An extinction-level-event asteroid is heading for Earth and a family is struggling to find shelter from all the colossal mayhem in underground bunkers. Yeah, that’s the combined plots of both Deep Impact and 2012. Can you say “rip-off?” LOL!
I’m guessing the screenwriter saw both movies and said, “Hey, I got an idea! What if I combined both films?! This way I won’t have to bother thinking of a new story!” If you’ve seen the two previous movies and then saw the trailer, you know what I’m talking about. It’s literally the same movies smashed together! Anyway, you got Scottish structural engineer John Garrity (Gerard Butler) who’s going through a rough patch with his beautiful wife, Allison (Morena Baccarin), and trying to tell his diabetic 7-year-son, Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd) that everything’s going to be alright. But, it’s not. Not by a long shot!
Y’see, Clarke’s in town, and by that I mean, “Clarke” is the newly christened comet that’s plummeting to Earth in hundreds of scattered shards. But there’s no need for concern, right? Wrong! Quicker than you can say “Armageddon”, John gets a Presidential Alert on his phone that tells him that he and his family are allowed to board a special U.S. Army plane that’s gonna fly them to a super-secret underground bunker in Greenland for safety. But there’s a major problem (of course!) when John is separated from Allison and Nathan at the crazy air force base. Like the ending of When World’s Collide, things go very bad.
The entire second act is a game of catch-up, as both John and Allison, separated from each other and without cellphone service, struggle to rendezvous at their in-laws in Kentucky, each having the worst of possible adventures on the way. John trying to hitch a ride and almost getting killed, while Allison and Nathan hook up with a “kind couple” that inexplicably turns on a dime. They finally reach Allison’s fathers place (Scott Glen) when (horrors!) an announcement is made on the TV: a planet-killer comet is less than 23 hrs away! And NO space shuttles to stop it either!! Well, gee, that’s a bummer!
John, Allison, and Nathan have one chance. Miraculously locate a secret air field in Canada that is flying people to Greenland and to those hidden bunkers, and do it in less than 23 hours! Will they do it? Can they find the last plane out? Will that nasty ‘ol comet strike and cause bad things to happen? Huh, what do you think will happen? If you’ve ever seen any of the disaster movies that are exactly like this one, you already have your answer. A delayed movie because of you-know-what, this very clichéd film hits all the tropes and checks all the lists of your typical disaster movie. In fact, I was ticking them off in my head as the movie was playing.
But it’s no wonder, as screenwriter Chris Sparling has had a career of writing totally forgettable films like ATM, The Sea of Trees, and Mercy to name a few. But, as clichéd as this one is, it does generate some mighty good nail-biting and suspenseful scenes here and there. The opening airport melee when John and his family are first split apart is pretty harrowing, while some other minor scenes are just as good. But then you have other random, dumb moments of WTH lunacy that come out of left field, pointless side-plots that go nowhere, and crater-sized plot holes that can’t be ignored.
Add to that spotty SyFy Channel-ish SPFX that range from meh to okay, not bad. The climatic planet-killer comet isn’t even shown! I guess they ran outta money at one point. At least director Ric Roman Waugh knows how to direct an actioner, since he did 2019’s Angel Has Fallen with Butler and the Rock’s Snitch. The man can make microwaving popcorn look like it’s a matter of life and death. And he has good stock to work with Butler and Baccarin in front of the camera, as these two sell this ordinary movie from frame one. Their intensity and commitment makes this schlock worth watching, if only for their gifted performances. And let’s not overlook young Roger Dale Floyd who’s only done a few TV shows. This kid is not your cutsie, over-acting Disney “star”; he acts so real and grounded, I bought into his role immediately. Bravo!
**Currently streaming on Amazon Prime and other VOD
Deep Impact (1998)
Back in 1998, this movie and Michael Bay’s Armageddon came out at the same time, but with different storylines. Whereas Bay had his signature sweeping, wide, slo-mo, panning shots, and Bruce Willis, this movie had three dramatic stories running concurrently with better results.
It starts with an innocent high-school star-gazing party and amateur teenager astronomer Leo Biederman (Elijah Wood) discovering an unusual object in the sky. He sends a picture to Dr. Marcus Wolf (Charles Martin Smith), who (gasp!!) realizes that it’s a comet on a collision course with Earth! Uh-oh! Fast-forward to a year later and intrepid TV reporter Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) think she’s getting the dirt on the Secretary of the Treasury over a girl named Ellie, but surprise! To her horror, she finds out that Ellie is really an E.L.E. (extinction level event) and that President Beck (Morgan Freeman) has been sitting on this info to keep people from panicking.
But since the comet’s getting closer, the POTUS announces to the world what’s up. His plan? Send a bunch of astronauts in a space shuttle, led by Captain Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner (Robert Duval), to blow that sucker up. As the team of astronauts are getting their act together, Jenny hits the airwaves as the new TV anchorwoman, while trying to reconcile with her estranged father (Maximilian Schell). Meanwhile, Leo is becoming quite a popular kid in his neighborhood because he discovered the comet. He also has his eyes on pretty Sarah (Leelee Sobieski), who he wants to marry someday.
When the shuttle fails to destroy the comet, Plan B goes into effect. A lottery for 800K to go into underground bunkers made for only 200K is taken with obviously disastrous results. While people are rioting, the astronauts plan a last-ditch idea: make their shuttle a suicide bomb. Even though they succeed in blowing-up the comet (well, most of it), bits of it still hit the planet causing catastrophic floods, damage, and deaths. In the end, the only survivors in our three-arc story are the teenagers, Leo and Sarah.
Written by Bruce Joel Rubin (Jacobs Ladder) and Michael Tolkin (The Player) this film, unlike Bay’s Armageddon, isn’t played for forced laughs and ridiculous subplots. The characters are real, not two-dimensional caricatures shot with graduated filters on the camera lens. Oy! Each of the three stories has a deep, emotional impact (like the comet) which resonates long after the movie is over. In fact, this movie is a real downer because of it. Armageddon may be silly, useless fluff, but at least you got some cheap laughs out of it. This movie will have you reaching for a box of Kleenex and a sharp knife by act three. Yeah, there’s a sorta ‘happy ending’, but it’s tinged with bittersweet memories.