In 1996, Independence Day upset Hollywood’s action-film balance.

Moody, Crichton-inspired blockbusters were suddenly out, and bigger explosions were suddenly very much into the world.

Of course there were angry elements of culture in the 90s. A growing anti-government movement found patriotism in resistance to federal agencies, and environmental movements also spread. But in 1998 anyone could put their problems aside for two and a half hours to see Michael Bay’s Armageddon – the movie that every critic hated and that people couldn’t stop.

Now that Armageddon is streaming on HBO Max, it’s finally time to revisit a great, stupid classic.

Armageddon very quickly builds up a classic movie scenario, perhaps best exemplified by Caddyshack – Slobs vs. Snobs – and puts it on the greatest stage imaginable. The battle is essentially the same, whether it’s breaking into a country club or stopping an asteroid the size of Texas, will the blue-collar guys be able to be the hip white-collar nerds to show?

The nerd here is Billy Bob Thornton, the rest of his nerd gang is employed by NASA. It’s hard to imagine any other space movie as degrading to NASA as Armageddon. Outside of Thornton, the agency is full of incompetent pencil pushers and docile boy scouts. NASA’s narrow-minded idiots have to learn from Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), the world’s best oil drill.

Bay introduces Harry to the audience shooting golf balls at Greenpeace protesters, a counter-protest that the activist group would later call “realistic”. From there, the audience is treated to what The Ringer has dubbed “the most entertaining right wing movie of all time.” The main crew at Armageddon try to avoid the government at all costs and only sign to save the world after promising never to pay taxes again.

Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck in Armageddon.Buena Vista Pictures

One advantage of a disaster movie is that you don’t have to spend time explaining your villain (a giant rock), so you have time to fill in your characters. While the movie adores Harry, it offers him a fatal flaw: he may be a worker, but he doesn’t want his daughter to marry someone like him. That doesn’t make sense considering he owns an oil company.

Armageddon is a love story between Harry’s daughter Grace (Liv Tyler) and Harry’s ward AJ (Ben Affleck). Tyler, who was only a few years away from iconic art house films, later told The Guardian that although she initially turned down the role, “the biggest reason I changed my mind was because I was scared of it. This is exactly why I wanted to try it out. “

Tyler and Affleck can work together to squeeze real PG-13 chemistry out of their scenes, including a moment he plays with animal crackers on their bodies. Bay, known for his commercial work before moving to feature film, uses the animal cracker scene to stage a music video in his film while Steven Tyler starts singing about not wanting to close his eyes.

Bruce Willis in Armageddon.Buena Vista Pictures

Is Armageddon Stupid? Absolutely. The film was given a brief second life online when Ben Affleck’s comment was published, which derided the film’s admiration for Harry, from the strange label of being the “world’s best” drill to NASA’s nonsensical plan to use drills To train astronauts:

I asked Michael why it was easier to train oil drills to be astronauts than astronauts to train oil drills, and he told me to fucking shut up. So that was the end of that conversation. [Does Michael Bay voice] “You know, Ben, just shut up, OK? You know that’s a real plan. “I said,” You mean there’s a real NASA plan to train oil drills? ” and he said, “Just shut up!”

During an oral narration of Michael Bay films for GQ, Thornton noted that other actors showed similar skepticism about the plot. “I sat at the table with Owen [Wilson] and [Steve] Buscemi, and we were all kind of nervous. And Steve looks at me and says, “What the hell are we doing here?”

They made a pretty fun movie it turned out. As Will Smith, who starred for Bay in Bad Boys, notes in the same oral tradition, Bay can “take things you think are cheesy and turn them into super galactic icons.” Armageddon is just as cheesy as its critics claim, and in many ways it’s not good. The main reason for its dubious quality is a confusing third act that Bay later told a reporter about that he wished he had more time to edit.

That was later interpreted as Bay apologizing for the film, which he clarified by saying that Armageddon “is still one of the most shown films on cable TV. And yes, I’m proud of the movie. ”While Armageddon isn’t a masterpiece in many ways, it’s still a great way to kill a couple of hours. That might not sound like a compliment, but it is.

Armaggedon is now streaming on HBO Max.