DIRECTOR: Mimi Leder
May Contain Spoilers!
Up until 1998, the most notable asteroid movie to make an impact was the 1979 Sean Connery disaster flick, Meteor, which got off to a dubious start by being misnamed Meteor rather than Asteroid, as a meteor is just a small piece of debris, rather than the E.L.E (Extinction Level Event) rock itself.
But 1998 brought us two competing end of the world pictures, one being Deep Impact and the other, Michael Bay’s Armageddon. The latter sounded like it was going to be a load of rubbish, with the idea of a bunch of oil driller’s being sent to an asteroid “the size of Texas” to plant a nuclear bomb sounded as ludicrous as it was, but Armageddon was still the best of the bunch, injecting fun along with nukes into the mix.
This is precisely where Deep Impact falls down. The cast is good, with Morgan Freeman leading the pack as the U.S. President who we would all surly vote for, in spite of his failure to save the world, and the plotting is much more serious and mature, certainly putting this at the top of the pile as the most intellectual film of this subject.
But what do we want from an asteroid movie? We want meteor strikes, explosions and massive death tolls. What we don’t want is some melodrama where Tia Leone has to come to terms with her parents divorce a million years earlier, or the young Elijah Wood’s trying to marry his teen love in order to save from the impeding doom.
Then there’s the more realistic take of the N.A.S.A. mission to destroy the rock, which whilst being interesting, it failed to excite us, probably being too realistic for its own good. The best scenes here generally involve President Freeman and the climatic tsunami, which for late 90’s SFX, looked great. New York was soaked, many of the stars die but in the end, (SPOILER!) the world lives on, but by that point I didn’t really care either way.
Far from a bad film, but nowhere near as insightful as Mimi Leder thought it was going to be. The secret to films like Armageddon and even the flop that was Meteor, is that they make the end of the world seem fun, whether you enjoy Connery or the impromptu rendition of “Leaving On Jet Plane”, both have a re-watchable value, but if Deep Impact had been a bit more dour, more destructive and less sloppy, it may well have lived up its original potential.