Did you catch Meteor: Path to Destruction, the recent two-part NBC movie?
Like the 1979 movie of the (nearly) same name, the big rock (okay, in this movie there are 2 big rocks and a whole lot of “little” ones) hurtling through space is a major sinister “character.” [Check out my post about the original movie: The Sky is Falling. The Sky is Falling. ]
Unlike its predecessor, however, this version has a whole lot more action-adventure. The movie charts several different storylines and sets of characters, switching back and forth between them. Certainly not a new technique, but one ideal for keeping television viewers “glued to the screen.”
This latest instalment in the disaster movie roster, however, made me consider another angle to the genre. Namely, is there such a thing as too much disaster? By the end of the first two-hour segment my credulity was stretched to the limit—and this takes into account my normal willingness to suspend belief when watching a good adventure.
Let’s take a look at the lot of intrepid scientist, Imogene O’Neil (Marla Sokoloff) who spends the movie in a race from Mexico to the United States to relay vital coordinates and information about the impending disaster.
O’Neil and her boss, the brilliant but eccentric Dr. Lehman (Christopher Lloyd), determine that a comet knocked the asteroid Kassandra off course and the newly minted meteor is heading straight for earth.
1. O’Neil and Lehman, along with the all important laptop full of data, head for the border in their jeep only to run out of gas.
2. While checking the vehicle, O’Neil and Lehman observe the smaller debris from the comet/asteroid clash heading into the atmosphere, while standing in the middle of the road. The phone rings, saving O’Neil’s life, but a speeding van throws Lehman onto the side of the road where he dies.
3. Trusty computer in hand, O’Neil gets a lift with a trucker who drops her off at a Mexican police station where…she walks in on a hold up. As one of the bandits says, he caught her “snooping around.” When a stray rock hits the ground, causing a small quake, O’Neil grabs a fire extinguisher and knocks one bandit unconscious and then shoots the second man before heading back on the trail in a police car.
4. Only to be stopped at the now closed Mexican-American border when she tries to get through by using the police siren. When she can’t produce her passport (she accidentally left it at the police station) and a gun is found in the car, she’s detained.
But wait, all it not lost, O’Neil convinces the border patrol she has vital information about the meteor and is allowed to make “the call” with the precise coordinates to blow up the incoming meteor.
5. The border patrol then receives a call from the VP of the United States requesting that O’Neil be delivered to Edwards Airforce Base. En route, another random rock hits the road up ahead lighting a tanker on fire. The border patrolman manages to reverse the vehicle, but the oil truck careens out of control and the jeep does a neat back flip off the edge of the road.
Okay, one of our goals as a writer is to make things bad for our characters. And we certainly expect a higher level of problems in a disaster movie because, hey, it’s a disaster movie. Bad things happen.
However, I have to ask myself how many times a character can walk away from a car crash? In this movie, apparently several despite the odds in “real” life. Then there’s the to-dumb-to-fill-up-my-gas-tank ploy. In fact I was wondering why they had to race for the border in the first place—couldn’t they have emailed Dr. Chetwyn the information?
But that’s the safe route—and definitely not nearly as entertaining. J
What do you think? Is there such a thing as too much disaster in a disaster movie?
BTW—just how real are the threats of a meteor colliding with earth? Read: Meteor: Truth or Dare.