Courtesy Photo
115 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, May 8, 1998
Directed by Mimi Leder

Starring Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maxamilian Schell, Leelee Sobieski & Morgan Freeman


Compared to "Armageddon", this movie isn't so bad after all, and it will play much better on the small screen because it has more going for it than its effects (which are much better than those in "Armageddon" anyway). "Deep Impact" is a good compromise movie when he wants explosions and she wants emotions because it has both. If you gotta watch a debris from space movie, this one is the better of the two from 1998.

   VIDEO RELASE: 05/18/99

Zero 'Impact' from cookie cutter doom movie

While waiting for the advance screening of "Deep Impact" to begin, I was reading the press kit and made two discoveries that sunk any hope I had that this picture might be more than just another design-by-committee disaster flick.

The discoveries were these: 1) A junior high school science nerd is the first person to spot the movie's giant comet destined wipe out life on Earth. 2) Tea Leoni plays a Washington reporter who gets a tip about an E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event), but mistakes it for a woman's name -- Ellie -- and thinks she's on to a hot sex scandal.

Oh, brother.

The first of two films this year cashing in on the extinction-from-space scare ("Armageddon" with Bruce Willis is due in July), "Deep Impact" stars Elijah Wood as the teenage astronomer, Robert Duvall as the leader of a shuttle mission to blow up the looming comet and Morgan Freeman as the president of the United States.

Masquerading as a sincere and philosophical, high-brow science fiction thriller (ala "Contact"), it is in fact a cookie cutter doom movie that kowtows to the lowest common denominator, complete with the standard half dozen characters from central casting whose lives converge in the crisis.

Largely one-dimensional, these parts run the gamut from the reporter (Leoni) who is estranged from her father over his taste for younger women, to the veteran astronaut (Duvall) who is getting attitude from his cocky young crew, to the kid (Wood) whose biggest concern is consummating his crush on a cute classmate before the world ends.

These stories, which come with a built in proximity detector that takes them into full-tilt tear-jerking mode as the comet gets near, amount to 105 minutes of sentimental stalling for 10 minutes of cool effects.

In the mean time, there's a little plot.

Despite the fact than an amateur astronomer discovered the approaching spaceball (and therefore others could easily spot is as well), the government has somehow kept it a secret for more than a year. They've been building giant caves in Montana, to save a million or so people, and a giant nuclear space shuttle to try and stop comet -- both of which also went inexplicably unnoticed.

Before long the president announces publicly that the seven-mile wide comet is on a collision course with Earth. The world watches on TV as the shuttle mission fails to destroy the goliath, only blowing it into a one-mile chunk and a six-mile chunk still on the same trajectory.

As people get picked by a national lottery to be saved in the caves, many others riot and the rest watch breaking news on MS/NBC, which has taken over as Hollywood's fictitious news source de jour since CNN had a fit of integrity.

I had all kinds of questions running through my head during "Deep Impact," like why the government didn't announce their findings earlier so a few other states might have had time to build caves too. I also made a list of the film's many elementary scientific blunders, but you don't want to read that.

Suffice to say by the time the first chunk of comet arrived, extinction was looking like a pretty pleasant prospect.

Of course, the valiant shuttle crew has one more rabbit in their hat, but they politely wait until after some pretty spectacular collision and tidal wave scenes before they unleash it on the bigger half of the comet in a last inning attempt to save life as we know it.

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