I had a little debate a few months ago online, with some people whose opinions I generally respect, about the merits of this film. We all want to see more positive Black superheroes in fiction, and I happen to think this is a great example. But some others didn’t like the fact that this was a comedy film, saying that Black superheroes shouldn’t be presented as comedic foils. I sort of understand that viewpoint. Movies like Damon Wayans’ BLANKMAN or Will Smith’s HANCOCK were ridiculous. But you can’t compare The Meteor Man to those films. Likewise, you can’t compare it to films like The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises, which is what I think other people who criticize this film tend to do. They reject it because it doesn’t have the big budget special effects of other hit superhero movies. But this isn’t a “serious” superhero film, nor is it a slapstick comedy. What this is, is a good wholesome all-ages family film. Something we need more of. If anything, I’d compare it more to Pixar’s THE INCREDIBLES, except it’s live-action. It was not a box office success when it was released, but I loved it immediately, and it remains a cult favorite of mine to this day. Not only do I own the DVD (after having it on video tape for years), but also the film novelization, the Marvel Comics spin-off miniseries, and a little Meteor Man action figure, which is sitting on one of my bookshelves (in-between Dr. Manhattan and a Cylon).
What’s also cool about the film is that it’s a virtual Who’s Who of 90’s Black Hollywood, with lots of recognizable faces. Robert Townsend plays the leading role, as Jefferson Reed, a mild-mannered (read: cowardly) Elementary School teacher, living in a section of Washington DC, that’s beset by a rising crime-rate. Marla Gibbs and Robert Guillaume play his parents, Eddie Griffin is his best friend, James Earl Jones plays one of his neighbors, as does Bill Cosby. Nancy Wilson is the school principle, and there are other appearances from everyone from Sinbad, to Luthor Vandross, to Big Daddy Kane, as well as a young Don Cheadle in one of his earliest film roles.
So the premise is that a drug-dealing street gang called The Golden Lords, and their protege gang of pre-teens called The Baby Lords (all known for their dyed platinum-blonde hair), have been taking over the neighborhood, and most of the community are too scared to stand up to them, except for Jefferson’s father who is beaten up in retaliation. One night, while attempting to stop a mugging in progress, Jefferson finds himself running from the gang, and ends up being inexplicably targeted by a glowing green meteor, which hits him and embeds itself in his body. The next day, in the hospital, he appears to be normal, but soon discovers that he has a variety of superpowers. With the help of his friend Michael (Griffin), he tests his new abilities, which include: super-strength, super-speed, super-breath, flight, invulnerability, x-ray vision, some kind of telekinesis, the ability to talk to and understand animals, and the ability to absorb all the information in any books that he touches (but that only lasts for 30 seconds). He can also fertilize barren soil and cause clouds to rain. On the advice of his parents, he dons a costume and takes to the streets as METEOR MAN. And he stops robberies, busts up a crack house, and cleans up trash and graffiti in the neighborhood. But his activities bring him into conflict with the Golden Lords, and when Jefferson begins slowly losing his powers, things become even more dangerous for him and for the community. In the end, Meteor Man’s bravery inspires the people in the neighborhood to stand up for themselves, instead of waiting for a superhero to come solve all their problems, which is a very good message for real life, in my opinion.
Again, yes, the special effects are rather low budget, but not so bad that I find it distracting (it’s not like you see strings holding him up when he flies) and, in fact, I think it gives the film a certain old-fashioned charm. Robert Townsend, who also wrote, directed, and produced this film, really put his heart into making it, and it shows. Great film. 5 STARS
Categories: METEOR MAN