Deep Impact (1998) starring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Morgan Freeman, Maximilian Schell, James Cromwell, Ron Eldard, Jon Favreau, Leelee Sobieski directed by Mimi Leder Movie Review

Deep Impact (1998)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Ron Eldard and Robert Duvall in Deep Impact

Deep by Name not by Nature

I like disaster movies, I know I'm a glutton for punishment, but these movies tend to be simple affairs full of popcorn scenes which are there as just a visual pleasure. And to be honest "Deep Impact" is another simple affair, big comet heading to earth and we get a dual mission one to blow it up the other to safeguard mankind in case the shit hits the fan. But "Deep Impact" is one of the most convoluted disaster movies I have seen with far too many characters, far too many stories and as such far too much going on to do justice to it. As such it is little wonder that I actually prefer Michael Bay's "Armageddon" which came out a few months after "Deep Impact" because it doesn't over cook things whilst sharing a similar storyline.

During an astronomy party, teenager Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood - The War) spots a strange object up in the stars, little does he know that what he has spotted is a comet so large that it threatens to cause mankind to become instinct if it reaches Earth. Having kept the threat of this comet secret for a year the President of America (Morgan Freeman - Kiss the Girls) makes an announcement to tell those in America of the threat and what they are planning to do. And there plan is to send a group of astronauts into space to try and blow up the comet with nuclear bombs and if that doesn't work they plan to put stage 2 in to effect and that is protect mankind by holding a lottery to save a select number of humans.

Maximilian Schell and Téa Leoni in Deep Impact

So as already mentioned "Deep Impact" is a simple movie which sees Earth in peril from a comet heading it's way and as such is similar to "Armageddon". But whilst typically we get the mission to stop the comet by blowing it up we then get a secondary storyline which sees those on Earth preparing for the worse by creating a safe haven for a select number of people so mankind can survive if the comet does cause mass destruction. Now these two element are good especially the second element as we have the national lottery where other than a few pre-selected people the rest are chosen randomly as long as they are under 50. It has a surprising level of emotion to this as those who are excluded can only expect to die.

But here is the thing which spoils all of this and that is that "Deep Impact" has far too much going on. Take the story of Leo Biederman a teenager who spotted the comet during an astronomy party, we get this whole story built around him and his friend Sarah, because Leo spotted the comet he and his parents are in the select few guaranteed a safe place but in order for Sarah and her parents to join him he has to marry Sarah. Relatively clever till it throws a twist which is so over the top that it becomes cheesy on a very romantic level.

Then there is reporter Jenny Lerner who whilst researching what sounds like a cover up over an affair by a member of staff at the Whitehouse she discovers that the President and his team have been aware of the impending doom for a year. That in itself isn't bad except we then get an added story of issues over her parents and in particular her father who has got remarried. It becomes a distraction as does the romantic twist with Leo and Sarah but they are not alone as there are countless characters all with little stories which makes "Deep Impact" a little unfocussed, filling up screen time with sub plots which have little relevance to the main story.

But of course you don't watch a disaster movie about a mission to blow up a giant comet with expectations of a logical plot. Nope you watch for acts of bravado and action scenes and "Deep Impact" certainly has a lot of bravado and action scenes be it the desperate attempts of those on Earth to get to safety or the brave astronauts who head to the comet to plant nuclear explosives on it. It also has a lot of special effects be it the astronauts on the comet which becomes volatile as it sweeps into the path of the sun or a giant tidal wave wiping out everything in its path back on earth. Compared to today's CGI extravaganza's some of the effects are shaky but they are big, nope they are huge and that is what you watch a modern disaster movie for. And it has to be said that for a disaster movie based in America it's not the painfully jingoistic experience which have blighted other disaster movies from the last couple of decades and makes a pleasant change.

Now "Deep Impact" has a bucket load of talent, there is Morgan freeman, Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, James Cromwell, Vanessa Redgrave and I've barely even scratched the surface of the cast list which is a blend of recognizable names and faces. But with there being so many characters, so many sub plots, so many little stories that all this talent end up playing 2 dimensional characters, with maybe the exception of Morgan Freeman who at least manages to actually bring his character to life. It is sadly a waste of talent despite none of them actually putting in a bad performance even when the bravado stakes border on the corny.

What this all boils down to is that "Deep Impact" could have been a really good disaster movie with its two stories surrounding the threat of world destruction from a massive comet. But sadly it ends up going too far with too many characters and too many subplots which distract from the drama of the comet heading towards Earth. And as such whilst "Deep Impact" has one big list of well known names and well known faces none of them make the impact that you expect.