Saturday, May 19, 2018
DISASTER MOVIES MONTH: Meteor (1979)
the Poe cycle or the “Beach Party” series, wanted to make a film about one of the few disasters that hadn't already been covered: A big-ass rock hurling from outer space and colliding with Earth. AIP partnered with Hong Kong's Shaw Bros. Studios, world famous for their kung-fu movies, to make the project happen. The result was “Meteor.” Ronald Neame, previously of “The Poseidon Adventure,” would direct. Despite its international appeal, “Meteor” was another disaster movie that flopped in the late seventies.
Deep in outer space, an American space station is struck by a massive asteroid. Named Orpheus, the five-mile wide space-rock is on its way towards Earth. Before then, a number of smaller fragments have begun pelting the planet. The U.S. Government, with the help of Dr. Paul Bradley, built a satellite equipped with nuclear missiles to protect from such a threat. The satellite, known as Hercules, has instead been used as a deterrent against Russia. The Soviet Union, of course, has developed their own space-based nuclear device. The two super-powers will have to put aside their differences if they're going to destroy Orpheus and save Earth.
a near-Earth object hitting us for cinematic thrills. The entire story takes place over a week, each day flashing on-screen as the predicted collision with Orpheus draws closer. However, the film's approach to this crisis is very underwhelming. “Meteor” takes place almost entirely inside underground bunkers and offices. Instead of focusing on how the announcement of impending doom would affect the world at large, the film looks at international matter. Far too much of “Meteor” is devoted to American and Russian officials squabbling over political matters. This is in service of a moral about global brotherhood overcoming Cold War rivalry. But it doesn't work. “Meteor” feels too small and lacks tension.
A movie all about the build-up to a meteor hitting Earth wouldn't provide much opportunities for crowd-pleasing scenes of destruction. So “Meteor” has splinters of Orpheus repeatedly striking Earth. These scenes, I'm sorry to say, are also pretty underwhelming. A scene in Hong Kong, probably included to please Run Run Shaw, notably subverts the rules about kids and dogs surviving these kind of movies. Otherwise, the shots of a huge tidal wave washing over the island are not convincing looking. The film concludes with most of New York City getting taken out. Yet the special effects are underwhelming and the affect this has on the characters is never felt. The big explosions and massive chaos makes the audience feel nothing.
Director Neame does include one really cool shot. When the American and Soviet missiles hit Orpheus, the film rapidly cuts between the two missiles as they make their impact. Other than that, “Meteor” is a complete wash. The film has a super dramatic premise but an utterly weak execution. Of all the movies I've watched for this marathon, it is the first one I've genuinely disliked. No movie about a giant rock colliding with Earth should be this fucking boring. Despite this, it seems like the film got shown on TV constantly when I was a kid. Chalk it up to nineties fascination with apocalyptic asteroids and not the film's actual quality. [4/10]
[THE DISASTER MOVIE CHECKLIST: 7 outta 10]
 Awards Bait Ballad
[X] Corrupt or Incompetent Authority Figures
[X] Destruction of Famous Landmarks
[X] Grim Predictions
[X] Group In-Fighting
[X] Heroic Sacrifices
[X] Massive Collateral Damage or Explosions
 Pets or Kids are Imperiled but Survive
 Romantic Couple Resolves Problems
[X] Star-Studded Cast