With all the talk about Black Panther and other black superheroes, it’s perhaps odd that Robert Townsend’s 1991 film “The Meteor Man” has never really found any love. It was a box office bomb when it was first released; but unlike other black films that also bombed, and would later find an audience, becoming cult favorites (such as “Love Jones” and Townsend’s earlier “The Five Heartbeats”), “Meteor Man” wasn’t quite as lucky.
The premise is straight out of an old comic book in which Townsend plays Jefferson Reed, a Washington D.C. teacher in a troubled neighborhood who is, one day, stuck by a chunk of a meteor, giving him super powers. But, of course, being Townsend, he plays up the comic situations, instead of going dark and heavy.
But the film just failed to catch on. Who knows why; Perhaps the film’s lack of a “coolness” factor? It’s an unabashed kid’s movies and, as a result, filmgoers maybe thought that they were too adult and sophisticated for it? They like their superheroes either filled with angst and smirking, too self aware, cool guys. Townsend’s characters is just a really nice guy who wants to improve his community. The villains in the film are a bunch of neighborhood punks, not some mutated super villain out to destroy the universe..
Then again, perhaps it was the fact that Townsend’s superhero wasn’t perfect. He can fly, but he’s terrified of heights; He could absorb all the knowledge of the world, but forget it all after 15 minutes; He was imperfect which made him charming. People like their superheroes perfect I guess.
Or maybe it could be that the film was possibly ahead of its time, made more than a decade before superheroes became all the rage in Hollywood.
But I’ve always liked it. Yes, it’s goofy and decidedly old fashioned, and just plain corny at times. But It is heartfelt, very entertaining, with some genuine laugh out loud moments.
And it’s 1000 times better than that other forgotten superhero movie, “Steel” with Shaquille O’Neal. Ever seen that one? Believe me, you don’t want to. It’s the kind of film where you’ll keep saying to yourself, “What were they thinking?” every minute of the movie.
The good news, if you like “Meteor Man” as I do, is that the movie is set to be released for the first time on blu-ray in October, though Olive Films. Though Olive Films blu-ray releases are known for their lack of extra features, hopefully this release will have at least a new commentary by Townsend, reflecting on the film, how it maybe connects to superhero movies of today, how the film actually got made, and more.