A huge meteor is headed towards earth and if it hits it means extinction for the planet. Hopefully scientist Sean Connery has a plan to save us. By using the top secret nuclear weapon satellite ‘Hercules’ they can blast the meteor splitting it in two, it will miss the earth and we can avoid this catastrophe!
However, Hercules doesn’t have enough firepower to do the job alone, so the U.S. has to enlist the help of the Russians and their own secret nuclear weapon satellite system to do the job. The two countries have to put their Cold War differences aside in order to save humanity!
And in the midst of all the suspense Connery can flirt with pretty Russian translator Natalie Wood, while President Henry Fonda, General Martin Landau, Russian scientist Brian Keith, and NASA honcho Karl Malden bite their nails, try to maintain calm and engage in melodramatic bickering and solemn prayer.
By 1979 the disaster genre was on its last legs. What started in the beginning of the decade as crowd-pleasing, all-star entertainment with big-budgets gradually started to lose its luster. Any kind of disaster scenario imaginable was used and the template of big stars running for cover and trying to survive calamities had gotten old.
Audiences were bored by it and the disaster genre really started to scrape the bottom of the barrel. The genre became filled with ridiculous scenarios, lazy stories, cheesy effects and actors sleepwalking through performances. They simply lacked quality and audiences just got really tired of them.
Cue Meteor. Here was a worldwide disaster. This wasn’t just a bunch of passengers on a boat, a plane or residents of a major city – this was the whole world who was at risk. That lofty threat doesn’t help this movie at all.
It’s a lousy movie that has very little worthwhile in it. The performances are stiff, the story is boring and the effects are cheap. The majority of the movie you’re waiting for the big meteor strike to happen, and all the while you have to witness insipid scenes between the actors who attempt to build-up this dreaded cataclysmic event.
But you end up just wanting it to happen because you are so bored. And then when it does happen it’s so poorly done that you feel cheated and don’t care if any of the characters survive it. You kind of hope none of them do!
When the big disaster is the climax you need something to keep you interested up to that point. Here there’s nothing. It probably would have been wiser had the movie set up mini-meteorites hitting the earth leading up to the big one. And they kinda do. There’s a few meteor strikes in distant countries. We see some poorly done explosions and extras running around, but it’s just glossed over while our heroes stand back in their bunker looking at screens and countdown clocks.
It might have been more exciting had these little meteors affected out main cast as they have to run from place to place avoiding them and having to reset up their headquarters in preparation for the big nuke launch. Maybe have our heroes all scattered around the globe moving from place to place from the little meteors until they meet up in the main location where they prep the nukes together.
At least that would have provided a bit more excitement and suspense. As it stands Connery and Wood just hang out looking bored watching the drama unfold on monitors.
The special effects are grade Z-level. Some of the shots are so laughably bad it’s hard to imagine how such name stars got involved in a production like this. There’s dramatic music and supposed impressive space shots of the missile models preparing to launch and it’s eye-rolling.
They really look like something a kid would put together. And then it’s all shot in slow-motion because we’re in space you know. So that makes things drag even more! Probably most of the budget went to the actors salaries. So I guess it was a decent payday for them, but other than the getting some easy cash this movie didn’t do them any favors.
According to its wikipedia page referencing Wood’s biography the cast knew full well the film was going to be a disaster while they were filming it. I am not surprised at all. There’s no energy, creativity or tension anywhere in this flick.
There’s one funny decision in this movie that I was mesmerized by. Brian Keith is a Russian scientist right. He needs to speak to Connery, so Wood is his translator.
Everytime they talk it goes like this – Connery speaks, Wood translates in Russian, Keith answers in Russian, Wood translates that back to English, then we go back to Connery speaking, then Wood translating it again in Russian….on and on and on.
When this started I thought ‘Ok they’ll do this for a minute or two and then Keith would start talking rough English or maybe they’ll use subtitles or they’ll do something to streamline this someway’. No! It makes these already boring scenes even more grueling to sit through.
Seeing Wood speak Russian is pretty impressive, but that’s about all she gets to do in this flick.
Landau is so over-the-top stubborn at times I thought if the meteor didn’t destroy the earth he would have. He has one entertaining scene where he basically just yells that’s he’s not allowed to make all the decisions. He actually manages to liven things up by doing this childish rant. I guess it was the lean post-Bond/pre-Oscar win years for Connery and he was just willing to grab any work he could, good or bad.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen every disaster flick ever made, but I can’t imagine Meteor not being placed way down at the bottom of the list. Heck, I liked The Swarm better than this!
Believe it or not, there is an even worse disaster flick. It came just one year after this horrible movie: "When Time Ran Out" (1980) It stars Paul Newman, William Holden & Jacqueline Bissett. Among the other recognizable actors are Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Burgess Meredith, Veronica Hamel & Pat Morita. Borgnine & Buttons were both in the Posieden Adventure so maybe…oh never mind. As much as Meteor is boring & terrible, I believe "When Time Ran Out" has it beat.
I'm going to have to second that! METEOR has a few, not a lot, but a few moments of unintentional laughs and I love the irony that the entire cast thought this movie was going to be a massive disaster. ARMAGEDDON may be only slightly better than METEOR, although when I reviewed that again 15 years after seeing in the theater I got such a migraine from all the obnoxious dialogue, moronic romance and inane heroics.
WHEN TIME RAN OUT is most assuredly the worst of the worst when it came to all of these disaster epics. Hell, even THE SWARM is more fun and entertaining than all three of these "meteor/asteroid" films. I would rather watch the 2 1/2 hour version of THE SWARM than anything directed by Michael Bay. Great review, interesting to "revisit" this pathetic movie 🙂