently, five of those signs have already come to pass, as vaguely interpreted by Ken once the protagonists finally begin to figure out what's going on. Then it becomes, race against time (remember the tortoise and the hare? Thank you, Aesop) in which Armageddon is the finish line and the Brotherhood of Technology has a big head start.

The best thing that can be said for this film is that it makes a conscious effort to be different. It has neither the look nor the feel of so many other Hong Kong movies. The special effects aren't terribly impressive, but they're woven in pretty seamlessly. The whole movie isn't built around them, unlike Legend of Zu (never miss an opportunity to badmouth that piece of shit). Alas, the low level of excitement generated, and the various bits of absurdity here and there, like a computer hacker entering a correct password completely at random, bring the fun factor down too far to make this a highly recommended film.

I suppose it should also be noted that this is one of those rare movies where Tai Seng actually took some time to release it in a good format, rather than simply an import with their sticker on it. There's a 25 minute "making of" featurette and an English commentary track with Gordon Chan and "Hong Kong Film Expert Stefan Hammond." Why can't they go to that trouble for movies that are kickass instead of so-so? Armageddon was a box office behemoth during its Hong Kong run, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's grand entertainment. My advice: skip it or put it in one of the latter slots on your must-see list. There are tastier fish in the sea.