Saturday, May 30, 2009


Meteor; Disaster film, USA, 1979; D: Ronald Neame, S: Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard, Henry Fonda

Scientists observe how a comet hits a 5 mile wide asteroid, Orpheus, and catapults it from the asteroid belt directly towards Earth. Dr. Bradley is brought to his former boss Sherwood in order to plan how to prevent the catastrophe: the only opportunity is to use US spaceship 'Hercules' carrying nuclear missiles, originally aimed at the Soviet Union, to launch the missiles at the meteor. Soviet scientist Dubov and translator Tatiana arrive to New York to also use the Soviet spaceship's nuclear missiles to support the offensive. A small asteroid fragment falls on New York, but the missiles destroy it and save the Earth.

One of the last supplements to the long dated disaster film genre, "Meteor" is a sufficient achievement, one of those films that are so grey and uneventful that you don't remember anything about them a few weeks after you've seen them. Disregarding the plot holes - for instance, how can an asteroid from the asteroid belt arrive to Earth in only 6 days? - the story is poor with amplitude of events and displays just a standard, albeit correct story of the scientists saving the world from an asteroid, 19 years before "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact". The special effects vary: some shots of space are amazing, while others, like the one where a fragment of the meteor falls on the Alps and causes an avalanche that sweeps a local ski resort, seem naively dated. Bland, stiff and mechanical, "Meteor" is simply an overlong flick that never seems suspenseful, while the actors do their best but can't make anything special out of the ordinary screenplay - for instance, the scene where Sean Connery's Dr. Bradley talks with Natalie Wood's Soviet translator Tatiana and she tells him her long story about her life, is a drag. A few messages about Cold war and rival governments who become friends when they have to cooperate are neat, yet in the end "Meteor" is a boring, but solid film.



cinemarchaeologist said...

" the end 'Meteor' is a boring, but solid film."

Well, you're half-right.

METEOR was a godawful movie, plagued with production problems right from the beginning. AIP was overreaching, trying to compete with Irwin Allen's huge-budget disaster-movie gravy train, and it followed Allen's formula, which said that all you needed to have a hit was a disaster concept, some soapy sub-plots, a large ensemble cast of has-beens and never was-es to act it all out (some still great, admittedly), and a whole lot of impressive special effects. The movie was a massive flop, one of the worst of the entire decade of the 1970s. In spite of winning an Oscar (!!!) for Best Sound, its real historical significance is as one of the films that finally drove the mighty ship of AIP aground.

METEOR was one of the last of the big disaster films, but the worst was yet to come--the coup de grace was delivered by the guy who practically invented the genre, Irwin Allen himself. The year after METEOR, he gave us THE SWARM. Whereas METEOR was mostly bland and forgettable, THE SWARM was so bad it was hilarious, and remains a huge-budgeted mini-classic of bad cinema (I MUCH prefer it to METEOR, because of the unintentional entertainment factor).

Marin Mandir said...

Exactly. You pretty much said it all.

By the way, "Meteor" really is bland, but at least it's an OK film. There are so many that are not even that. In my opinion, 2 years later Matsumoto made such a better contribution to the "a giant asteroid/planet approaching Earth" topic with "Queen Millennia", an amazing animated series.