April 27, 2023

DEEP IMPACT (4K): A Disaster Movie with a Message

DEEP IMPACT 25th Anniversary Edition (4K UHD)
1998 / 121 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😺

While some of the aesthetic aspects of Deep Impact may seem a bit dated these days, the film does feature one particular message that might even be more timely today than it was 25 years ago… 

In one of the very first scenes. Astronomer Marcus Wolf discovers that a giant comet is on a collision course with Earth. His internet connection is down, so he rushes from his observatory to warn authorities. Speeding down the mountain in his Jeep while urgently fumbling with his cell phone, he collides head-on with a semi-truck and dies.

Texting while driving is a bad idea, folks.

This scene has no actual impact on the plot. Nowhere is it indicated that Wolf’s untimely death prevents his ominous discovery from being shared with the world. The film simply picks up a year later, when the government is already well aware the comet is heading towards Earth and taking steps to make sure we're not globally screwed. So before anyone offers the argument that Wolf’s doomsday discovery is a damned good excuse for distracted driving, remember that he had plenty of time to drive safely into town and find a working phone. 

Timely message notwithstanding, of all the films released during the brief resurgence of the disaster genre in the late ‘90s, Deep Impact remains the best one…certainly better (and smarter) than the similarly-themed chest-thumper, Armageddon, which was released the same year. 

Looks like everyone has tomorrow off.
Earth is given about a year to live unless something can be done to divert the comet, so a crew of astronauts is sent into space (led by Robert Duvall) to land on the surface and plant thermonuclear charges, which will hopefully change its course. But they only succeed in blowing off one chunk, so now there are two comets hurling toward the Earth. Worse yet, the backup plan of launching Titan missiles into space also fails. Bad news for the world, but good news for the viewer because now we are assured that at least one of them is gonna hit (hey, we pays our two-bits to see cities get pummeled, not watch everyone breathe a collective sigh of relief after a near miss). Though the special effects are a bit antiquated, watching New York slammed by a 1,000-foot tsunami is inarguably the film’s best scene.

While it has its share of implausibilities, Deep Impact is one of the genre’s more intelligent films and boasts a good cast in roles that have a bit more depth than typical disaster movie stock characters (even if Tea Leoni is the least convincing news anchor of all time). There aren’t any bad guys ready to put someone else’s life in jeopardy to save their own asses, no idiots ignoring the problem, no hordes of extras reacting in a blind panic in the time-honored tradition of self-preservation. Admittedly though, part of me sort of misses some of those stock characters, which always made disasters of the ‘70s such goofy fun. I’d rather see more of them than two star-crossed teenagers getting hitched in order to survive.

But as good as Deep Impact is, it’s too bad that the awesome distracted driving message doesn’t have greater significance in the actual plot, such as having one man’s carelessness behind the wheel exacerbate the global threat. Maybe some viewers would stop to ponder if the next irrelevant call or text they make while driving at 60 mph could result in the deaths of billions. Still, Deep Impact remains great, epic entertainment with more heart and brains than most disaster flicks. This 25th Anniversary 4K UHD release serves up a decent upgrade from previous Blu-ray or DVD versions. However, there are no new bonus features.



FEATURETTES - “Preparing for the End”; “Making an Impact”; “Creating the Perfect Traffic Jam”; “Parting Thoughts.”


AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Mimi Leder and SFX supervisor Scott Farrar.


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