With Eyes Unclouded – Deep Impact

30 Jan

[Previous With Eyes Unclouded: Into The Wild, Dangerous Minds]

Deep Impact

In 1998 there were two movies about an asteroid hitting the earth and causing massive special-effects. Armageddon is the one most people remember, but it was a silly movie about oil drillers being sent into space to save us all by drilling for oil on an asteroid and then blowing it up. It was more or less a comedy.

Deep Impact took a more serious approach to the idea of a gigantic asteroid ending all life on earth as we know it. It’s aged in a fascinating way. I wouldn’t call it a great movie, but it was highly engaging to watch it again more than a decade later.

Here we have a scenario where the first dark-skinned president of the United States (Morgan Freeman, obviously. Who else could it be?) informs the public that there’s a chance we’re all going to die when the asteroid hits in 2000. They’ve taken precautions of course, and collaborated with the Russians to send a spaceship out to blow up the asteroid, but until that mission succeeds or fails the President just tells us to go about life as usual. Pay our bills. We’re told that leaders of other countries are saying the same to their populace.

And everyone listens.

There is no looting. No riots. No panic. No conspiracy theories. No wars break out. Everyone listens to the president, trusts him, and goes about their daily living. It’s like some crazy alternate universe. Sometimes I hear it referred to as “the 90’s.” It’s as if the concept of a “terrorist” hadn’t been invented yet. People weren’t afraid of anything, and didn’t even become so when told that life as we know it might be wiped out. It’s fascinating.

But when the spaceship fails, instead breaking the asteroid into two pieces both still headed for earth, the President must again address the nation. This time he says that most of us will die. He says that we’re still prepared, because even though the government planned and hoped for the best it was smart and organized enough to prepare effectively for the worst (remember, it’s a crazy alternate universe). So while most of us are going to die, a few people will be selected by lottery to survive in a cave system they’ve secretly and securely built underground. We’re told that leaders of other countries are saying the same to their populace.

Now, the President with his Morgan Freeman Authority declares martial law, but there is still relative peace.

People listen to the lottery rules about how certain people are pre-selected for their necessary-for-human-race-advancement skills, and how nobody over 55 will otherwise be selected, and how the rest will be informed by phone, and there is still relative peace. People go home to their phones. There are no riots. No protests. No looting. In short there is nothing dramatic at all aside from people struggling with whether or not they are chosen for survival. It’s fascinating.

And then the special effects happen, and the martyrdom, and the human race goes on no more afraid than they were before. Crazy.

I do want to say a bit about the special effects though. First of all, they are very scarce, (if all you want to see is shots of massive destruction this movie will disappoint) and second of all they age pretty poorly. The computer animated tidal wave which destroys New York is quite clearly computer generated in the days before they knew how to computer generate water (before The Perfect Storm and before Titanic). There’s also a gorgeous shot where this massive wave destroys the World Trade Center towers. Crazy alternate universe.

All in all it’s a fascinating look at a potential apocalypse where we learn that the best chance for survival is to marry Elijah Wood before he plays Frodo, and that Vanessa Redgrave is too old to survive but she’s ok with it.

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