In a race to destroy the world, 1998's Deep Impact crashes into 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Paramount. One of the big doomsday movies of the 90s, the film proves to be an entertaining jaunt into epic George Pal-scale disaster filmmaking even if it’s a bit too heavy-handed and melodramatic. Now on 4K, the film scores a respectable if often impressive Dolby Vision upgrade with the same solid TrueHD audio mix. Recommended.
If you’ve got a great movie, what’s the harm in having another one just like it? If there’s nothing else true in the world it’s that Hollywood loves to imitate and cannibalize itself. So when one studio gets a lava-fueled volcano movie, another studio is going to jump in. Likewise, if one studio has a story about humanity attempting to save itself from the impending doom of a celestial object crashing into Earth, another studio already has theirs in front of the camera. And thus, we have the story of 1998’s disaster flick throwdown Deep Impact versus Armageddon… and a few others that went direct-to-video we won’t talk about.
For Mimi Leder’s disaster epic, a more somber straight-forward tone was struck playing the material deadly seriously. The film opens with Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood in real life FYI) playing teenage amateur astronomer Leo Biederman who is just trying to impress his girlfriend (pre-Eyes Wide Shut Leelee Sobieski) when he spots a new star. But it’s not a star shining so bright in the sky, but a comet and it’s on a direct course to collide with Earth! With precious little time, President Beck (Morgan Freeman), impetuous MSNBC reporter Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni), and the rest of the world will have to hope and pray that a long-shot attempt to destroy the comet succeeds - or prepare for the worst.
If we’re going to compare the comet/asteroid disaster film twofer to other recent 90s disaster films Volcano and Dante’s Peak, Deep Impact is the Dante’s Peak effort. It’s more somber and straightforward. It aims to be somewhat sort-of kinda scientifically accurate and play things strictly dramatically with little room for humor or high-entertainment shenanigans or songs from Aerosmith. This straightforward approach can be good for disaster movies. It’s what helps flicks like The Day After Tomorrow work so well. The only problem is there are entirely too many characters and side stories for any one piece of the character puzzle to land emotionally.
While certainly a stupid highly entertaining movie, Armageddon kept the characters simple and they’re never far away from each other. They were all together part of the mission to save the world. Deep Impact has the kid, the President, the reporter, the reporter’s mom, the reporter’s estranged dad and his new trophy wife, the kid’s girlfriend, the kid’s girlfriend’s family, the astronauts, the astronauts' family, blah, blahblah, blah-de-dah, blah. It’s a lot of too much.
With that many characters, most of the dramatic pieces about coping with the knowledge the world could end fall flat or drifts into cheap melodrama. Watching this film again after many years away I thought it was humorous that Morgan Freeman’s President Beck has a comically large hourglass on his desk exactly like the one from the intro to Days of Our Lives. Like sands through the hourglass, so too will this movie plod along before getting to the good stuff.
Now admittedly, it’s been the better end of two decades since I last earnestly sat down to watch Deep Impact and I do have to admit that it’s pretty good. It may be too much movie for its short runtime with too many characters to get fully emotionally attached to, but I will say I enjoyed myself. The film works in pieces. Mimi Leder finds great moments within various parts of the film to give her talented cast some meaty material to work with. But the small bits and pieces don’t always connect with everything else that’s going on as we eagerly await that giant fireball from the sky to come crashing into the planet. The third act thankfully finds itself and really clicks. There’s enough action, tension, and drama with big special effects in those final forty minutes to make the front end worth sitting for.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Deep Impact crashes into 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a new two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital release. The 4K version is pressed on a BD-66 disc, the 1080p disc is the same one Paramount released back in 2009. The discs are housed in a standard two-disc black case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options.
NOTE: Images have been sourced from the included 2009 Blu-ray, when we've been able to rip the disc, we'll throw up some 4K-sourced images and hopefully a video sample too.
