Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Morgan Freeman, Maximilian Schell, James Cromwell, Ron Eldard, Jon Favreau
Bruce Joel Rubin, Michael Tolkin
Oceans Rise. Cities Fall. Hope Survives.
What would you do if you knew that in a handful of days an enormous comet would collide with Earth and all humanity could be annihilated?
The countdown to doomsday is underway in this "gut-wrenching, eye-popping blast of a movie experience" (Jeff Craig, Sixty Second Preview). Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker) directs, guiding an all-star cast featuring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximillian Schell and Morgan Freeman. With the film's dynamic fusion of large-scale excitement and touching, human-scale storylines, Deep Impact makes its impact felt in a big and unforgettable way.
$41.152 million on 3156 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 121 min.
Release Date: 10/5/2004
• Audio Commentary with Director Mimi Leder and Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Farrar
• “Preparing for the End” Featurette
• “Making an Impact” Featurette
• “Creating the Perfect Traffic Jam” Featurette
• “Parting Thoughts” Featurette
• Photo Gallery
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
Deep Impact: Special Collector's Edition (1998)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 30, 2004)
Occasionally Hollywood filmmakers exhibit some serious groupthink and produce a bunch of very similar movies in very short order. Usually one of these does well while the others tank. For example, in the late Eighties, Big struck it… uh… big, but the other “kid in an adult body” flicks from the era made little to no impact.
Periodically, none of the movies does well. Witness the onslaught of Mars flicks from a few years ago. Mission to Mars, Red Planet and Ghosts Of Mars all did quite poorly. This is a rare event, though. Normally when Hollywood latches onto a concept, they find some success; it’s weird that all of the efforts in a particular line would bomb.
Perhaps even more unusual was what happened in 1998. That year we got two big-budget “destructive object from the sky” pictures that hit screens in fairly rapid succession. Deep Impact - which threatened Earth with a giant comet – came out first in May, while Armageddon - which sent a meteorite as large as Texas at us – appeared in early July. Few thought both would do well, but they did. Deep Impact snagged a not-too-shabby $140 million, which left it eighth among the year’s top moneymakers. On the other hand, Armageddon earned a tidy $201 million and ended up as the second biggest-grossing film of the year, not far behind the $216 million of Saving Private Ryan.
Ever since then, film fans have argued about the superiority of either flick. Granted, a lot of folks thought they both stunk, while a few really liked each of them. However, most people picked sides and preferred one or the other.
This occurred because the two were really fairly different films. Armageddon appealed more to the action crowd. Director Michael Bay went with a full-on war against the space rock, as deep-sea diggers and the military took on the threatening object. It highlighted flashy thrills and did so pretty well in my estimation. Armageddon isn’t a brilliant flick, but it delivered what it promised.
Deep Impact, on the other hand, tried to be Titanic with a comet. The movie hit screens less than five months after James Cameron’s smash arrived in theaters, and it seemed clear that the studio wanted to strike a same chord. The film’s posters accentuated the human relationships, and the picture itself more strongly followed those lines.
Because Impact featured less action, many tried to depict it as more intelligent than Armageddon. Balderdash, say I. Just because the movie lacked the same level of excitement didn’t mean it was deeper or more heartfelt. In my opinion, I just thought it was less interesting. The characters and events in Impact were just as superficial as those seen in Armageddon, but at least the latter had enough thrills to make it interesting. While Impact had its moments, it generally seemed fairly flat and bland.
At the start of Impact, TV reporter Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) lands a story about a scandal within the presidential administration. It turns out that prominent Cabinet member Alan Rittenhouse (James Cromwell) seems to be having an affair with someone named “Ellie”. However, after a lot of confusion, the president (Morgan Freeman) fesses up that the problem comes from E.L.E.: an “extinction level event”. That’s how they refer to the impending comet that will likely extinguish life.
As it happens, we’ve already seen the discovery of this comet. High school student Leo Beiderman (Elijah Wood) first saw it during an astronomy class. His teacher had a professional examine it, but that dude got into a fatal car wreck when he raced to report findings, so it took a while for the material to emerge.
