What the heck? The world makes a little less sense after watching “Armageddon: The Final Challenge”, which takes its place down there at the very bottom of the cinematic firmament, where movies like “Demon Cop”, “After Last Season” and “Monster A-Go-Go” live. It’s really weird and awful, and I’m going to try and tell you about it.
The only thing any sensible movie fan can cling to is the main actor, Todd Jensen. He’s been in “Cyborg Cop”, “Project Shadowchaser 2”, “Project Shadowchaser 4” (as different characters), and “Ninja”, among many SyFy Channel original movies. He’s a solid actor who wasn’t short of work at the time, which makes his presence here puzzling, at best. But he’s in it and he’s a real actor. This is a real project which someone paid money for.
Let’s try and sum up what’s going on, from the mix of a long info-dump at the beginning (which scrolls by slightly too quickly to comfortably read) and an almost constant voiceover, which is occasionally being done by Jensen and occasionally by another unidentified man. There’s some really bad 90s CGI, which appears to be an advert for a space-car which transforms into a rat-monster. Not sure about that one, and it’s a weird way to start a movie. But anyway! The New World Order Bank has taken over the world, I think, and they’ve created clones called “Fear-Permutators” whose job is to maintain control in this post-nuclear world. The next screen I’m just going to quote for you verbatim, as…I’ve got no idea:
The nightmare squad of Clones were permitted to kill “undesirable” citizens within the rules of a legalised killing game called Multiple Murdering.
There’s a lot to break down here. We only ever see one Fear-Permutator, who looks an awful lot like my friend Ben (so, not really a squad). The only person we see them trying to kill is a government employee who’s simply questioning some unexpected charges on his bank account. So, not really undesirable, and I’ve got no idea why it’s called Multiple Murdering either. The rules are never given or even hinted at.
Jensen is Michael Ederlander (or, sometimes, Michael Throne), a government courier in the dystopian future. His first five minutes on screen are spent trying to resolve those aforementioned banking difficulties, and this upsets the people at the bank so much they decide to kill him. I think? He finds a strange woman, Vouyo (Joanna Rowlands), unconscious in his back yard, they sort of have a relationship, then her father Plato the Prophet (Graham Clarke) turns up and ropes Michael in to a rebel plan to broadcast a message of defiance to everyone in the galaxy. It turns out Vouyo is a clone, and the real one (who also seems quite attracted to Michael) is on her way to Earth. There’s a whole subplot about human-realistic robots being sold as servants / sex slaves, but all this really means is you’ll see someone stood stock still in the background of a scene every now and again.
I may have to stray slightly into spoiler territory, but honestly the only reason you’d want to watch this is to see how weird it is, and I can’t really reveal the weirdness without giving away the end. Ready?
Michael is responsible for the most famous radio broadcast in the history of the galaxy (a random transmission about his dead wife, and no, it’s never explained why it was so famous or why that famous man is some random document courier) so that’s why Plato wants him to help out. Even though it’s never been so much as hinted at to this point, the rebel broadcast he wants Michael to read is about the second coming of Jesus (!) and Jesus does indeed descend with his heavenly host, turning the world into a battlefield, in the movie’s final scene.
What? I saw the damn movie like an hour ago and I don’t really believe it either. In between scenes of the Fear-Permutator sort of vaguely trying to kill Michael, and him sleeping with clone-Vouyo, he has lots of very vivid dreams, which feel like scenes they shot for the actual story but then couldn’t figure out where to place. He also, at one point, gets into a “Dream-Pod” and plays a game of chess against the Fear-Permutator, for reasons which the movie feels it unimportant to give us.
Should you watch this, you’ll be left with a whole heap of questions. Like, why does this rebellion consist of three people? What is the motivation of the rebels? Why do we get this line of dialogue – “Gujiana City: Deformed offspring of quasi-religious quibblings, thermonuclear fireball design, achieved at ruinous cost” when all we see is a vague looking model for a few seconds then the inside of another room?
There are a bunch of very curious choices made on the technical side of things. Like, Michael’s living in what looks like the backstage area of a theatre, complete with gantries for him to fight the baddie on, a curtain which he steps through at one point, ropes everywhere – but then, when he goes outside to find Vouyo, it’s a normal suburban home. Perhaps the director had access to a theatre for a weekend and decided to make the best of what he had? Then there’s the music, which is both far too loud and far too awful. It’s the worst elevator muzak you’ve ever heard, played over every scene whether the scene warrants it or not.
Imagine, if you will, a mix of “Blade Runner” and a religious propaganda movie, with a very hefty dose of British sci-fi gem “Hardware”. But nowhere near as good as any of those things. It’s like being told, second-hand, about a dream someone had. It just kept on getting worse, too! Like, they didn’t get their weird ideas out of the way then settle down to make a normal movie. They went all out!
If you can track this down, then I heartily recommend it, not just because it’ll make you feel better about every other movie you’ve ever seen. I really think this could be one of the worst movies ever.
PS. One last thing. Why is it called the final challenge? Was the final challenge to send a radio message telling everyone God is on his way, which is the same thing those crazy evangelical radio stations have been doing for decades?