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 (1996) and Independence Day (1996))
with last minute heroics, comical caricatures, unbelievable escapes, etc. Oh yeah,
and nothing must happen to the family dog...
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 (1998)) 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 behaviour there is.
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 C. Clarke's
Rendezvous with Rama and my favourite Earth-hit-by-big-rock novel, Jerry Pournelle
and Larry Niven's Lucifer's Hammer. That is the good news.
bad news is that the movie was 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 Kames Horner (who had a big hit
recently with his music for Titanic (1997)). Deep Impact also suffers
from the old disaster cliché of a cast of thousands. There are too many
characters and while director Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker (1997)) 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 likable characters than, for instance,
the monsters in Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997) - 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 (1997). 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...
Review by James O'Ehley from The
Sci-Fi Movie Page.