Recently a giant meteor lit up the Canadian prairie sky. “It was really bright. We weren’t really sure what happened … got up to look out the window, and all of a sudden, we heard this rumbling,” said one witness.
If this happened in a movie, a nerdy lab-coated scientist would say something like, “No telling what kind of meteor it is or what goes on inside of it … it’s been gathering the secrets of time and space for billions of years,” before giant bugs or aliens hatch from the mysterious rock, bringing intergalactic mayhem with them.
Next week a massive fireball will bring Keanu Reeves crashing to earth in The Day the Earth Stood Still, a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic. In it he plays Klaatu, an ambassador from an extraterrestrial confederation who arrives with a simple message for the people of the third rock from the sun: “If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives.”
All in all, fireballs are usually bad news.
Remember Cloverfield? After a burst of light from the sky illuminated lower Manhattan, a colossal creature resembling a giant sweaty salamander with the mumps laid waste to the city.
In The Day of the Triffids meteors do double dastardly duty. First, a colorful meteor shower attracts worldwide attention, but the light from the shower renders most of Earth’s population blind. Next, spores from the meteors turn into plant-like space aliens. That development leads to my favorite-ever line in a meteor movie.
“Keep behind me,” says hero Tony Goodwin. “There’s no sense in getting killed by a plant.”
Movie meteors aren’t always bad, however. Robert Townsend wrote, directed and starred in Meteor Man about a meek Washington, D.C., teacher who develops superpowers after being hit by a glowing green meteor. Using his newly found abilities he cleans up the streets after a drug lord moves into his neighborhood.
So far there haven’t been any reports from the prairies of alien spores, superhuman behavior or giant beasts terrorizing Brandon, Man., but if movie science is to be believed anything is possible.
According to Paul Frees in The Monolith Monsters you never know when the meteor will make itself known. “Meteors!” he says. “Another strange calling card from the limitless regions of space — its substance unknown, its secrets unexplored. The meteor lies dormant in the night — waiting!”
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