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January 28, 2010
Deep Impact Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
8/5/19986/1/2010ParamountMimi Leder
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Dolby TrueHD 5.1MTéa Leoni

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Téa Leoni as Jenny Lerner in Deep Impact.

Things tend to happen in pairs... Back in 1998 it was a disaster movie based on asteroids. Dreamworks had this movie, Deep Impact while only two months later Touchstone Pictures released the Bruce Willis movie Armageddon. In the end Armageddon won at the box office while Deep Impact won out in the reviews and scientific accuracy stakes. Anyway, this review is about Deep Impact, so let's get started.

Fourteen-year-old Leo Beiderman did not expect to make an earth-shattering discovery when he joined his high school astronomy club. He didn't expect to make any discoveries at all; he simply hoped that classmate Sarah Hotchner would discover him. Yet a photograph he takes through his small telescope makes him co-discoverer of Comet Wolf-Beiderman... a comet that scientists determine is on a fatal collision course with the Earth.

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Morgan Freeman puts in another fine performance.
Despite all the visual effects, and a solid but rather predictable storyline, what makes this movie so special is the characters, and the actors portraying them. Téa Leoni is great as Jenny Lerner the lead in the movie and through her performance as the news reporter we see both her professional as well as her personal side during this planetary disaster. But it's not just her performance as this movie contains a great ensemble cast including Morgan Freeman as the president, Robert Duvall as the shuttle pilot Spurgeon Tanner, James Cromwell, Elijah Wood, LeeLee Sobieski in one of her first movie roles, Jon Favreau (yes the director of Iron Man!) and Vanessa Redgrave among others. Each performance, no matter how limited in screen time, is impressive and engaging.

Looking at the movie today the visual effects in Deep Impact are a bit of a mixed bag. At the time of theatrical release these were groundbreaking but twelve years later they don't quite have the same impact. While these days CG isn't even "noticed" by the masses (have a look at Avatar, who would think that's almost a complete CG movie!) but back when Deep Impact was being developed CG was still cutting edge technology where the latest techniques were being learnt. What we see in this film was more then jaw dropping back in 1998. Some scenes such as those on or near the comet are superb today however some of the tidal wave effects don't hold up so well. Indeed water is one of the hardest things to accurately recreate in visual effect to this day. Don't expect any 2012 styled jaw-dropping scenes, but what is here is still solid enough.

I really do enjoy Deep Impact. It's not all action, there's some good character development and as a disaster movie it's pretty solid. The best, no, but still great.

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The destruction in Deep Impact rocks.
Deep Impact is presented on Blu-Ray in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Naturally the film is presented in the standard 1920 x 1080p resolution and the film typically runs at a very high bitrate over 30Mbps, even in the slower, more static screens. Now this isn't the most sparkly, nor the sharpest movies we've ever seen but the Blu-Ray offers a much better colour reproduction and level of sharpness over the DVD. Some scenes, particularly those when flying to the comet, are quite spectacular indeed.

Deep Impact comes to Blu-Ray with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track. For the most part the movie is dialogue driven and it's pretty clean and easy to understand. When the rocket launch takes place and the comets crash to earth the sound field comes completely alive with aggressive use of surround sound channels and the sub-woofer.

With the addition of the "Parting Thoughts" this Blu-Ray sees all the other extras carried over from the DVD release. For such a big-budget movie I would have hoped for a bit more, but what is here is worth a look.

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Enjoying the beach... for now.
Commentary by Director Mimi Leder and Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Farrar: Recorded several years ago for the DVD release, but a few years after the theatrical release, this is an interesting commentary (presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps) which gives some great details about the production, gathering scientists to collect information and later receiving feedback, and also discussions of the many deleted scenes (which aren't included on any DVD or Blu-Ray release as far as we know). Informative and interesting this commentary is worth your time.

Preparing For The End (8:56): This featurette looks at the possibility of a comet coming into contact with the earth and hiring the actors for the film.

Making an Impact (12:08): This looks at the filming of the movie, and the difficulties of shooting in Washington DC and working out the storyboards and visual effects including the space sequences.

Creating the Perfect Traffic Jam (6:14): We now move onto a look at creating the freeway sequence on an unopened freeway. They moved in thousands of cars to fill around a mile of freeway with a traffic jam and even got an AM radio frequency to talk to everyone in the cars via their radios. Impressive and quite spectacular.

Parting Thoughts (4:50): The director discusses the test screenings and the need to dramatically cut down the length. Also discussed is the passing of Dietrich Lohmann who got very ill during filming and had to bow out as well as a few thoughts from the writers who worked on the movie.

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Lining up for the ARK compound.
Photo Gallery: A series of 58 images from the film and production.

Teaser Trailer (1:59/HD): The teaser trailer for the film in HD.

Trailer (3:35/HD): The Theatrical trailer for the film which is actually rather lengthy and spoiler filled looking back.

While Armageddon had bigger, flashier effects, this movie from Dreamworks offers a lot more by way of character development and storyline although it is a bit slower in pacing. Still as a disaster movie this is one which I enjoy watching and the audio visual improvements to this Blu-Ray makes this worth a purchase.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.