The commentary track is only featured on the Criterion Collection’s edition of Armageddon, which was an odd release even at the time (Criterion usually only puts out obscure art films, great works of foreign cinema, and forgotten classics). The DVD is now only intermittently available for purchase on Amazon. The commentary cuts between Bay, the producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and Affleck’s co-star Bruce Willis, all of whom contribute general platitudes and back-patting about the film’s tough production. Then there’s Affleck, chiming in with extended parodies of the film Sling Blade, which was about an intellectually disabled Southerner (played by Armageddon co-star Billy Bob Thornton), making silly sound effects during any elaborate stunt scene, and pointing out all of the film’s numerous plot holes.
“Have you ever noticed that everybody in all these movies always has to be ‘the best?’” he muses. “Bruce Willis is ‘the best’ deep-core driller? I didn’t know they rated deep-core drillers. Like, if you went around and asked somebody ‘Who’s the best deep-core driller?’ You know what I mean? Like, ‘I’m the best espresso maker in Manhattan.’ How do you know? Who’s keeping track of these things?”
In 1998, when the commentary was likely recorded (such tracks are usually done right before a film premieres), Affleck was an up-and-coming star, having appeared in Kevin Smith’s indie hit Chasing Amy and won an Oscar for his Good Will Hunting screenplay alongside Matt Damon. His headline-grabbing relationship with Jennifer Lopez and string of flops were around the corner. The following years would bring his comeback directing Oscar-winning films like The Town and Argo, his public divorce from Jennifer Garner, and his subsequent rebound into superstardom as the new Batman.
All of which is to say that Affleck has seen every facet of Hollywood fame. But what comes out most in his Armageddon commentary is his playful inquisitiveness about the business of making such big films, and his respect for (and gentle mockery of) the product that ensues. “It cuts together pretty seamlessly, I must say, for something that I thought would look like total hokum,” he says of one major set-piece, after remembering how chintzy it seemed on set. Of another scene that features a one-second shot of a helicopter, he notes,
This is where you just have a random helicopter in the background, just because you’re a big movie, and you’re expensive, and you can. But you have no idea how much of a headache having a helicopter in the background causes. It’s all safety this, and money that, and so many hours they can fly, and they’re on the walkies, and the wind’s blasting everywhere. If I hadn’t brought it up, you’d have forgot about that yellow helicopter in the background right now.
The irony, of course, is that Affleck was making fun of the excesses of the big-budget Hollywood films that would come to define him—Armageddon was a big hit, but another film he made with Bay, Pearl Harbor, was a relative disappointment. Even after rebounding critically he’s once again been shackled to a large-scale franchise in the new wave of Batman movies. During an interview, he was asked about Batman v. Superman’s terrible reviews, and his pained expression became the internet’s new favorite meme. Vulture eventually proclaimed, “We Are All Sad Ben Affleck,” identifying with his disappointment even though he brought much of it on himself.