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Deep Impact

Entry updated 5 August 2020. Tagged: Film.

Film (1998). DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures present a Zanuck/Brown production. Directed by Mimi Leder. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin. Cast includes Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman, Téa Leoni and Elijah Wood. 121 minutes. Colour.

In this old-fashioned Disaster movie, humanity's future is threatened by a large Comet on a course to collide with the Earth. Nuclear weapons delivered by the spaceship Messiah fail to deter it, instead breaking the comet into two smaller pieces, but without changing their trajectory. (It is a glaring Scientific Error to suggest that the trajectories of the two pieces could, in the real world, be the same.) The nations of Earth build underground "arks" (see Keeps); the USA will shelter a group of around a million humans (a quarter carefully chosen, three quarters by lottery), as well as enough plant and animal life to reseed the post-impact planet. At the last minute, the returning Messiah crew sacrifice themselves by firing their spacecraft into the larger fragment, destroying it. The smaller still lands in the Atlantic Ocean, causing a catastrophic, gigantic tsunami: New York in particular is spectacularly overwhelmed, with the Statue of Liberty filmed from below at the moment the great wave hits. Worldwide, most people survive but many millions drown.

Unusually glum for a big studio production, Deep Impact tries to compensate for its grim plot by focusing on heroic characters who confront their fate with a stiff upper lip, or commit tasteful suicide in the second act. Around half the main characters survive. Deep Impact treats its subject seriously, and at times thoughtfully. But the film is not clever enough to really fascinate, nor for most of its length does it provide a very entertaining spectacle. There is surprisingly little reference to the violence and rioting normally considered de rigueur in End-of-the-World movies. Indeed, undesirable persons, along with non-Americans, remain peripheral. Thus, in the film, we implausibly have decent family values as apocalypse descends. Much of the film's running time is taken up with family-oriented soap opera, rather televisual in style (director Leder had done a great deal of Television work, but not much film). Nevertheless, the performances are professional and the obligatory but brief special-effects sequences are exciting. [JN/PN]

see also: Armageddon; Asteroid.


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