Review: The Meteor Man (1993)

Composer: Cliff Eidelman

Label: Bootleg (complete score)  

Catalogue Nr.: Bootleg

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Robert Townsend is a multi-talent, having credits as actor, writer, director and producer under his belt. No surprise that Townsend fulfilled all of these positions on The Meteor Man, the afro-American answer to all the other super hero guys in the hood. Here, Townsend plays Jefferson Reed, a normal teacher who avoids conflicts especially with the ghetto's nasty street gang 'Golden Lords' until one day he is hit by a meteor which transfers superhero powers to him. Featuring an all black cast with such promising names as James Earl Jones or Bill Cosby, one would have expected that the film was far away from dying a quick cinematic death but Spielberg's Jurassic Park (1993) Dinosaurs were hunting for a record gross and literally ate The Meteor Man alive. Thus, it performed even weaker at the box office than the far more worse Super Mario Bros. (1993). Although the film is carrying a social critic message, it clearly suffers from various problems such as poor visual effects, a general lack of energy and a terrible hack job done during post production as an attempt to 'save' the film but actually robbing it from the last bit of identity. What we get instead is a generally uninteresting main character, a James Earl Jones in his most embarrassing role and a Bill Cosby who does not have any lines except for some barking (well granted, this might not be too far away from reality).

The score:

Scoring the film was composer Cliff Eidelman, who was traded among score fans as the most promising newcomer of the 90's after his impressive output on Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992). It is fair to say that a flub like The Meteor Man was not healthy for his career and he would probably have been better off had he just passed on the job. However, Eidelman fans can consider themselves lucky that he did not do so because compared to other elements of the film, its adventurous and comic score is clearly on the better side. He provided the meteor and its powers with a 12-note signature fanfare as introduced in the "Main Title" that would later transform into a hero theme for Jeff after he got hit by that meteor, masters its special powers and is ultimately using them to fight the gang lords. Those gold-haired bad guys received a bouncy, nervous motif with low brass strikes which first appears in "Initiation" as they are chasing Jeff through the streets of the ghetto. This villain motif clearly resembles some of Eidelman's action music for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). At certain moments the temp-track seems to shine through as the orchestration of some cues is strikingly similar to those of Bruce Broughton or Alan Silvestri with a tad of Goldsmith but Eidelman apparently handled it rather well.

After the introduction of the obvious villain-theme, the "Meteor Strikes" Jeff which is musically supported by an eerie combination of strings and mystical choir followed by a warm emotional theme for piano as Jeff is brought to the hospital. A lot of mickey-mousing appears throughout the score that underlines the more comic parts in the film when Jeff is clumsily exploring his powers. These rather tiresome passages, including "Poor Lewis", "Stromberg Theory", "Hospital Vision", "Ellington Speaks", "Jet Magazine", "Coffee Service" or "X-Ray Vision" dominate the score's first half and mainly consist of woodwinds and strings in Peter-and-the-Wolf fashion. Things start to kick off way too slowly with several bigger cues such as the slow, dark build up in "Jeff Protects Dad", or "Rebirth" with a powerful rendition of the villains motif that goes into a first outburst of the hero theme as Jeff is running away from gang members and suddenly starts flying for the first time. A couple of shorter suspense cues follow before some nice, tender material based around the emotional theme for a soft solo trumpet enters in "Mrs. Walker". Everything suddenly becomes rousing and heroic again with "Off To Work" and "Cleaning Up The Hood".

