STARRING: Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Robert Duvall, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, Morgan Freeman, Leelee Sobieski, James Cromwell, Mary McCormick, Blair Underwood

1998, 121 Minutes, Directed by: Mimi Leder

deep2.jpg (11780 bytes)A gigantic meteorite “the size of New York city” is on a collision course with earth. This is so-called “Extinction Level Event” stuff - similar to the meteorite which supposedly destroyed the dinosaurs. Is it the End Of The World As We Know It?

Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst, two plans are drawn up: one to stop the meteorite before collision and another to preserve one million people along with animals, art treasures, etc. in underground shelters so that the human race do not become completely extinct.

Deep Impact isn’t new. We’ve seen and read this countless times. Its plot is also very similar to that dreadful 1979 disaster flick Meteor. However, unlike that and countless other disaster movies, Deep Impact is completely different since it expects us in the audience to take it all very, very seriously.

The film also obviously takes itself seriously. This isn’t what we usually expect from disaster flicks - they are meant to be the equivalent of popcorn and Coke action movies (like Twister and Independence Day) with last minute heroics, comical caricatures, unbelievable escapes, etc.

Oh yeah, and nothing must happen to the family dog . . .

Deep Impact resolutely refuses to do this. Instead we are confronted with emotion-laden farewell scenes. What would you do in a situation like this? it asks. To its credit, unlike other recent films (like Sphere) Deep Impact acknowledges that there is still some nobility left in man: we wouldn’t necessarily act like frightened and selfish animals.

For this alone it has to be commended. To be honest I am sick of movies telling me how evil and worthless humanity is. It really serves no purpose since the truth is much more complex than that: mankind is capable of both the most humane and the most horrendous behavior there is.

"Too many tearful people being bandied around to the accompaniment of an obtrusive soundtrack score!"

There are some good bits in Deep Impact: the scenes of mass destruction at the end of the movie are done spectacularly well and should preferably be seen on the big screen to be appreciated. Some of the dialogue is also effective and funny. Also, the scenes involving the astronauts on the meteorite are pure hard sci-fi stuff.

In the end the movie reminded me of scenes from Arthur Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama and my favorite Earth-hit-by-big-rock novel, Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven’s Lucifer’s Hammer. That is the good news. The bad news is that the movie is ultimately spoiled by excessive sentiment. In the end there are too many babies and tearful people being bandied around to the accompaniment of an obtrusive soundtrack score by James Horner (who had a big hit recently with his music for Titanic).

Deep Impact also suffers from the old disaster cliché of a cast of thousands. There are too many characters and while director Mimi (The Peacemaker) Leder keeps things chugging along at a fast pace so that there isn’t a dull or excessive moment, this ultimately works against the movie.

Ultimately we do not really care that much for the characters because we really do not know them that well. (However, to its credit the film is populated by more likeable characters than, for instance, the monsters in The Lost World - and no, I'm not referring to the dinosaurs in that movie . . .)

This may sound strange, but a longer running time might have been in order to get to know some of the characters better. Even though this analogy may come back to haunt me, I have to say it: Deep Impact is a bit like The Postman. Like that film, there is a really good movie struggling to get out from underneath all its faults. Fault number one being that terrible soundtrack music . . .


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