Deep Impact Review

by Jonathan Andrew Sheen

I just got back from seeing "Deep Impact."

What a crappy title!

But, what a heck of a movie!

"Deep Impact" obviously borrows liberally from Lucifer's Hammer -- thereby giving it a place of discussion on the "larryniven-l" mailing list -- but definitely uses its borrowed goods worthily and well.

The effects are, as the commercials promised, magnificent, awe-inspiring, terrible in the oldest, truest sense of the word.

But far better than the effects, in my view, was how they were used: Intelligently.

This is spookily close to being good science fiction. An Orion spacecraft is introduced by name, and shown relatively correctly, with only the sketchiest of explanations. even though its h-bomb propulsion will later provide a major plot point; the filmmakers' faith that we'll understand what "Orion" is and what it means is absolute. And well-found, in the theater I was in: I saw no-one who was even remotely confused.

The storyline has the government take steps that make sense, and work.

Characters we like or love die -- no one who heroically sacrifices him-or-herself is given a miraculous but cheating "Out."

Some of the borrowings from Lucifer's Hammer seem pointless. The comet has a two-part name, after the adult and juvenile who jointly discovered it. Why? (This is especially bothersome as the adult astronomer simply looks and confirms the juvenile's sighting -- Yet he puts his name on it first, ahead of the juvenile's, while I was wondering why it was there at all.)

Another echo of Hammerfall for me was that James Cromwell (the actor who played the Secretary of Whatever whose resignation from office sets off the major chain of character events in this movie) was my own pick, almost twenty years ago, to play Tim Hamner. He's too old now, of course, but then, he was dead solid perfect for the role.

One last nasty failure is that, after the impact we've seen in the commercials, we see a shot of the earth from the point of view of a spacecraft, approaching from the same direction as the comet -- but cannot see the inferno of the comet-strike, or its effect on the planet. This is a shame not only because it's a technical mistake and a missed opportunity for a cool special effect, but because we also, as a result, miss the reactions of the astronauts to seeing the devastation being wrought upon their homeworld.

My complaints, though stand as little against the movie's power as cities of the Eastern Seaboard stand against the tsunami of the comet strike.

"Deep Impact" will live in your memory long after you've seen it.

Jonathan Andrew Sheen