Meteor (film)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Meteor is a 1979 disaster film in which scientists detect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth and struggle with international, cold war politics in their efforts to prevent disaster. The movie starred Sean Connery and Natalie Wood.

It was directed by Ronald Neame and with a screenplay by Edmund H. North and Stanley Mann, "inspired" by a 1967 MIT report Project Icarus. The movie co-starred Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard, Henry Fonda, Johnny Yune, and Katherine DeHetre.

With universally negative reviews (it made numerous "Worst Of" lists for that year's movies), it proved unpopular with audiences, losing millions in the process, and is considered to be one of the reasons for the downfall of American International Pictures. According to one biography of Natalie Wood, she and most others in the cast knew early on this film was going to be a dud, mainly due to the director and the script. Despite the failure and being disliked by the main cast themselves, it was nominated for an Academy Award and retained a cult following as it was an influence to the more successful later films Armageddon and Deep Impact.



After a collision between a comet and an asteroid named Orpheus, a five mile wide chunk of Orpheus is on a collision course with Earth, with devastating results expected on impact. While the United States government and military engage in political maneuvering, other smaller and faster moving fragments rain down on Earth. The United States has a secret orbiting nuclear missile platform satellite named Hercules, which was thought of by Dr. Bradley (Connery) of the U.S. It was intended for defense against a massive space rock, but instead, it was demoted to an orbiting super weapon, its missiles now aimed at Russia. However, its fourteen nuclear missile armament is not enough to stop the meteor.

The U.S. government discovers the existence of another weapon satellite constructed by the Soviet Union. The President goes on national television and reveals the existence of Hercules, explaining it as a foresighted project to meet the threat that Orpheus represents. He also offers the Soviets a chance to save face and join in by saying they had the same foresight and have their own satellite weapon. Bradley requests a scientist named Dr. Alexei Dubov (Keith) to help him plan a counter-effort against Orpheus.

Bradley and Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) from NASA have already arrived at the control center for Hercules, which is located beneath the AT&T Building (now known as the Sony Building) in Lower Manhattan. Major-General Adlon (Landau) is the commander of the facility. Dubov and his assistant and interpreter Tatiana Donskaya (Natalie Wood) arrive and Bradley works at breaking the ice of distrust held by Hercules commander Adlon. 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 ones.

Meanwhile, further fragments of the meteor affect Earth, and the Soviets finally admit that they have the device and are willing to join in the effort. It appears that the satellite has a lot in common with Hercules, it was built with sixteen nuclear missiles for defense against a massive space rock, but it too was demoted to an orbiting super weapon, its missiles now aimed at the United States. The satellite is christened Peter the Great by the joint US-Soviet team working at Hercules control, and both satellites are turned around to aim into space. On Sunday morning, Peter the Great's missiles are fired off because of its position along the orbit, Hercules is fired 40 minutes later.

A moment later, New York is wiped out by a fragment of the meteor. Several workers inside the control center are killed when the facility is partially destroyed. The survivors slowly work their way out of the control center by going through the New York subway system, which has become somewhat of a trap due to the East River breaking into the tunnels. Meanwhile, the two sets of guided missiles link up into three waves of mixed nationality, each wave bigger then the last. The Hercules crew reach a subway station filled with other people and wait while others try to dig out. Back in space, the missiles reach the meteor. Two Russian missiles and one U.S. missile have been lost in the journey. The first wave of missiles strikes the space rock, making an explosion. The second wave follows with a bigger explosion. Finally, the third wave hits the meteor making an explosion that fills the screen. When the dust settles, the space rock is nowhere to be seen. Back at New York, the radio stations broadcast news of the result: Orpheus has been either obliterated or shifted to a harmless trajectory. Just then, the subway station occupants are rescued.

Later, the scene switches to an airport with a Soviet flag and an American flag on an open hanger door. From here, Dubov and Tatiana say goodbye to Bradley and others, then they board a plane with the Soviet star and it takes off for Russia.


The voiceover at the end of the film mentions "Project Icarus," a report on the concept to use missiles to deflect an asteroid which was the "inspiration" upon which the movie was based. This refers to the report Project Icarus originally a student project at M.I.T. for a systems engineering class by Professor Paul Sandorff in the Spring of 1967 to design a way to deflect an Apollo asteroid, 1566 Icarus, found to be on a collision course with planet Earth. Time magazine ran an article on the endeavor in June 1967 and the following year the student report was published as a book.

Similar films

See also

  • Asteroid deflection strategies
  • 1979 Stern Electronics released a pinball machine named Meteor. The backglass art was very close to one of the versions of the movie poster art for the film Meteor.

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