Friday, 26 December 2014

Apocalypse How? - Meteor (1979)

Oooooh, its been a while since I thought about extinction level events, but while furtling around youtube tonight I found this forgotten gem.

Meteor is a 1979 disaster film released by American International Pictures.

Sean Connery stars as Dr. Paul Bradley, a former scientific advisor to the U.S government who had a "falling out" with them after they co-opted his design for a space based anti meteor defence weapon to serve as a strategic nuclear missile platform to threaten the Russians with.

The film itself takes place over the course of a week.
On the first day (Sunday, December 1st) "Challenger 2", the U.S mission to put man on Mars, arrives at the asteroid belt after ground control receives telemetry suggesting a comet will pass through this belt, and they would like the ship to gather as much data as possible.
Unfortunately though, the comet strikes an asteroid, which explodes and sends a 5 mile wide chunk of rock hurtling towards Earth, as well as destroying the space ship.

The next day (Monday) Dr. Bradley finds himself being pulled back to the department of defence, who inform him of the incoming meteor, and require his expertise in using the orbital weapons platform, named "Hercules", so they can destroy the meteor ("Orpheus") .
At first Bradley is somewhat bitter at the request that has been made of him, being as the military thought that his notion that the Earth could ever be threatened by a meteor was ridiculous and stole his idea to use as a weapon, but when he is confronted with the cold facts by his friend Harry Sherwood, he decides to help as best he can.

By this time, the Soviets have also detected the approaching meteor, but, in the USSR just the same as the USA, politics begins to gum up the works of actually being able to effectively defend the Earth from total annihilation.
By day 4 (Wednesday) Bradley has calculated that even with the 12 missiles available to him from Hercules, there wont be enough power to deflect or destroy the meteor, however, as both he and the military have long suspected, the Soviets also have a similar space based weapon equipped with missiles, the main problem lies in getting them to admit it.
The Soviets send Bradleys opposite number, Dr. Dubov to speak with him, and Dubov eventually provides the information that, theoretically, if the USSR had such a weapon, which may or may not be called "Peter the Great", it would, in theory have roughly the same number of missiles with the equivalent explosive payload.
The military presence in the control centre (which is hidden in a disused subway station beneath the AT&T building in New York), represented by General Adlon (Martin Landau ) takes an intense dislike to handing over the matter to scientists as it is, but has an especially distasteful attitude towards allowing communists to participate, even though as Bradley tries to explain, if they are going to stand any chance of pulling the mission off successfully, they need the Soviet Unions help, after a loud argument in the control room, Dr. Dubov telephones the Soviet Embassy and orders them to allow him to use "Peter the Great" to back "Hercules" up and ensure success.

On days 5 and 6, smaller splinters from Orpheus begin impacting on Earth, most of them burning up harmlessly, but others manage to hit and cause massive disasters, including tidal waves, avalanches and earthquakes.
The two weapons are repositioned, and a final plan is formed, "Peter the Great" will fire first, then 2 hours later, "Hercules" will launch, both sets of missiles will rendezvous in space and travel to a set point in the meteors path, where they will explode in 3 waves. The shockwaves from these blasts will either deflect or destroy the meteor before it impacts, however, as Harry points out to the President, no one has ever attempted anything like this before, and, given the massive variables inherent to an operation like this, the odds of success are anyones guess, but, if it fails, 2 hours after detonation, the meteor will destroy the Earth.

On the final day (Saturday, December 7th) the Soviet satellite fires its missiles without any problems, however, with less than 2 minutes to go before Hercules is due to fire, Bradley receives a message from the Joderell Bank observatory that a fragment of the meteor will impact New York just before they are due to order the launch of the American missiles.
Bradley orders everyone to wait, and just after Hercules launches, the fragment hits, destroying most of the business district and burying the command centre under tons of rubble.

In space, the missiles link up and begin their attack run, although along the way some missiles malfunction and careen off into space.

Back on Earth, the command centre personnel are recovering from the meteor strike, some of them, General Adlon included, were killed. Bradley finds an escape route which will lead them out through the subway tunnels, however just as they appear to be making good their escape, the walls of the tunnel begin to collapse and water from the Hudson river begins pouring in.

In space, the missiles impact the meteor, successfully destroying it.

On Earth, just after the meteor is destroyed, the command centre survivors manage to get themselves to another subway station, and with the assistance of other survivors from the station, they mange to dig themselves an escape tunnel back to the surface, where they learn that the missiles were successful.

In a ceremony of grand pomp and circumstance, Dr Dubov and his translator wave goodbye and depart for the Soviet Union, while a narrator states that the film was inspired by the real life findings of Project Icarus.

When first released, this film as panned by critics, mostly citing bad acting, poor scripting, cold war cliches and ridiculous special effects.

I can agree with the poor special effects, as some of them are proper cheapo-nasty, and the script isn't particularly anything worth shouting about, but, despite the distinct "TV movie" feel to this film, it isn't all THAT bad, and is quite entertaining to watch so long as you don't place too much by way of expectation on its shoulders.
Its certainly much better than "Deep Impact" or "Armageddon" because it doesn't rely on cheesy sentimentalism to carry it, instead, it shows that against something as awesomely powerful as a meteor, all mankind can really do is cross their collective fingers and hope that everything goes ok.

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