Deep Impact: Special Edition (1998)

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Released 17-Aug-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Mimi Leder (Director) And Scott Farrar (Special Effects)
Featurette-Preparing For the End
Featurette-Making Of-Making An Impact
Featurette-Creating The Perfect Traffic Jam
Featurette-Parting Thoughts
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 116:18
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mimi Leder
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Robert Duvall
Téa Leoni
Elijah Wood
Vanessa Redgrave
Morgan Freeman
Maximilian Schell
James Cromwell
Ron Eldard
Jon Favreau
Laura Innes
Mary McCormack
Richard Schiff
Leelee Sobieski
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music James Horner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German
Turkish
English Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
German Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Having suffered through Willow, Ladyhawke and The Neverending Story (actually no, suffering isn't the right word for the last one - it held a certain charm, so long as your age hadn't reached double digits) all I could do was heap praise on Peter Jackson when all my seemingly elusive dreams of the perfect cinematic fantasy exploded in front of my eyes at the opening night of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring some two and a half years ago. Here at last was a film that managed to belong to the fantasy genre and at the same time grace my, and so many others', Best Films lists. Unfortunately for me, another of my favourite genres, or sub genres, natural disaster movies, has yet to provide a film I would feel comfortable rewarding with the label 'great'. So often I have marvelled at the spectacle of such films - Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow, Volcano - only to be disappointed, sometimes bitterly, with the inanity of their plots, characterisation and dialogue. It got to a point where I wondered whether it was indeed possible to have a smart, geopolitically savvy disaster flick with believable characters. Then Deep Impact arrived on the scene, and I was once again reassured it was possible. There are moments of real inspiration contained in its frames, not surprising seeing that the master himself, Steven Spielberg, saw to it that two of Hollywood's brightest new screenwriters had the job of scripting it. Potential was certainly there and my dream remained intact.. Intact, though not realised, as for all its virtues (Morgan Freeman's performance as the U.S. president amongst the best of them), the film can't avoid stumbling through the creative wilderness back onto the unadventurous path of cheesy, unbearable clichés. It also loses a sense of the humanity of the Extinction Level Event (ELE) - a vast comet hurtling towards earth - which threatens with extinction, instead preferring to unite father and daughter on a lonely beach (Tea Leoni and Maximilian Schell) in a scene that gushes with melodramatic sentimentality and is painfully unconvincing.

    Tea Leoni is Jenny Lerner, an ambitious TV journalist who suspects the President (Freeman) is covering up the sudden resignation of a member of his Cabinet (James Cromwell). Elly, as 'she' is named, Lerner is convinced is the name of a mistress or seductive intern. In fact she is actually an acronym for a globally devastating event - a comet, half discovered by Frodo Baggins himself, Elijah Wood, playing a gawky kid, Leo Beiderman, who happens to see the comet during an astronomy night in his home town. Brought into the mix are the strained relationship between Jenny and her mother (a sadly underused Vanessa Redgrave) and her father (Schell), the teenaged love of Leo's life Sarah (Leelee Sobieski) and the brave team of astronauts (yes, the similarities with the almost simultaneously released Armageddon continue), who include Jon Favreau and the great Robert Duvall, who does what he can with a character with less dimension than a sheet of paper. But it's not really about the characters anyway is it - it's about devastation and destruction. Well, there is some of that, but the spectacle is hardly as impressive as subsequently released films, or even its box office rival Armageddon. There are some interesting ideas about how a nation would prepare for and cope with the onslaught of such a cataclysmic event, but the whole notion of an underground city (H.G. Wells anyone?), in my opinion the most interesting concept, was never explored. Instead we get comet drilling and a many thousand car pileup and many angst ridden scenes involving families being ripped apart. I probably shouldn't judge so harshly, especially seeing as a good portion of the plot centres around ideas I thought were important to such a story. Unfortunately, though, it left me feeling flat, even after (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) we are all spared from death. I was also a little disappointed that a film of this scope, dealing with a global tragedy, chose to view it through an entirely American prism. I realise this is an American production but was it entirely unreasonable to expect a few international scenes? Even Independence Day managed that.

    Having seen Deep Impact for a fourth time since its theatrical release I now wonder whether I can or should expect anything more from the genre. Could it be that this is one brand of film that would not survive without the hammy acting, the plot contrivances and equal measures of chest beating and earnest moralising? I have not the talent nor wisdom to definitively say, but only know that, in spite of my admiration for the serious intent of the film, its solemnity becomes a little trying. Acting greats like Redgrave, Freeman and Duvall do what they can to inject some genuine pathos and depth, but in the end I was almost wishing for Bruce Willis to come to the world's (and the film's) rescue...almost.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is the second Region 4 incarnation of this film, and although entitled 'Special Edition' based on the video quality, I doubt very much that any more time and effort has gone into the transfer since the original release. Whilst certainly not bad, being a big budget Hollywood spectacular you expect high quality, and this effort is decent if not spectacular, and for me, a little disappointing.

