Will ''Armageddon'' be the summer champ that ''Godzilla'' wasn't?

The $150 million ”Armageddon” is crashing onto more than 3,000 screens today, and some say the disaster flick will be the summer champ that ”Godzilla” wasn’t. Many critics have panned director Michael Bay’s special-effects extravaganza (EW’s Owen Gleiberman graded it a C, calling the film ”a bogus rah-rah spectacle”). But some box office experts think audiences will be blown away by the action. ”You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that ‘Armageddon’ will be the summer’s biggest movie,” says CNN film analyst Martin Grove. Bay’s hyperkinetic flick lives up to his past action smashes like ”The Rock,” according to Grove, who adds that the special effects and the winning cast (which includes Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, and Billy Bob Thornton) make ”Armageddon” the perfect popcorn flick.

Although Disney has spent a reported $45 million to promote ”Armageddon” (its minute-long Super Bowl commercial cost nearly $2.6 million), Willis won’t help spread the hype. He has decided to stay away from the press in light of his recent split from wife Demi Moore. But Willis’ absence won’t hurt the film, as long as Disney has the asteroid. ”It’s not a Bruce Willis film,” says Robert Bucksbaum of the box office projection firm Reel Source, who predicts a $230 million total gross for the movie (compared to $132 million to date for ”Godzilla”). ”The real stars are the special effects, and the high-tech concept.”

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