On Monday, the internet laughed at, was shocked by, nodded in agreement, and generally delighted in the surprising apology from notoriously brash director Michael Bay for his 1998 popcorn blockbuster beast Armageddon. On Tuesday, Bay dropped an asteroid on the whole hullaballoo. He was misquoted, he said.
During an interview with the Miami Herald to promote his new movie Pain & Gain, Bay began talking about the schizophrenic editing technique he often uses, which many critics attack him for. “I will apologize for Armageddon, because we had to do the whole movie in 16 weeks,” he was quoted as saying. “It was a massive undertaking. That was not fair to the movie. I would redo the entire third act if I could.”
But in a statement Tuesday on his official website, Bay railed against the Herald for printing “the bare minimum of my statement which in effect have twisted my words and meaning.” Actually, he clarifies, he’s “proud of the movie.” Here’s the full statement:
“One press writer has gone too far in reporting false information. He has printed the bare minimum of my statement which in effect have twisted my words and meaning. I’m not in the slightest going to apologize for the third movie in my movie career, a film called Armageddon. On the red carpet for Pain & Gain some reporters asked me what are you apologizing for, and I said what on earth are you talking about?
What I clearly said to the reporter, is I wish I had more time to edit the film, specifically the third act. He asked me in effect what would you change if you could in your movies if you could go back. I said, I wish we had a few more weeks in the edit room on Armageddon. And still today Armageddon, is still one of the most shown movies on cable TV. And yes, I’m proud of the movie. Enough said.
Bay’s retraction—or, perhaps more accurately, clarification—is a buzz kill to film fans who were impressed by his candor. After all, a lot of directors make movies that really, really suck. Bay is behind apocalyptically ill-reviewed films like Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys, and the Transformers trilogy. For him, of all people, to offer up a mea culpa for one of his movies was considered both shocking—“no, it’s not the end of the world!” quipped E! Online—and refreshing.
But the legacy of Armageddon is a strange one. Critically whipped when it was released in 1998, the treacly, effects-heavy film, which stars Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis as oil riggers who become astronauts in order to save earth from a planet-decimating asteroid, was a box-office behemoth. It took in $553 million worldwide, not adjusted for inflation. Add in the ubiquity of Aerosmith’s original song written for the movie, “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” and Armageddon became an instant summer movie classic.
The film is still played incessantly on cable, and is, essentially, lazy Sunday comfort food. Sing along with Michael Clarke Duncan’s booming verse on “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Laugh along with Steve Buscemi’s wisecracks. Hoo-rah as the crew blows up the asteroid. Weep uncontrollably as Liv Tyler says goodbye to Bruce Willis. This, Michael Bay, this perfectly populist gem of a movie, is the one you’re going to apologize for?
“Of all the movies Michael Bay might apologize for, I don’t think ARMAGEDDON is even in the top ten,” tweeted New York Times Magazine culture editor Adam Sternbergh. “If I remember correctly, Armageddon is perfect,” tweeted The Atlantic Wire’s Connor Simpson. Christopher Rosen at The Huffington Post even penned a list of the 25 Reasons Why Michael Bay’s Mea Culpa Was Wrong.
So suffice it to say that the many of us who, as Bay correctly states, relish the fact that Armageddon “is still one of the most shown movies on cable TV” agree that the director was right to rescind his apology…for that film. But with a tinge of regret for the two hours and 20 godforsaken minutes of our lives that we’ll never have back.