Criterion’s Beker defends “Armageddon”

Posted on Nov 21, 2000

In a conversation Salon had with the Criterion Collection’s Peter Becker (the man who created the ultimate DVD versions of “Grand Illusion,” “This Is Spinal Tap” — and “Armageddon”), he defended Criterion’s DVD issuing of “Armageddon” by saying the following:

“Specifically, with “Armageddon”: You’d be silly to overlook blockbusters as a genre and leave them out of a film library. They drive so much. They drive tastes and shooting styles and visual references that appear all over the world in commercials and on TV as well as on movie screens. They’re part of a huge cultural cross-pollination. And special effects are one of the most important aspects of a certain kind of contemporary filmmaking.

The opportunity we had to explore the effects in “Armageddon” was extraordinary. These guys dug a 400-foot hole in the middle of a Hollywood sound stage. It was a mammoth project and a great thing to be able to chronicle. One may choose to say, “What an enormous amount of money to spend on so frivolous an enterprise.” But it occupies an important position on the spectrum of contemporary films.

Michael Bay, who made “Armageddon,” is one of the most masterful directors of that kind. He’s managed to develop a certain style and energy in shooting that is consonant with what people seem to be looking for in these huge blockbusters. He’s an articulate exponent of what he is up to, and he is refreshingly candid. He’s not going to sit there and try to convince you that his and Ingmar Bergman’s intentions are one and the same. He’s trying to make a wild ride and he’s trying to show you how it’s done.

While it may be that there are some who feel it’s uncomfortable to see “Armageddon” on the shelf next to “Amarcord,” they’re both great discs for different reasons. I think there’s an honorable place for “Armageddon” in our collection. It may help us bring in a whole new audience. If we climb too proudly to the top of the ivory tower where we screen only Fellini and Bergman, Godard and Truffaut, Kurosawa, Tarkovski and Pabst, we will find ourselves very soon preaching only to the choir.”

Even people who hate “Armageddon” have to admit that one of the best things about your collection is that it’s not stuffy. In addition to the high art, it’s got some glitz, and it’s got some cult items.