    The transfer is listed as being 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, which accurately reproduces the original aspect ratio. So far so good.

    Sharpness is consistently good, if better in the foreground than background (not surprising, considering the wide angles and sheer level of information), and shadow detail is of a high standard.

    The colours were decent, but I must confess I found them a little too drab and muted. Saturation levels were good, although skin tones did seem a little unnatural to me.

    There were some instances of grain, but they weren't terribly distracting. MPEG artefacts bothered me a little more, particularly on close ups of faces, and on quick pans on wide angles. Aliasing was not of concern.

    The print was fairly clean but there were still occasional intrusions by film artefacts, mostly minor.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio fares significantly better, with a rich 5.1 Dolby Digital English track, and a 5.1 German track mixed at a lower kilobyte rate. Also of note is the director's audio commentary, presented in English 2.0 Dolby Stereo.

    I sampled the German track and found it to be of equally good quality compared with its English counterpart, which I listened to in its entirety.

    Dialogue was crystal clear and well presented. Audio sync was excellent, and there were no blemishes or drop outs to worry about.

    The surrounds aren't used as aggressively as one might expect, as a lot of this film is centred around dialogue (a double edged sword I think). The music of James Horner is the major beneficiary of the surround mix, providing some great moments of ambience. Unfortunately this is one of Horner's least memorable efforts (or maybe I found it too memorable, as so much of it is borrowed from Apollo 13, Courage Under Fire and Titanic). It is a solid action score however, and tugs at the heart strings, and causes the knuckles to whiten at the appropriate times.

    The subwoofer fares better than the surrounds, and there is some really nice use of LF Effects - subtle but ominous rumbling.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    So, why the new release? Is it worth substituting the previous rendition? Well I suppose it all depends on your affection for extras, which are the significant (perhaps only) improvement over the original DVD, which had a couple of trailers.

Audio commentary with director Mimi Leder and Visual Effects Supervisor Scott Farrar

    This is a solid effort, with a nice rapport between the two participants eliciting some interesting anecdotes about the shoot. Obviously recorded a number of years after the film's release, it seems specifically for this DVD, Leder details the pros and cons of doing such a large film - problems shooting in Washington DC (security restrictions) and explanations of key scenes. It was also interesting to hear how much footage was cut from the film, originally intended to be three hours in length. Much of it sounded very interesting, and all seemed to do with character development - something I would have appreciated, but successions of 'test audiences' did not. There are some gaps in the commentary but it is well worth a listen.

Documentaries

    Preparing for the End (8:58)

    Making an Impact (12:10)

    Creating the Perfect Traffic Jam (6:16)

    Parting Thoughts (4:52)

    Although presented separately, these segments would have been far better off edited together. What is it with DVD producers and their penchant for slicing up documentaries into useless chapters? At least give us a Play All option!  As the titles suggest, the four sections deal with pre-production - always extensive for a movie of this scope, filming itself, the organisation and shooting of one of the film's most elaborate scenes - a massive car jam on a freeway and a short coda, in which the key creative talents offer some final words. Presented at 1.33:1 aspect ratio, these segments are interesting and cover a lot of material.

Photo gallery

    A series of about sixty stills, three quarters of which seem drawn directly from the film, the final ones obviously taken behind the scenes, showing the director conversing with actors and members of the crew. A nice collection.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can tell this Special Edition version of the film is not yet available anywhere else, and as such, this is the version of choice.

    The Region 1 release misses out on:

    Finally it seems the Region 4 is a clear winner.

Summary

    Deep Impact has quite a bit going for it, and I hope I haven't overplayed its deficiencies. It is a sci-fi spectacular with some good ideas that don't all come off.

    The video transfer is a little disappointing for this so-called Special Edition.

    The audio is excellent.

    The extras are a welcome inclusion and complement the film well.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Scott Murray (Dont read my bio - it's terrible.)
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S100, using Component output
DisplaySony 76cm Widescreen Trinitron TV. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DVR-S100 (built in)
SpeakersYamaha NX-S100S 5 speakers, Yamaha SW-S100 160W subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
finally - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic)
A directors cut would be interesting. -