Deep Impact (1998)
I never thought I would be even talking about this 90’s blockbuster that sees America save the day. Well I say save the day Deep Impact (1998) comes quite close to not saving the day. It pre-dates the first black president by a whole decade in the form of Morgan Freeman who actually comes close to Barack Obama’s in many ways. What really draws me to want to talk about this film is not the scale of the film or the life or death situation its how it takes the average blockbuster disaster movie, aiming for realism.
It takes two astronomers to discover the comet that is hurtling to Earth, well I say that it takes just over a year to get to us, well America the centre of Hollywood’s hopeful Earth. This is what makes is stand a-part from Armageddon (1998) is that there is not so much focus on the big personalities. Sure there are plenty up there on the screen both young and old. Its how they react to the news of the impending doom. Taken from the point of view of a up and coming journalist Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) who believes she’s onto the latest scandal at the white house, almost routine for any office of government. What is eventually revealed to the world id something far bigger than any scandal that affects all people on the planet.
You could say that Deep Impact is Armageddon meets Contact (1997) the clever mans blockbuster that really looks at what happens in the event of our impending demise. We learn that a plan is already well underway. Including a team of astronauts, made up of nobodies and for some reason Robert Duvall to raise the acting stakes, bringing some class to the space shuttle. You can’t help but see that they should have someone far younger in charge of landing the ship in the comet, but hey this is Hollywood. He does win you over, like the first fictional black President, that experience and presence. Whilst at the same time its laughable to have an old man up there with so much at stake. Not to say he’s not as capable, the film does suggest anything is possible in film. This isn’t too far from Space Cowboys (2000) which is actually played for the laughs than for the scope of a blockbuster beast that Deep Impact is.
We look at all sides of the story, from the family, to the unloved daughter and everyone conceivable in the middle. Of course its has all the usual schmaltz. It doesn’t all make sense like the young couple getting married and the nonsensical dialogue before they leave for the underground fortress for the chosen million. Leading me to the chosen million to include artist as well as far more important people like doctors, scientists etc. With similar underground structures in other countries, It would be an honor to be included among other vital professions in the rebuilding of humanity. Along with all the animals (that don’t kill each other) in the Noah’s Ark that’s designed to ensure Earth has a future in some form.
We are looking at one of those “events” before they happen, and it very nearly does. Not many films actually lets each attempt to fail and fail before at the very last moment the great sacrifice’s made. The world’s brought to tears and destruction in some parts. Both sides of the Atlantic suffer to some extent which allows another part of the world besides America to suffer and be part of the film without going to all the iconic landmark unlike Armageddon that flashes back and forth to show that this event will affect each and everyone one us. That connection beyond America and the big foreign market that ensures a hit. Maybe I’m being cynical here and I’m pulling apart the genre that has dominated for years. Or maybe I am starting to really understand the appeal with something that does goes that little bit deeper than the big money shots and special effects that are more restrained. Maybe this is best blockbuster of that period that doesn’t try to, instead going more for the acting or the cast that tries to raise the script that does try at times to raise the bar to be something better than being just average.