“Believe it or not, I’m walking on air… no wait, that’s the other guy…”

What would you do if discovered you had superpowers? Would you use them to fight crime? Become famous? Rule the world? Or would you prefer to keep a low profile, doing small good deeds here and there, but for the most part try to live a normal life? For meek Jefferson Reed, all he ever wanted was to get through life without being noticed. But after a freak encounter with a falling meteor (and a lot of prodding by his parents), he can’t help but be noticed. Some heroes are born to greatness. Others have to work for it. But in the case of Meteor Man, sometimes greatness is forced upon you.

As the movie starts out, Jefferson (Robert Townsend, who also wrote and directed the film) is working as a substitute elementary teacher in a relatively run-down area of Washington, D.C. He is a pretty cowardly guy, and has the opinion that in order to survive in a world full of bullies, the best action is to back down and essentially become invisible. Sounds like a real hero, huh? In this case, the bullies are the Golden Lords, an evil syndicate that is terrorizing the neighborhood and is behind all the major drug rings, racketeering, vandalism, and thefts in the area.

One night, after checking his freshly broken-into car, he hears a woman screaming for help down an alleyway. When he goes to investigate, he finds that two of his students were mugging the woman! See, this was a Golden Lord initiation Jefferson just interrupted, which incurred the wrath of the ENTIRE gang. After hiding out in a dumpster for over four hours, Jefferson starts to head home. Then out of nowhere – WHAM! -  he’s hit by a meteor. He absorbs the majority of it, but a small piece breaks off and rolls toward a homeless man. That’s called foreshadowing, folks.

The next morning, Jefferson is recovering in a hospital, suffering from third-degree burns. While being treated, a doctor notices something strange on his x-ray. The entire medical staff races to his room, peel away the bandages covering his face, and find that he has completely healed. The head physician tries to pass off his miraculous recovery as “stress-related accelerated healing,” but while he’s explaining this, an orderly accidentally bumps Jeff with a medical book. Jefferson immediately corrects the doctor in his prognosis, and begins rattling off medical terms. Then, just as quickly as his newfound medical expertise manifested, it disappeared, leaving him confused.

Over the following days, Jefferson discovers he has many more powers, including superspeed, flight, superstrength, invulnerability, heat vision, x-ray vision, super breath, telekinesis, technopathy, ability to talk to dogs, and some vague power that lets him grow super-sized vegetables. In short, he has lots and lots of powers. I’m surprised he didn’t get super-ventriloquism,  super-hypnotism, or  super-weaving as well. After surviving a drive-by shootout in full view of his neighborhood from Golden Lord Henchman #1 Goldilocks (Don Cheadle, oddly enough), Jefferson’s parents (Robert Guillaume and Marla Gibbs) practically force him into superheroics. What follows is a montage of Jefferson trying on different costumes, testing out his powers, and trying to conquer his fear of heights. He eventually sets out as Meteor Man, and begins busting crack houses, petty thefts, and even ending a feud between rival gangs and the police.

All of this rampant do-goodery earns the attention of the Simon (Roy Fegan), leader of the Golden Lords. Simon has been promised a promotion to the Golden Lord New York branch by his boss (Frank Gorshin), but that promotion won’t be filled unless he takes out Meteor Man. The Golden Lords strengthen their assault on the neighborhood, and unfortunately for the residents, Jefferson is beginning to lose his powers. Apparently the meteor has run its course through his system, leaving him super vulnerable. Jefferson is about to leave the neighborhood, attempting to stem the Golden Lord’s violence, when Simon himself blockades the streets and violently begins beating Jefferson, proclaiming his victory. When the situation looked its bleakest for Jefferson, the entire neighborhood decides to stand up for themselves and starts fighting back against the gang. The homeless man (Bill “Leonard Part 6” Cosby) saves Jefferson by ordering his pack of dogs on Simon. He still has his meteor fragment, and has been using it sparingly instead of absorbing it outright.

Quicker than you can say “Jell-O pudding,” the meteor fragment is knocked out of Homeless Dr. Huxtable’s hand, and is immediately jumped on by both Jefferson and Simon. They both absorb the green rock’s power, and Meteor Man and Super-Simon square off for one of the most ridiculous fight scenes I’ve ever seen, including what I’d like to call “Runway Model Kung-Fu.” You’ll have to watch the movie to find out what that is. Simon is defeated, but the fight has completely drained Meteor Man of his powers again, just as the Big Mob Boss arrives to finish what the Golden Lords couldn’t. Suddenly, the entire gang from earlier reveals themselves and the police arrives, putting an end to The Riddler’s the mob boss’ reign.

