Deep Impact charters the lives of three separate characters as a comet’s impending collision looms. Robert Duvall heads a team of astronauts who are sent up in a spaceship modestly named The Messiah (Hubris anyone?) to nuke the big rock. Elijah Wood is the youthful astronomer who first noticed the comet earning him a degree of local stardom and Tea Leoni is a journalist tasked with reporting the whole thing. Who’s Morgan Freeman? Just the President. Very prophetic when you think about it.
Portraying multiple unrelated plot lines proves to be a bad idea from the off – none of the characters have enough screen time for us to feel emotionally invested, except possibly Elijah Wood who I just couldn’t wait to get blown to smithereens, an event that sadly never transpired, but at least gave me something potentially exciting to hope for, potentially being the key word.
Released three months before Armageddon (the one where John McLane finally gets to try Nukes…in Space), one might say it had the advantage of shock factor. The concept was relatively fresh (although it’s exhausted by now), it had the opportunity to showcase some relatively decent special effects and to tie the package up in a neat little knot, Morgan Freeman and Robert Duvall were billed. What’s not to like?
The script is far from compelling – in fact there’s more waffle than at a festival breakfast stand. Factor in more than a couple of pointless scenes and an irrelevant speech on the nature of sex and celebrity and you might be on your way to understanding why this film just doesn’t work. If you got excited by the word sex a moment ago…that scene will probably hold more excitement for you than the entire rest of the film.
Deep Impact is so boring because the pacing is completely out of whack. We’re treated to a few hours of exposition and then a little bang for our buck at the end. It’s like watching a documentary on goldfish – initially a little intriguing and then just painfully uninteresting until one of them dies and the documentary suddenly ends. The comet supposedly takes around 8 months to strike Earth but frankly it feels a lot longer. Far from fearing the imminent extinction of mankind you find yourself praying for the damn thing to collide and relieve the burden of the rest of the film.
If only the acting was good enough to make up for the aforementioned weaknesses, but for a top notch cast, the acting is surprisingly humdrum. Elijah Wood whips out his Frodo puppy eyes which never fail to turn the stomach and Tea Leoni’s most convincing moment is when she downs a glass of Martini and doesn’t appear to enjoy it. We’ve all been there.
One might think that there is nothing to redeem Deep Impact and pull it from the deep dark depths of the bargain basket and this is more or less true. That said, the emotional and literal fireworks are reserved for the final few minutes in what Jenna Jameson would be proud to call a climax. The CGI team deserve a pat on the back here as the apocalyptic destruction we get a fleeting glimpse of is handled well, and first glimpse of the comet also reveals fairly breathtaking graphics even by modern standards. The problem is, with Armageddon released the same year and a plethora of disaster movies since, effects just aren’t enough to warrant a watch and nothing else about Deep Impact is either. Maybe director Mimi Leder should stick to television where she seems more at home.