The meteor that shot through the Siberian sky at hypersonic speed Friday created images that seemed like something out of a high-tech special effects department.
The damage Friday from the meteor was, of course, very real. More than 1,000 people were injured as the sonic blasts shattered glass, and the psyches of Russians were understandably unsettled by the shocking glow overhead.
Still, the video from Russia seems movie-like in its depiction of what happened when a meteor the size of a bus made its way into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Here’s a look at some of the films that have put large pieces of space rock and the threat of global annihilation front and centre
Deep Impact hit the big screen in 1998, giving seekers of disaster cinema what New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin called a “costly comet thriller.”
In the film, Earth seemed doomed by a large hunk of space rock heading straight for it, and some big-name actors were on hand to try to save the day, including Robert Duvall, Vanessa Redgrave and Morgan Freeman in the role of U.S. president.
Filmgoers looking for a lot of bang and boom might not have found everything they were seeking. “The special effects are elaborate but relatively brief, featuring gaseous comet close-ups and an impressive tidal wave,” Maslin noted in her review.
The movie found favour at the box office, however, grossing more than $349 million US, according to movie revenue website Box Office Mojo.
Two and a half months after Deep Impact hit theatres, Armageddon brought more asteroid paranoia to the big screen, with even greater box-office success.
With Armageddon, the mortal threat was ratcheted up several notches. Now, Earth seemed doomed by an asteroid “the size of Texas.”
Critics were less than enamoured of the Bruce Willis vehicle, which became the biggest-grossing picture of 1998 (ahead of Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed Saving Private Ryan and the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love).
Roger Ebert gave one star to Armageddon, a film he said was “an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained.”
Scientists were also somewhat lukewarm to the film — they thought Deep Impact had, relatively speaking, more astronomical cred.
A year before Deep Impact and Armageddon hit movie screens, a U.S. made-for-TV movie filled the small screen with similar deep-space doom.
Asteroid had nothing close to the marketing budget of Armageddon, but it trod similar ground and was apocalyptic in its promotion: “The end of the world is just beginning,” its poster promised. There was also a Texan twist, though: the presumed target for the incoming asteroid was Dallas.
Sean Connery and Natalie Wood starred in this 1979 disaster flick, which was something of a disaster itself. The movie poster promised doom from outer space, warning that a meteor five miles wide was “coming at 30,000 m.p.h. … and there’s no place on Earth to hide.”
A movie very much of its time, the plot brought the Cold War enemies of the United States and the U.S.S.R. together to try to fight the threat posed by a chunk of rock with the rather imposing name of Orpheus. Henry Fonda was on hand as the U.S. president.
The musical score is suitably soaring, and the less-than-award-winning special effects are full of bangs, booms and big balls of exploding light. The movie is one of several disaster films with scenes that would now be viewed quite differenty from when they came out. In this case, the streaking asteroid targets New York City, striking the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, which fell 22 years later in the Sept. 11 attacks.
While North American cinema has seen its fair share of asteroid-inspired fare in recent decades, such films haven’t been restricted to screens here.
A 1958 Italian film, The Day the Sky Exploded, focused on scientists who find out Earth lies in the path of meteors.
The U.S. poster promoting the flick was not subtle: “TERROR FROM THE SKY,” it screamed, before noting “Earth Attacked From Outer Space.”