Movies you probably missed: Deep Impact (1998)

As clumsily-paced as Deep Impact was, it’s still superior than the louder and more financially successful Michael Bay explosion-porn Armageddon.

Deep Impact not a great movie, but it’s not a stinker either. It aims for intelligence, gets there for the most part, and gets some of the science right.

The biggest weakness is the pacing of the multiple story lines, with the movie changing focus without a good sense of timing, making it come off like 2 or 3 different movies that got smashed together by a drunken editor. There’s no sense of flow.

One other thing — calling the spaceship the “Messiah” is such a clumsy thing it completely takes me out of the film. Even years later, it jars. (Oh, and stop with showing spaceships flying aerodynamically like airplanes. If you’re going for scientific credibility, stop with the airplane flying and look at some authentic footage of the shuttle or the Apollo spacecraft. This is one of my biggest pet peeves with serious science fiction movies involving space travel — though Star Wars always gets a pass.)

What the film gets right are some decent performances, even from Téa Leoni. It’s a pity James Cromwell doesn’t have more time on screen, though. And Morgan Freeman is the president — he’s always a great addition to a cast, but any sci fi fan knows that when he’s the president, bad things are going to happen to the earth.

As I said at the beginning, despite all its problems, in my book it’s still better than Armageddon. Sorry, I have no love for Michael Bay.

Here’s the bad news: If you want to stream Deep Impact on Netflix, as of today it’s no longer available due to the streaming rights lapsing. But if you find it in the dollar bin at the DVD store, it’s worth the buck.

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