Deep Impact explodes onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an overall pleasing 2160p Dolby Vision transfer. I say overall because there are a couple of iffy spots of Paramounting where the bitrate randomly craters and it just looks odd. The weirdest offender is when Elijah Wood proposes to Leelee Sobieski on the hill by the tree. There are other areas where the bitrate takes a hit but thankfully it doesn’t have much of a negative impact, or you wouldn't even know if you didn't turn on your player's information display.
As a whole, the transfer for Deep Impact is surprisingly very good, even with the big special effects sequences. Much of this image displays razor-sharp details with crystal-clear facial features, textures, and production design with a healthy naturally cinematic grain structure. Even some of the dodgy CGI effects still hold up pretty well and weren’t manipulated for grain or bitrate. This was still an era where model work for ships was key so that Messiah ship still looks amazing against those soft-ish CGI effects for the comets. Funny enough Earth just looks like an old PC screensaver graphic by comparison.
The Dolby Vision HDR grade (and HDR10) is very good allowing for colors, whites, and contrast to see impressive boosts. Primaries are vivid without looking too popped or over-saturated. Skin tones are healthy without looking too peached, there’s a scene or two like that one on the hill with the two kids proposing getting married (it's so weird to write that) where those skin tones get a little hot, but they’re not long enough to really get fussed about - I’m really nitpicking bringing them up. Black levels are appropriately deep and inky with great shadows for nice three-dimensional depth. Whites are crisp and clean without blooming issues. All around this is a very good transfer for a late 90s big-budget disaster epic that sees the world obsessively watching only MSNBC before they die.
This round of Deep Impact sees Paramount content by sticking to the previous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix rather than opening it up for Atmos or DTS:X. Flipping between the discs, this does sound like the same track which is fine. Since most of the film is focused on the human elements, it keeps a lot of the key elements to the front/center area with surround drifts to set the scene. When and where it counts most like the action sequences of landing the Messiah on the comet or virtually the entire third act, it’s a lively active, and immersive surround track. It’s still a sucker punch to hear a classy James Horner score sound so good and then remember he’s no longer with us. Dialog is clean and clear throughout allowing you to fully relish the idea of Morgan Freeman as your next president and his smooth soothing voice telling you you're about to die and be perfectly okay with that thought because his melodious utterances have lulled you in that sweet meditative state of bliss.
There are no bonus features on the actual 4K disc, not even the Mimi Leder/Scott Farrar commentary. This again is a bummer because you have to endure an inferior presentation to enjoy a fairly good commentary. It’s not a wildly active track, but Leder is especially a wealth of good information about pulling the film together, working with her frequent cinematographer and a lot of the team she brought over after her first film The Peacemaker. It’s odd that Ferrer really doesn’t chime in all that much, even during the heavy visual effects sequences Leder carries a lot of that conversation. I hadn’t heard this track before, but it proved to be worth the run. After that we have some typical EPK features but even by that standard, 90s-era EPK was miles better than what we see today, there’s actually some interesting behind-the-scenes stuff to look at even if it's fairly brief.
In the race to destroy Earth with a massive object from space, Deep Impact lost out to Armageddon. Mimi Leder endeavored to craft a grand dramatic disaster epic the likes of George Pal whereas Michael Bay basically went full Irwin Allen and leaned into the fun and excitement of destroying the planet. I didn’t much care for this movie twenty-five years ago, I caught it in theaters as a kid but rarely - if ever - watched it since. As an old man now I rather enjoyed the revisit. It’s still very clunky, but I appreciate more what Leder was aiming for even if the swath of characters don’t weave a very interesting tapestry. Now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Paramount delivers a rather impressive 4K Dolby Vision presentation of this 90s disaster epic. There are a couple of iffy spots of Paramounting, but nothing as serious as we’ve seen with some of their other catalog releases. The vast majority of the image is razor-sharp and often stunning to look at. Audio is the same mix as before but it still gets the film off the ground for a nice surround track. Bonus features are sadly thin and recycled, but even if you have to use the old Blu-ray, that audio commentary is an interesting listen if you've never heard it. Recommended