Deep Impact (1998) Review

  • Year: 1998
  • Directed by: Mimi Leder
  • Starring: Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Morgan Freeman, Leelee Sobieski
  • Written by: Bruce Joel Rubin, Michael Tolkin

Releasing two movies with near-identical plots in the same year is like two girls showing up to the prom wearing the exact same outfit. I’m talking about Deep Impact and Armageddon. These movies are so similar in plot and story that when I saw the trailers aired separately on TV, I thought Deep Impact was a subtitle to Armageddon. Regrettably, Deep Impact is the lesser version of the same story in almost every way.

The plot is simple: A giant meteor is on a course to collide with Earth. The rest is all human drama surrounding several unrelated people. Téa Leoni is a reporter, building her career on the meteor story. Morgan Freeman is the President of the United States who guides the audience in his fatherly way, explaining what’s being done to counter the meteor and precautions in case the attempts fail. Robert Duvall is an astronaut leading a team to land on the meteor, drill into it and plant nuclear warheads inside it. And Elijah Wood is the teenager who first discovers the meteor.

What Deep Impact does have going for it is the human element. The plot revolving around Téa Leoni as she tries to uncover what’s really going on in the White House only to discover the end of the world was very smart writing. If the story had stayed with this character instead of bouncing around from storyline to storyline, we would have had a stronger story. Instead, it gets diluted through too many characters and the audience doesn’t know them enough to feel for them when they live or die.

Another particular weak spot is the visual effects. The scenes in space are fine and convey the reality believably, since the average moviegoer hasn’t actually been in space or been on alien territory. Mass destruction on Earth, however, is a different story. We all know what waves look like, so we can extrapolate what a giant wave hitting New York would look like. The visuals in the film don’t quite meet expectations.

Deep Impact is a missed opportunity. Instead of sticking to its strengths and focusing more on one main character, it was seduced by the allure of showing disparate people tied together by a unifying event. Unfortunately, the writing wasn’t strong enough to make us care for each character in what little screen-time they were given.