Eventually Leo gets credit for his discovery, and this affords him a high level of status. The government plans to create an underground commune to keep society functioning at some level. A lottery will select most of the folks who’ll get to stay there, but those intimately involved with the effort – like Leo and his family and also Jenny – jump to the front of the line. However, this causes some problems with relatives and friends who don’t get to go. Jenny agonizes over her divorced parents Robin (Vanessa Redgrave) and Jason (Maximilian Schell), while Leo deals with his cute girlfriend Sarah (Leelee Sobieski). He even marries her to rescue her, but due to a snafu, her family can’t come along as promised. Why? So he’ll have to risk life and limb to physically retrieve her later, of course!
In the meantime, the US government actively tries to prevent catastrophe via a manned space mission. They’ll send astronauts to divert the comet and avoid the need for the underground lair. Headed by veteran Captain Tanner (Robert Duvall), they experience some generational tension – the younger participants think Tanner’s there for window-dressing – but they pull together as they face adversity.
So why exactly did I think Deep Impact failed to work as well as Armageddon? Because it didn’t follow through with what it promised. Armageddon promised lots of rock-‘em, sock-‘em action and it delivered. Impact remained far too touchy-feely for my liking. At times it seemed like an apocalyptic flick for the Lifetime Channel.
It also scattered its storylines too broadly. Armageddon focused on the team who would try to stop the asteroid and that was it. While the characters remained thin and stereotypical, at least we saw enough of them to develop genuine affection.
That didn’t occur during Impact. The movie flitted from Jenny to Leo to the astronauts and didn’t succeed with any of them. Instead, they just seemed like generic personalities to whom we felt little attachment. If we rooted for them, that occurred simply because we really don’t want to see the world come to an end.
Deep Impact foundered in other ways as well. It provided surprisingly cheesy special effects and showed an even weaker sense of logic and science and factual elements than did Armageddon; I never knew Richmond was only six miles from the ocean! While Impact featured a solid cast, none got much chance to excel. The usually excellent Freeman seemed wasted in his bit part as the president, though I did like the fact the movie never made an issue of a black commander in chief. Leoni actually managed to bring a little depth to Jenny, and Duvall lent an air of down-home charm to Tanner, but overall, the cast couldn’t make the movie memorable.
Honestly, I can’t say that I truly disliked Deep Impact. It had some moments, and it offered a moderate level of excitement and drama. However, I find it almost impossible to watch it and not compare it to Armageddon, and my preference for the latter taints the experience.
The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-
Deep Impact appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The prior DVD of Impact didn’t offer anamorphic enhancement, which made this new one different. This release’s 16X9 status helped elevate the overall quality of the image and meant that the Special Collector’s Edition presented a noticeably stronger visual experience.
Sharpness consistently appeared crisp and distinct. During the old disc, wider shots looked a little soft, but that didn’t happen here. Instead, the movie seemed accurate and well defined. The new release also lost the minor jagged edges and shimmering from the prior one, and I didn’t notice any examples of edge enhancement.
Print flaws stayed fairly minor and were consistent with the previous disc. I saw occasional examples of modest grit and a few speckles, but nothing major appeared. Colors looked bright and vivid, and they displayed no problems related to bleeding, noise or other issues. Black levels seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not excessively thick. Both of those elements looked great on the prior release and continued to seem strong here. Because of the source flaws, I almost knocked down my grade to a “B+”. However, since the print debris was genuinely minor and the rest of the picture looked so great, I thought it merited an “A-“.
While the DVD’s picture jumped in quality from the old disc to the new one, the audio of Deep Impact stayed the same. Both releases included identical Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. And that was fine with me, as the audio came across very well for the pair.
The soundfield offered a nicely active and involving piece of work. Music showed good stereo presence, while effects provided a good sense of environment. Between the space scenes and those with the explosions, Impact had a lot of chances for a killer mix, though it lacked the extremely high level of potential found during Armageddon. Nonetheless, the track used all five channels well and created a strong surround presence.
