Deep Impact strikes the planet with a brand new 4K transfer
By Jim Bray
Talk about a "hit" movie!
Deep Impact was one of two "When Worlds Collide-type" movies released in 1998, the other being the Michael Bay/Bruce Willis action/adventure flick "Armageddon." The latter did better at the box office, but pales Deep Impact, in my never humble opinion, in its status as a good science fiction movie. Or even as a good disaster movie.
Still, they're both worth watching.
Alas, this is not the best example of a 4K transfer that I've seen – the new Blu-ray looks nearly as good when it's up converted – but it's still a fine release that's quite satisfying.
For those who haven't seen Deep Impact, it opens when a student astronomer (Elijah Wood – yep, Frodo himself, before he was Frodo himself) discovers that a previously unknown comet is heading straight for Mother Earth and it's big enough to cause an "Extinction Level Event," which means, to make a bad pun, he comes up with a brand new "Big Bang" theory.
Fast forward a while and a TV reporter (Tea Leoni, whose character works for MSNBC, no less, which caused me much laughter) stumbles across what she thinks is a salacious story about a politician who's resigning his position supposedly to hide an affair he had with someone named "Ellie". Turns out the guy (James Cromwell) is retiring because he knows about the real "ELE" and wants to spend the remaining days with his family before they all get flattened.
But Leoni's dogged pursuit of the scandal (she wants to be an anchor and a scoop like this could help her rise in the corporate hierarchy) comes to the attention of the powers-that-be, including the president (played beautifully by Morgan Freeman), all of whom think she's about to release to the public information on the ELE, whereas of course she's planning to release the scuttlebutt on Ellie.
The confusion is put to rest in a presidential press briefing when he announces that ELE is a real thing, and also notes that since they found out about it they've built underground cave bunkers to use as arks, as well as builing a spaceship (piloted by the always-great Robert Duvall) whose mission is to land on the comet and blow it to bits – if not smithereens – that are small enough as to minimize the problem by them burning up in the atmosphere the way meteors do every day in real life.
We never actually see much of the arks, but we do get treated to almost all of the space mission, which is pretty cool, as well as the desperation of ordinary people faced with an extraordinary challenge.
As with When Worlds Collide, we get to see the best and the worst of humanity in action – and we also get to see some pretty nifty special effects when the comet finally slams into the planet.
It's a compelling yarn, told well, with a fine cast (which also includes Maximilian Schell, Vanessa Redgrave, Leelee Sobieski and others) and terrific production values. I enjoyed it a lot.
A bit of a downside is that it seems as if every main character gets a scene that's unnecessarily maudlin – though on the other hand a couple of scenes (such as Wood's character returning to save his new wife) transcend the maudlin and are actually quite touching.
This new, anniversary disc package comes with the aforementioned 4K disc, but inside the box there's also a conventional Blu-ray that also includes "legacy" extras (which means it's stuff that was released previously, not that that's necessarily a bad thing) such as a commentary track and a series of features on the production of the film.
The documentaries are pretty good, too, including an audio commentary with director Leder and Scott Farrar. Of course, then you have to watch the movie on Blu-ray instead of 4K to partake of it.
You also get a few short featurettes, which are actually pretty good as well:
"Preparing for the End" – in which screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin notes the "When Worlds Collide" connection. "Making an Impact" is pretty self-explanatory, while "Creating the Perfect Traffic Jam" shows how they pulled off that massive (and non-CG, we find out) traffic jam of hopeless and desperate people trying to get to high enough ground before the big wave washes over them. "Parting Thoughts" is, not surprisingly, a wrap up on the film and its legacy.
You also get a Teaser Trailer, a Theatrical Trailer and a photo gallery.
As for the 4K picture quality, while it isn't "pop off the screen" wondrous like some 4K discs are, it's still a nice upgrade to the Blu-ray and other formats on which it's been released. Paramount says it has been remastered, though perhaps a good restoration could have helped. It's a shame, because Paramount knows how to do such things extremely well; just look at Dragonslayer, The Ten Commandments, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and others.
Still, the image, which features Dolby Vision and HDR-10 enhancement is quite film-like, with natural grain and terrific colours and black levels. Some of the effects scenes eschew the grain, which kind of gives away the fact that they're effects scenes, though to look at them you know they're effects scenes anyway because, well, in real life, we don't see the Earth destroyed every day unless you're talking about polticians' actions rather than "acts of God".
Heck, it's the effects scenes I really wanted to see anyway, and they look great!
Actually, I came for the effects, but stayed for the story. It's nice when both parts of the equation work out like that.
There's no Dolby Atmos offered on the audio side, but I daresay most consumers won't care because the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 to which Atmos down converts will work just fine on their systems. And you'll be rewarded, too. The lossless audio uses all five point one channels well, with exquisite fidelity.
I'd never seen Deep Impact all the way through before, but I'm glad Paramount made it possible to do so 25 years later with this new 4K disc release. It isn't perfect, but it's a definite upgrade and a very worthwhile couple of hours in the home theatre.
Copyright 2023 Jim Bray