"Gaarden Of Eatin'" offers a stylistic break with some tender lounge music that comes with a gentle beat, synths and solo sax as Jeff is using his powers to transform a small waste spot into a vegetable garden. As silly as the scene might have looked but Eidelman's heart-warming arrangement made it a little more powerful. Temp-track worries will overcome the Silvestri-fans after listening to "Slinuy's Like Life" which is basically the dark 3-note motif for Biff Tannen from the score for Back To The Future Part 2 (1989) while "The Impostor" is terribly close to "Tunnel Chase" from the same score. "Jeff Catches Bullets" has a nice rendition of the heroic theme and a short emotional passage that stops way too quickly before being really developed. With the suspenseful "Forced Entry", the score is slowly approaching the final fight but not without revisiting the under-used family piano theme once again in "Jeff Says He Will Leave". As the finale starts, the tracks thankfully become longer with more solid musical development such as some cool variations of the villains motif in "Double Cross". "Meteor Spill" offers the first full statement of the hero theme's second half and is further developed into a short but excitingly fun passage during "Woratg Duel" as Bill Cosby saves the day. A great stand-alone statement of the entire hero theme comes with "Ultimate Hero" and a nice bunch of fanfares in "Bloods & Crypts Unite" create a victorious finale with some beautifully bittersweet bits shining through.

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 81%

Score as heard on CD: 69%

TOTAL: 75%

 

The presentation:

Eidelman's score for The Meteor Man has never received a release. A poor sounding 30 minutes bootleg was making the round but many people wanted more with better sound. Now,  years after the film's theatrical release and the appearance of the bootleg, there is a new one and it does not only have the entire 64 minutes of score but this time in superb, crystal clear sound quality as well. I have absolutely no idea where these things are coming from... so suddenly when everyone has already given up hope of ever getting this material. Since this is an unofficial CD-R pressing there is no artwork or bonus features such as liner notes. Luckily, the score is part of the MGM/Sony catalogue which might be a good starting point for a future official release as a limited edition CD.

Presentation by the Label: Bootleg

 

Summary:

Cliff Eidelman was noticeably trying his best with the troubled Meteor Man but the resulting score is far from being his best even though it features one of his best main themes. The music is simply not narrative enough for a running time of over 60 minutes. Several short tracks and mickey-mousing cues break the flow and there are various individual ideas that, while being certainly very good, hardly connect well with each other because they crop up and descent into nowhere. Especially inconsistent is the score's first half but this is getting a bit better near the end, sadly when it is almost too late. Several temp-track moments don't help either but the nice hero main theme and the various smaller motifs for the gang and the emotional stuff are a nice compensation. If only some of those themes had been more fully developed and thus supported the score's narrative qualities it could be a real winner. Not that Meteor Man is a weak score since it has its moments especially in the film. On CD this one is a two-face with incredibly boring and incredibly exciting parts.  

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

                   Tracklisting:

01. Main Title (01:46)
02. Poor Lewis (00:22)
03. Ain't Crossing (01:05)
04. Initiation (02:39)
05. Meteor Strikes (02:50)
06. Jefferson Reed (00:39)
07. The Stromberg Theory (01:02)
08. Hospital Vision (01:43)
09. Offensive Plan (01:01)
10. Ellington Speaks (00:39)
11. Jet Magazine (01:13)
12. Coffee Service (01:04)
13. Close To Home (00:28)
14. X-Ray Vision (00:56)
15. Jeff Protects Dad (02:07)
16. Rebirth (01:58)
17. Jealous Boyfriend (00:34)
18. Simon Says (00:22)
19. Suspicious Polaroid (00:18)
20. Mrs. Walker (01:32)
21. Off To Work (00:55)
22. Cleaning Up Hood (02:35)
23. Emergency MTG (01:04)
24. Gaarden Of Eatin' (02:43)
25. Flowers & Candy (00:14)
26. Slinuy's Like Life (01:33)
27. The Impostor (03:14)
28. Take Off The Uniform (00:27)
29. Jeff Catches Bullets (01:30)
30. Forced Entry (01:41)
31. Jeff Says He'll Leave (02:23)
32. Double Cross (03:14)
33. Dog Alert (03:05)
34. Meteor Spill (03:07)
35. Woratg Duel (04:02)
36. Oh No, Ellington! (01:55)
37. Ultimate Hero (01:46)
38. Reviving Ellington (01:24)
39. Bloods & Crypts Unite (03:06)