DEEP IMPACT (1998) 

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Morgan Freeman
Robert Duvall
Tea Leoni
Elijah Wood
Leelee Sobieski
Vanessa Redgrave
Maximillian Schell
James Cromwell

Mimi Leder



Time: 135 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Action/Disaster/Drama

DEEP IMPACT may be the winner this summer in the "asteroid hitting the Earth" movie race mainly because it'll reach the public first. ARMAGEDDON may be a better film, but I'll never know because I've already reached my disaster film quotient of the year. Besides, they basically have the same story line – men being sent into space to destroy the oncoming rock – which isn't the compelling part of the asteroid scenario to begin with. What grips at your heart is the human quotient: what would we do as a race if this became our reality? Though DEEP IMPACT claims to be the version that concentrates on this question, they shoot themselves in the foot with too many subplots and unnecessary characters. Why did we have to see what was happening in space when the story on the ground is the important one? The only reason that section remains in this film is to compete with ARMAGEDDON. And to give Robert Duvall something to do.

Despite it's flaws, I was touched by this film. I cried like a baby throughout. How could you not? This is a scenario that has happened to the Earth before and could happen again. That's the hook. What would you do? How would you handle yourself? What would happen to our way of life if we knew mass destruction was on the horizon? This is what DEEP IMPACT should have focused on. Instead, we're forced to watch what's happening in the world via satellite and through the eyes of an MSNBC news anchor played by Tea Leoni. (MSNBC must have made one sweetheart of a deal with the filmmakers since they are all over this movie.)

Huh? I guess they thought we'd be more comfortable watching terror on a TV screen, instead of firsthand through the eyes of characters we knew and loved. It's a horrible plot device that distances the audience from the action, making the tragedy seem like a bad sci-fi movie.To make matters worse, we have to sit through Tea's attempt at becoming a dramatic actress. She's funny and should just stick with that. She's playing an ambitious reporter, but she constantly looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Granted, she's delivering the worst news imaginable, but what happened to professionalism? This is the person who's supposed to instill calm in the general populace? The news room sequences are the most useless and painful in the entire film.

"I know you're just a reporter, but you used to be a person, right?"

Of course, there are several rescue attempts – one which has astronauts landing on the asteroid and attempting to blow it off course (sound familiar?) – but none of them succeed. How can we feel anything for our saviors when we know nothing about them? They are generic (a blond, brunette, woman, African American and experienced gruff guy) and bland. These are the people who are going to save the day? Please. The film spends way too much time with these people and the mission, but not enough to make it truly compelling. The astronauts end up being the heroes (big surprise), so why wasn't the film more about them, so we could truly be impressed by their sacrifice. Of course, if it was more about the astronauts it would be ARMAGEDDON. So we get this mixed bag of people and emotions.

The most compelling aspects of this film were the families and the lottery (to be one of the million people chosen to live underground in the new "ark"). The entire newsrooms aspect should never have been a part of it or at least been just a means to provide information. I mean, there are millions of people who were going to die, what about them? Why aren't we learning more about the relationship between the teenagers Leo and Sarah? They are the future. We are supposed to root for them to live. Except that they're young and "in love", we know nothing about them, why they like each other (besides the fact that he's cute and she looks like a young Helen Hunt), what they're feeling. Elijah Wood and Leelee Sobieski do their best and I did care for them, but I wanted to know more.

Now Morgan Freeman can run for president any day and I'd vote for him in a second. He is, as always, a joy to watch. He embodies everything one wishes our president did – strength, compassion and a true love for his people. His speeches were heartfelt and though firm, belied a deep sorrow not many actors could have pulled off. I love him more every time I see him. He raises the level of quality of every project he's in just a bit higher.

DEEP IMPACT isn't a bad film, it's just one with its priorities in the wrong places. When the smaller asteroid hits the Earth and a tidal wave destroys New York, you truly feel the devastation. The water effects were just amazing and looked incredibly believable. The fact that Tea Leoni and Maximillian Schell die almost instantly in the sequence is just a bonus. They are both so annoying I was practically cheering their demise. You do care that some of the characters live and the human race survives, but that's only because it's in the best interest of your own mental health. As creatures who live on this planet we have to believe we would prevail. Somehow. Otherwise, this would be way to depressing a film to sit through.

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