by Ken B.
1998 – While examining the sky one night with his astronomy class at a star party, high school student Leo Biederman (ELIJAH WOOD) notices something odd in the sky, and his teacher reports its coordinates to a scientist in a large observatory, Dr. Marcus Wolf (CHARLES MARTIN SMITH). Wolf realizes that it’s a comet. Destination: Earth, of course! However, Wolf is killed in a car crash before he can tell anyone about his discovery.
1999 – MSNBC reporter Jenny Lerner (TÉA LEONI) accidentally comes across classified information concerning the comet from the government, and after a conversation with U.S. President Tom Beck (MORGAN FREEMAN), the world is finally notified. The comet, labeled “Wolf-Biederman” is “larger than Mt. Everest”, and is on a collision course with Earth, impact date scheduled for August 16, 2000. The governments of the Earth, namely the US and Russia, have launched a shuttle labeled “The Messiah” to intercept Wolf-Biederman and attempt to redirect it before its speculation of impact becomes a reality, led by a character played by none other than ROBERT DUVALL.
2000 – Put simply, The Messiah plan isn’t going well. Wolf-Biederman is growing closer to Earth, and a giant set of underground caves built by the governments of the world can only hold several million people. Others will have to perish. But the question is posed, who will survive?
Deep Impact is in some ways, the stereotypical disaster movie, and in some ways, not. At any given point, you have three or four subplots moving around, and you are assumed to have the ability to keep track of them. This can often lead to some odd contrasts. For example, in one scene, you have one of the crew of The Messiah basically exploding offscreen after being dragged off by the shuttle, and in a scene not too far from that, you have Leo Biederman, of which he and his parents have a spot reserved for them in the caves due to him co-discovering the comet, realizing that he can save his girlfriend Sarah (LEELEE SOBIESKI) and her parents by marrying her. It leads to the obligatory wedding scene, which is nice to watch, but it doesn’t change the fact that the comet is still hurtling towards Earth. The contrast of super-adrenaline action scenes and soft character driven human interest scenes causes you to question whether you’re watching the big budget sci-fi movie or the weirdest Lifetime movie-of-the-week ever.
Besides those and a couple more problems, we have a very well written script. It’s nicely and swiftly paced, and despite the impending doom storyline, some fitting wit and irony finds its way in. It’s a saving grace in the type of movie that becomes a jumbled, confusing mess in its last forty minutes.
It’s said that an early cut of the film featured even more scenes between Wood and Sobeieski’s characters, but after a negative early screening, the balance was, well, balanced out. In the final version, however, you do notice that they get a bit more screen time.
So, is Deep Impact recommendable… yes. We’ll just say a marginal yes. But there are some things you must know . There are plenty of ways you can see it without paying full price. For a couple of the legal ways, it’s streaming on Netflix Instant and it often plays on TV. When you watch it, don’t turn your brain completely off, keep it on low power. You need to think a little bit.