a critiQal film review Deep Impact (1998)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: A comet is hurtling toward Earth and could mean the end of all human life. The U.S. government keeps the crisis under wraps, but reporter Jenny Lerner (Leoni) uncovers the truth - forcing U.S. President Beck (Freeman) to announce his plan. Grizzled astronaut Spurgeon "Fish" Tanner (Duvall) and his team will land on the comet and lay explosives, hopefully deterring the object from its doomsday course. If not, humanity will have to prepare for the worst.

557 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 47s)

When looking for something to review, we once again turned our attention to NetFlix®…and stumbled across the two big comet movies of ’98: Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact. Flipping a coin, we decided to take a look at Deep Impact first. Would this disaster movie be worth our time? Or would it turn out to be nothing short of disastrous?

Tea Leoni gets top billing in Deep Impact – and viewers are worse off because of it. Yawningly dull, Tea’s intrepid reporter Jenny Lerner sucks up screen time as she stumbles into the biggest story of her life and nabs the anchor job she’s always wanted. Oh yeah, and harasses her father (a badly mis-cast Maximilian Schell) about leaving her mother (the ever elegant Vanessa Redgrave, appearing way too briefly). While Tea performed surprisingly well in Bad Boys (1995), she’s usually rather uninteresting to watch – and her time in Deep Impact hammers that point home.

Elijah Wood is also a waste of space in Deep Impact, playing a high school student, and, in typical Hollywood fashion, one of the discoverers of the looming world-ending comet. While not nearly as much time is devoted to Elijah as there is to Tea’s daddy issues, after an opening sequence that’s actually quite endearing, he and an ill-used Leelee Sobieski spend more screen time that viewers won’t be able to get back.

Thankfully, Deep Impact has a few redeeming actors around as well, to try and offset the Tea/Elijah disasters. Morgan Freeman shines as US President Tom Beck, and Robert Duvall does a solid job as Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner, the pilot of the space mission planning to blow up the comet. Unfortunately, with the film wasting so much time on Tea and Elijah, both Freeman and Duvall get short-changed on screen time, so the bright spots they represent aren’t as big as viewers would like.

Director Mimi Leder tries to take an action picture and give it ooey-gooey feelings, and while the crew of the shuttle evoke a bit of emotion far along in the film, Tea and Elijah go a long way to making that emotional impact fall far short of it’s goal. Rather than get caught up in the emotions of these seemingly-doomed dullards, the viewer will find it hard to stay awake, and may contemplate fast-forwarding to the special effects they are waiting for.

After all, what’s a disaster movie without loads of special effects? Unfortunately, it’s apparently Deep Impact. While a space shuttle mission and a comet landing lend a bit of excitement earlier in the film, the viewer has to wait a long, long time before anything else exciting happens. By the time one of the comet pieces actually hits, viewers will have long grown bored…and the quickness of the comet splashing effects, while impressive, seem over much too quickly to have spent so much time waiting for.

While many have bashed Armageddon (1998) in it’s overly-dramatized earth-smashing attempt, Deep Impact very nearly tries to remove the special effects altogether. And, with a trailer that hypes those special effects as much as that other comet film, that’s a huge disappointment. Toss in bad performances from Tea Leoni and Elijah Wood, and even bright spots like Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall and Vanessa Redgrave (all short-changed by the film) can’t save this dud from itself.

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