Thanks to her brilliant work on TV's ER, Mimi Leder became one of Hollywood's premiere action-movie directors, and her sophomore feature, Deep Impact, is a flawed but nonetheless interesting effort that allows her to explore the notion of total Armageddon. Dark and pensive, the movie is more of a character-driven drama than a sci-fi disaster pic. Not surprisingly, Leder seems more at ease with the epic action sequences and less confident when directing the human interest scenes. The narrative becomes increasingly preachy as it evolves, culminating with Morgan Freeman's closing presidential speech punctuated with a hyper-dramatic score. While the finale does provide the cursory tidal waves and exploding cities, they still seem anti-climactic due to the countless sappy, tearful reunions peppered throughout the narrative. Even though Leder desperately tries to focus on characterization, the talented ensemble cast seems underdeveloped and unengaging, thanks in large part to the cardboard lines they are forced to deliver. Deep Impact simultaneously attempts to have the bang of Independence Day and the dramatics of Titanic, and moderately succeeds on both fronts. Even though audiences seeking a relentless thrill-ride may be disappointed, the film is still leagues better than Armageddon, the other asteroid blockbuster released in the summer of '98.