Before I get into the thick of my opinion, I want to say that I really liked Meteor Man. I grew up watching this film. I thought it had a lot of heart, conveys some good messages, and had great humor throughout. So, if this next part sounds a little harsh, remember – I liked this movie.

Meteor Man is an example of a film that doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be. Some parts, like the use of three and four year-olds as trainee gang members, Jefferson’s intense fear of heights, and the “Runway Model Kung-Fu” scene makes the viewer think they’re watching a sharp satire of the superhero genre. Other parts are almost solely for children. Still other scenes almost give off a real mature, dramatic vibe. The movie also had a surprising number of plot holes and unexplored stories. Just like  Tank Girl, this film had a lot of omissions between its conception and the final product. One of these blaring wholes is the side-story between Jefferson and his ex-girlfriend. The scenes where the plot point is brought up leaves hints that there is going to be a conclusion, a reason why its in there. There of course isn’t, and the “ex-girlfriend story” is dropped completely by the middle of the second act.

OK, this wouldn’t be a full review if I didn’t mention the multitude of cameos Meteor Man has. I’ve already mentioned Cosby, Guillaume, Gibbs, Cheadle, and Gorshin, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. This movie has bit parts played by Eddie Griffin, Biz Markie, music groups Naughty by Nature, Another Bad Creation, Cypress Hill, John Witherspoon, Tommy “Tiny” Lister (the giant convict who throws the detonator out of a ship window in The Dark Knight), James Earl Jones, Sinbad, and Luther Vandross. Now, in many movies, a star-studded cast like this would make for an excellent film, but there were a few faults I found, mostly in the way some of the cast was utilized. For example, neither Bill Cosby nor Luther Vandross had a single spoken line of dialog throughout the entire film. Come on. These guys have arguably some of the most recognizable voices in mainstream media, and you don’t let them get a word I edgewise? And James Earl Jones, who is an excellent actor, is reduced to a man determined to find a wig that would help him “get with the younger crowd.” He played it well, but I feel his talent was reduced by this role.

Like I said earlier, overall I enjoyed Meteor Man. I feel that, despite its flaws, it is a really fun film. The movie has a lot of heart, something that is missing form some of today’s superhero flicks. And it is the closest thing to a Greatest American Hero movie Hollywood ever got. And so, I give Meteor Man 3 ½ out of 5 Stars.


The Author

Sam Dunham

Sam Dunham

Sam Dunham was born at a very early age, and shortly after became entangled in the world of film. His first memories are of seeing King Ralph in his local theater. He learned to talk with the help of Adam West's Batman: The Movie. He's one of the few people to still own a working RCA Videodisc player (heck, it's where he first watched Young Frankenstein!). When Sam is not perusing his extensive B- movie collection or sitting in dark theaters with a tub of popcorn, he is usually found reading comic books, fixing computers, toiling away at his day job, working some nights at a local radio station as a "soundboard guy," and going to class so that he can one day toil away at his day job fixing computers. One time, Lou Ferrigno conned him out of $20.00. But that's another story...

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  1. lifeisaglitch life
    August 28, 2009 at 2:41 pm — Reply

    Good review, now im interested in a movie im sure will be impossible to track down :S Damn you! Anywhosits…the Ferrigno affair, tell now! :D

    • Sam Dunham
      August 29, 2009 at 8:42 am — Reply

      Heh heh… thanks. I found a copy at my Local Music/Movie Shop for about $5, so it’s definitely out there.

      I COULD tell you the story… but then what anecdote would I tell when I cover “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk?”

  2. Rinaquenon
    August 28, 2009 at 4:08 pm — Reply

    I have this movie, and holy crap, what a find. I saw it when I was in third grade or so, and was shocked beyond belief when I found it a few months ago (was 7.99 at CD Plus in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada, of all places!) This is truly a unique superhero movie, even if the tropes are not totally unprecedented. Certainly flawed but entertaining and thought-provoking. It’s one of those that you should see once in your life, but can live without a repeat showing. If you can find it, though, snag it, because it’s definitely going to be impossible to find anywhere before too long.

  3. John Morales AKA uglyhooker
    August 28, 2009 at 4:19 pm — Reply

    I have issues 1 & 2 of the M.M comic. lol….I forgot all about them…HA!!

  4. August 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm — Reply

    Ain’t nobody BAD like…

    Ain’t nobody bad like DA METEOR MAAAN!

    I would like to suggest “Darkman.” Or “Blankman.”

    • Sam Dunham
      August 29, 2009 at 8:04 am — Reply

      Yep, they’re both on my list. You migh see Darkman pretty soon, actually.

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