The year 1997 had given rise to cinema-game-changers in the shape of James Cameron’s “Titanic”, “Starship Troopers” and “Antz”. The year prior, audiences were delighted when images of the White House were shown being obliterated by a red alien laser beam in “Independence Day”. With the growing reality and accessibility of CGI, the world was on the precipice of a new type of Summer blockbuster event. That event was “Deep Impact” and it heralded the dawn of the modern day disaster film.
Many attribute “Independence Day” with the revival of the disaster film genre, whose roots trail as far back as the early 1900s (Fire!, 1901, being one of the first). But, in the strictest sense, I don’t see an alien invasion as a disaster. At least, not a natural one. With this in mind, “Deep Impact” truly is the modern day harbinger of the disaster film.
The premise of “Deep Impact” is that, after discovering a comet is on a direct collision path with Earth, the United States government, in lieu of alerting the general public, begins constructing an elaborate underground cave system in the Limestone caves of Missouri. Intended to hold as many people as they possible can, including the best and brightest minds and several thousand citizens chosen at random via a national lottery (no one over the age of 50, though), these underground caves are to serve only as a last-ditch measure.
All hope, as President Tom Beck (played by Morgan Freeman) truly rests on a joint space mission between the United States and Russia, whereby, a crew will land on the comet, named Wolf-Biederman for the teacher and student (Elijah Wood) who discovered it, set explosives and ultimately render it, and it’s pieces, too small to be a threat. Should they fail, the comet will strike Earth with such force as to be seen as an extinction-level-event (ELE) – laying waste to the landscape of every continent. Heavy stuff.
With little time to spare, and wanting to leave nothing to chance, Leo Biederman, a young astronomy student partially-credited with the discovery of the comet, weds his would-be girlfriend (played by Leelee Sobieski). Now considered family, her place and safety are assured should the space mission to destroy the comet fail. I love this bit in the film. Two teenagers, barely of age, getting married in a selfless act to save each other and their families. It lends a bit of tenderness to a film packed with tension. It’s also that moment when you realize the normal rules no longer apply. It’s do or do not. Live or die.
Deemed more credible than “Armageddon”, the film did not fare quite as well at the box office, despite taking in a respectable $349M. Heavy on emotion, focusing more on the affect of the impending disaster on a smaller, more finite group of people and their relationships with one another, “Deep Impact” has a palpably more feminine touch to it. Director Mimi Leder is to be credited with bringing humanity to a story that could have just as easily been all about explosions, riots and the chaos that disasters foster. Make no mistake, however. Leder doesn’t shy away from action, either, not in “Deep Impact”, but she uses it as but one tool in a wide and varied tool chest that makes the film more accessible to a wider audience. I think this speaks to the overall success of the film as a whole – even if there will always be the subset of viewer who would rather skip the hugs and tears for the full-on explosions invariably to take place at the end of the world.
Explore more –
Online: Deep Impact on IMDB
Wiki facts: Deep Impact wiki
Watch the trailer: Deep Impact trailer
Watch the full-length film for FREE with Amazon Prime: Deep Impact full-length film