DVD Review: Deep Impact

In 1997, two movie studios went head to head in the "volcano disaster" genre. Universal gave us Dante's Peak, and Fox delivered the appropriately titled Volcano. A year later, it happened again, this time with the "giant space rock" scenario: Touchstone came in with the brain-dead Armageddon and Paramount countered with Deep Impact. It's brilliant when compared to Armageddon, but on its own, it's still not particularly special.

What Deep Impact does best is build the scenario. Morgan Freeman is, as always, engrossing. This time out, he plays the president and does so with grief and anguish. His speeches to the nation are gripping, and it's hard not to be fooled into thinking it's all happening. This is how Deep Impact makes everything stay together. It's a legitimate attempt at showing this like a realistic event.

Sadly, this is a product of Hollywood. Even with an incredibly well rounded cast (Elijah Wood, Robert Duvall, Tea Leoni, Vanessa Redgrave, etc.), the space sequences disappoint. Providing the same solution Armageddon would offer, Impact tones the ridiculous action down a notch, but still feels as unbelievable and nearly as cheesy. Special effects work for the most part, though a few shots of the shuttle are quite off.

It's nice to see a disaster film put this into the context of your average person. There are some incredibly moving moments (and some melodrama of course) as the comet plummets to the Earth, but the actual incident is disappointing. After sitting through over 100 minutes of preparation for the inevitable, the few minutes worth of special effects showcasing landmarks being ripped apart are weak. It's completely uneventful, and hardly worth waiting for.

That seems to be the case for countless "asteroid" flicks. The abysmal Sean Connery vehicle Meteor in 1979 is probably the worst of the major studio productions of this type, and Deep Impact didn't do anything to help the quality problem. It's an admirable attempt, but hardly one worth wasting two hours on. (** out of *****)

This is a clean, sharp non-anamorphic presentation of the film. There are brief times of ugly aliasing, grain, and compression. These moments are rare however, and most of the film stands out for its superb clarity. Color is gorgeous, and the meteor itself looks stunning when flying through space. (****)

There is obviously one piece of the film where the audio gets a workout. When impact occurs, you feel it in the bass (as you should). This is the only point in the film where the speakers get any sort of a workout, and even during a stressful situation on the space rock, it's devoid of any major surround work. (**)

Extras for this first release of the film on DVD are barren, down to two trailers. A more recent special edition offers far more than this disc. (No stars)

It's a shame, but the best doomsday asteroid pieces are usually reserved for the Discovery or National Geographic channels. In fact, a recent documentary entitled End Day on NG offered more thrills and a spectacular collision. If you want a preview of our potential annihilation, look for something like that. Deep Impact fails to offer the necessary memorable moments to make it worthwhile.

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