Audio quality seemed positive overall. The only negative I encountered related to speech, which occasionally showed light edginess. However, most of the dialogue lacked flaws, and the lines appeared intelligible and reasonably natural. Music sounded vivid and bright and showed good depth, while effects worked very well. Of course, the louder segments packed the greatest punch, as they provided the appropriate depth and power. Bass response seemed very solid, and the mix featured a lot of solid low-end response. Even with the minor edginess to speech, Deep Impact worked well enough to merit an “A-“ for audio.
Whereas the old DVD came with absolutely no extras, this “Special Collector’s Edition” packs a few. We open with an audio commentary from director Mimi Leder and visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. The piece manifests sporadic examples of useful tidbits, but much of it seems dull. We learn about how both participants came to the project, sets and locations, working with the cast, deleted scenes and storytelling, and visual elements like faking weightlessness. Leder dominates, even during the sequences with heavy effects footage. Farrar occasionally chimes in, but he doesn’t offer much in the way of technical insight.
As for Leder, she gives us more than a smattering of interesting material, but not a ton. The track tends to plod along without much energy, and we encounter occasional instances of dead air. Things never become tedious enough to make this a bad commentary, but it fails to engage us well enough to turn into something terribly compelling.
Next we get four separate featurettes. Preparing for the End fills eight minutes and 57 seconds that mixes the usual roster of movie snippets, archival footage, and interviews. We hear from Leder, screenwriters Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, and we also get a few quick 1994 snippets from scientific authorities who discuss some realities behind the comet-related prospects. We learn about the project’s origins, writing the screenplay and research, how Leder came onto the film and her preparation, developing the characters, and casting. Unlike many programs of this sort, not too many movie clips pop up, as the piece focuses on the issues. It presents the production topics concisely and turns into a nice little featurette.
The longest program on the DVD, Making an Impact goes for 12 minutes and eight seconds. In it Tolkin, Leder, Farrar, and Rubin discuss shooting on location, handling large scenes, filming the comet sequences and visual effects, various sets and spaceship design, the scope of the destruction sequences and altered concepts. As with the prior program, this one handles its subjects well. It’s a broader piece than “End” but it moves smoothly and covers a lot of territory efficiently.
For more information on the logistics of filming, we go to Creating the Perfect Traffic Jam. In this six-minute and 13-second featurette, we hear from Leder, Tolkin, Farrar, second assistant director Alison Rosa, additional casting Judith Bouley, and second unit production manager Cherylanne Martin. The focus here is on the location shoot, as we mainly see what happened there. It’s another useful program, as we get a good look at the massive scope of this brief sequence and all the concerns involved.
The final featurette, Parting Thoughts goes for four minutes and 51 seconds. It includes notes from Leder, Tolkin and Rubin as they discuss test screenings and edits, the passing of cinematographer Dietrich Lohmann during production and its impact, and desired impressions to be left by the movie. The last two bits are nice, but the discussion of the cut sequences is the most useful, especially since we actually see a little of the excised material.
In addition to both a teaser and theatrical trailers, we find a Photo Gallery. it includes 59 pictures that mix shots from the flick and candid images from the set. None of them seem very interesting.
As usual for a Paramount product, most of the video extras include both English and French subtitles. One disappointment stems from the lack of deleted scenes. Leder discusses many of these and we see some fleeting images of a couple in “Parting Thoughts”, but that’s it. Since the director indicates she made massive cuts in the film, it’d be nice to see more of them.
At times, Deep Impact offered a reasonably involving and dramatic disaster movie, but it focused too heavily on bland character drama. Since none of the roles received enough attention for us to care, this meant that the movie often fell flat. The DVD provides strong picture and audio plus a smattering of decent supplements.
As for recommendations, I think Deep Impact is moderately entertaining at best, so I wouldn’t tout it for someone who doesn’t already like the movie. Fans should be fairly pleased with this set, though. Even if you own the prior release, it’s worth an upgrade here. The extras don’t excel, but they provide some insight into the production, and the new transfer definitely outdoes the original. With a very low list price of less than $15, I can recommend the new Impact for its fans.
To rate this film, visit the original review of DEEP IMPACT