Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ronald Neame|
|Produced by||Arnold Orgolini|
Theodore R. Parvin
Run Run Shaw
|Screenplay by||Stanley Mann|
Edmund H. North
|Story by||Edmund H. North|
|Music by||Laurence Rosenthal|
|Edited by||Carl Kress|
|Distributed by||American International Pictures|
|Budget||$16 million or $15.4-17 million |
|Box office||$8.4 million (domestic) or $4.2 million (US rentals)|
Meteor is a 1979 science fiction disaster film directed by Ronald Neame, and starring Sean Connery and Natalie Wood. The film's premise, which follows a group of scientists struggling with Cold War politics after an asteroid is detected to be on a collision course with Earth, was inspired by a 1967 MIT report Project Icarus. The screenplay was written by Oscar winner Edmund H. North and Stanley Mann.
The international cast also includes Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard, Joseph Campanella, Richard Dysart and Henry Fonda. The film was a box office failure and received negative reviews, but was nonetheless nominated for an Academy Award for Best Sound.
After the asteroid Orpheus in the Asteroid Belt is hit by a comet, dozens of asteroid fragments are sent on a collision course towards Earth, along with a five-mile fragment which will cause an extinction-level event. While the United States government engages in political maneuvering, the smaller asteroid fragments preceding the main body wreak havoc on the planet, revealing the threat. The United States has a secret orbiting nuclear missile platform satellite named Hercules, which was designed by Dr. Paul Bradley (Sean Connery). It was intended to defend Earth against a threat like Orpheus, but instead was commandeered by the U.S. Military to become an orbiting weapon now aimed at the Soviet Union. After many calculations, its determined that the fourteen nuclear missiles on board Hercules are not enough to stop the meteorite.
The United States has known that the Soviet Union also has a similar weapons satellite called Peter the Great in orbit, with its sixteen nuclear warheads pointed down at that country. Needing the additional firepower to stop Orpheus, the President (Henry Fonda) goes on national television and reveals the existence of Hercules, explaining it was created to meet the threat that Orpheus represents. He also offers the Soviets a chance to save face by announcing they, too, had the same program and their own satellite weapon. To coordinate the counter-effort between the two countries, Bradley requests a Soviet scientist named Dr. Alexei Dubov (Brian Keith).
Bradley and Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) of NASA meet at the control center for Hercules, located beneath 195 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. Major General Adlon (Martin Landau) is the commander of the facility. Dubov and his interpreter Tatiana Donskaya (Natalie Wood) arrive, and Bradley gets to work on breaking the ice between them. Since Dubov cannot admit the existence of the Soviet device, he agrees to Bradley's proposal that they work on the "theoretical application" of how a "theoretical" Soviet space platform's weapons would be coordinated with the American platform.
Meanwhile, more meteorite fragments strike Earth (one inside Siberia), and the Soviets finally agree to join in the effort. Both satellites are coordinated, and turned towards the incoming large asteroid as smaller fragments continue to strike the planet, causing great damage, including a deadly avalanche in the Swiss Alps and a tsunami which devastates Hong Kong. With hours remaining prior to Orpheus' impact, as planned, Peter the Great's missiles are launched first because of its relative position to the asteroid, with Hercules's missiles timed to be fired 40 minutes later.
Immediately prior to Hercules's missiles being launched, a splinter fragment is discovered to be heading towards the command center in New York City. If the center is destroyed, Hercules will not be able to launch. With seconds to spare, Hercules receives the signal to fire from the command center, and launches its missiles. The splinter impacts the city, destroying the top half of the World Trade Center twin towers in a direct hit, and creating a large crater in Central Park. Several workers inside the control center are killed when the facility is partially destroyed by the collapse of the building above, and the survivors slowly work their way out of the control center by going through the New York subway system, which has become a trap due to water from the East River flooding the tunnels. Meanwhile, the two flights of missiles link up into three successively larger waves. The Hercules crew reaches a crowded subway station and waits while others try to dig them out.
Eventually, the missiles reach the meteoroid. The first wave of missiles strikes the rock, causing a small explosion, the second wave follows with a larger blast, and the third wave creates an enormous explosion. When the dust clears, the asteroid appears obliterated. In New York City, the radios broadcast the good news: Orpheus is no longer a danger to Earth. Just then, the subway station occupants are rescued.
Later, at an airport, Dubov, Tatiana, Bradley and others exchange goodbyes before Dubov and Tatiana depart on a plane for the Soviet Union.
- Sean Connery as Dr. Paul Bradley
- Natalie Wood as Tatiana Donskaya
- Karl Malden as Harry Sherwood
- Brian Keith as Dr. Alexei Dubov
- Martin Landau as General Adlon
- Trevor Howard as Sir Michael Hughes
- Richard Dysart as Secretary of Defense
- Henry Fonda as The President
- Joseph Campanella as General Easton
- Bo Brundin as Rolf Manheim
- Roger Robinson as Bill Hunter
- Michael Zaslow as Sam Mason
- Bibi Besch as Helen Bradley
- Sybil Danning as Girl Skier
The film was an American International Pictures co-production with the Shaw Brothers (HK) studio. $2.7 million of the budget came from AIP. Principal photography took place from October 31, 1977 to January 27, 1978, mainly at MGM Studios in Culver City, California with some location filming in Washington, D.C., St. Moritz, Switzerland and Hong Kong. The release date was scheduled for June 15, 1979, but it was pushed back to October 19 due to special effects reshoots. The movie re-used footage from the 1978 disaster film Avalanche.
Despite a relatively large and aggressive advertising campaign, Meteor was received poorly by critics. In her New York Times review, Janet Maslin called the film "standard disaster fare", adding that "the suspense is sludgy and the character development nil". Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 1.5 stars out of 4 and wrote, "Let's face it, the bottom line on a disaster film is how special are its special effects. With 'Meteor,' the answer is not very. The big meteor in the picture, hurtling toward Earth at 30,000 miles an hour, looks like something I recently found at the bottom of my refrigerator — green bread." Variety called the acting "uniformly good" but the "principals mostly stand around waiting for the next calamity to happen ... What really matters to audiences for this kind of film, of course, is not the acting, but the visuals, and here, 'Meteor' gets good, but not great, grades." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "against its own odds, it is—for what it intends to be—uninspired but competent, efficient, commercial and entertaining, with some random moments that are very nice indeed." Judith Martin of The Washington Post called it "your standard 'My God — here it comes!' job, for those that like that sort of thing." John Pym of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "As effects go, and effects rather than surprises (or any real plotline) are what the producers have banked on, Meteor looks decidedly old-fashioned and second-hand."
Awards & nominations
A voiceover at the end of the film mentions "Project Icarus", a report on the concept to use missiles to deflect an earthbound asteroid. The original Project Icarus was a student project at M.I.T. in a systems engineering class led by Professor Paul Sandorff in the Spring 1967. It examined methodologies that could deflect an Apollo asteroid named 1566 Icarus if it was found to be on a collision course with Earth. Time published an article about the research in June 1967. The results of the student reports were published in a book the following year.
- Asteroid impact avoidance
- Armageddon (1998)
- Deep Impact (1998).
- Meteor (2009), a 4-hour 2-part miniseries.
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