Friday, July 15, 2022

#2,784. Meteor (1979) - Natalie Wood 4-Pack


I’m an unapologetic fan of ‘70s disaster films. I love The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, even Earthquake, so as you can imagine I was excited to check out 1979’s Meteor, a movie that, like its predecessors, featured an all-star cast and the promise of some very intense action scenes.

Unfortunately, where Meteor came up short is in the special effects department. In fact, “came up short” is putting it mildly: the effects in this movie suck!

A comet collides with the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, causing a 5-mile-wide rock to break orbit and hurtle towards earth. Hoping to prevent an impact, which would likely extinguish all life on the planet, former NASA scientist Paul Bradley (Sean Connery) and the administrator’s current chief Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) try to convince the U.S. President (Henry Fonda) and military leaders such as General Aldon (Martin Landau) to fire the nuclear missiles from the orbiting Hercules satellite directly at the meteor.

Realizing that even this firepower won’t be enough to destroy it, Bradley and Sherwood coerce the President into contacting Russia in the hopes they, too, will fire their missiles from a similar satellite and end the threat. To this end, Soviet scientist Dr. Dubov (Brian Keith) and his interpreter Tatiana (Natalie Wood) fly to New York, where they will work closely with their American counterparts to obliterate the meteor. They all watch in horror as smaller, “splinter” asteroids hit earth, resulting in the total destruction of some key cities around the globe, but work diligently nonetheless to save the planet from total annihilation.

There are a few things I liked about Meteor, starting with its cast. Connery, Malden, Wood, and Keith (not speaking a word of English… all of his dialogue is in Russian) manage to convince us that the threat is real, while Fonda, Landau, and Trevor Howard (as Sir Michael Hughes, who is tracking the path of the meteor in England) are solid in support. There are also moments throughout the film, especially in the last half hour, when the tension reaches a fever pitch, and the filmmakers did get a bit creative with the “splinter” asteroids, which cause everything from avalanches to tidal waves.

Most (or all) of these positives are undermined, however, by the film’s shoddy effects, from the shots in space of the approaching meteor and the launching of the missiles (thanks to Star Wars, which was released only two years earlier, audiences undoubtedly expected better outer space sequences than this film delivered) to the devastation caused by the smaller asteroids (neither the above-mentioned avalanche nor the tidal wave look the least bit convincing).

Meteor isn’t a total waste of time, but not even its amazing cast is enough to rescue this film from its technological mediocrity.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

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