Listen to our Deep Impact episode on:
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With Armageddon and Deep Impact released mere months apart, 1998 was truly the summer of meteor movies. With a starrier cast and a certain inescapable Aerosmith hit, the former was initially more successful. However, twenty years later, Deep Impact‘s more thoughtful, character-driven approach to the genre may prove to be the one to have better stood the test of time.
Initially conceived as a Steven Spielberg project but ultimately helmed by Mimi Leder, Deep Impact is also a rare high-budget disaster movie of the era to be directed by a woman. This may account for the refreshingly diverse cast and the fact that it actually passes the Bechdel test with flying colours, with female and non-white characters prominent in virtually all aspects of the intersecting plot lines. (OK, maybe less so in the one where Elijah Wood essentially forces Leelee Sobieski to marry him or die, but at least that story gives us some nice Denise Crosby acting moments as the unhappy bride’s mother).
All that said, Deep Impact is far from a perfect movie. It might actually have benefited from being a little longer, as most of the characters are ultimately fairly thinly drawn. Teá Leoni is also an unfortunate weak link as aspiring journalist Jenny Lerner, the arguable lead of the movie. Flat and unconvincing in the emotional scenes and stilted in the moments when we’re supposed to believe she’s a talented journalist, her performance feels entirely miscast. An actor with Jodie Foster’s range and nuance could have really sold the hell out of this character, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
Still, we did get Morgan Freeman on top Presidential form, nice supporting turns from old Hollywood legends like Robert Duvall, Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell and some impressive yet relatively tasteful action set pieces when – spoiler alert – the comet finally hits earth. This is a movie that really thinks about how actual people might process an end of the world situation, rather than resting on special effects and power ballads. For that, it was well worth revisiting.
In this week’s podcast, we discuss our own strategies for surviving the apocalypse, trial some Deep Impact drinking games and pitch some sequel ideas to check back in with the surviving characters after the events of the original movie. You can check out our thoughts by following any of the links at the top of this blog post or by searching for Beyond The Box Set on your preferred Podcasting app.
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Next week, our disaster movie season continues with a special Patreon guest episode and our second dip into the murky career waters of Nicholas Cage. Until then, happy listening and remember – oceans rise, cities fall… but movie podcasts survive.