Super Comet: After The Impact
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Super Comet: After The Impact

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Over the century that film has been a popular there have been many ways to frighten an audience. There is the supernatural killer like Freddie or Jason. They just keep coming; nothing can stop them on their murderous mission. Since there is absolutely no chance of every meeting creatures such as these the scare is completely visceral. Then there are natural disasters like earthquakes, tidal waves and raging infernos. Science is getting better at predicting them so the real terror here is depending on FEMA to help. Sharks are also a great way to scare people but the answer here is just avoid going into waters where dangerous fish hang out. One thing that has become popular lately is the most dreadful in the scriptwriter’s arsenal of terror, a large comet impacting on the earth. Even if we knew it was coming there is little to do to avoid the crash. An event like this is believed to have resulted in the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Even if you managed to somehow survive civilization would be gone, food production gone and the earth plunged into a bitter cold perpetual winter. It is only fitting that a comet take the top prize in the disaster flick category, after all the word disaster literally means bad star. Most of the Hollywood flicks about such an event are a little loose with the science, okay; a lot loose with it. Usually if you watch something on one of the historical or scientific channels on cable there may be a portion of the program with some scenes depicting what would happen but mostly there are talking head experts explaining the science behind what would happen. The Discovery Channel has come up with the perfect way to show the impending doom of a snowball from space impacting the earth; ‘Super Comet: After the Impact’. They infuse scientific facts with a compelling story of people who managed to survive such a collision. It avoids the dryness of most fact based shows by giving a human face to the destruction.

The film starts off in space 65 million years ago. A big rock hits the earth and many species just ceased to exist. There are then some little facts provided in a fast montage of extremely worried scientist. A comet is headed for earth at 135,000 miles per hour. Anyone not protected in some fashion will die within the first few minutes. The first real scene is a man on a routine commute in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, the location of some of the world’s most advanced observatories. Astrophysicist Noah Boyle is on duty searching the skies. His team is tracking a comet that is entering the earth’s orbit on a collision course. A missile with the most powerful nuclear bomb ever is about to strike the comet. In Paris the Vatone family sits in front of their television set, like the rest of the world anxious about the outcome. In Texas Fernando Martinez works as an electrician to support his wife and children back home in Mexico. He prays that science will be successful. The largest rocket available was retrofitted for the mission. It has been traveling for six months to meet the comet near the orbital distance of Mars. The rocket scores a direct hit but the trajectory of the comet is unchanged. The whole world hears of the failure except for remote places without modern communications. One such area is in the African bush country where tribesmen carry on their lives unaware of the impending disaster. People rush to the stores to gather as many provisions as possible. Fernando’s only concern is to get back to his family. Soon trucks with vital supplies stop running and panic hits the population. In between the looks at the people this film follows are comments by a real scientist, Professor Jay Melosh of the University of Arizona and renowned as an expert on impact cratering. His projection for the aftermath is extremely bleak.

The film considers the days just before the impact. Scientist work to calculate the exact point of impact. Radio telescopes scan the comet and project the point to with a great degree of accuracy. This brings up a bigger problem; how do you evacuate an entire nation. The comet will land in the Yucatan region of Mexico, the destination of Fernando who is now cut off from any news. Real Germany scientist Professor Wolf Dombrosky is an expert on disaster management. He feels that self evacuation will take hold as the governments are unprepared to move such a vast number of people. The comet finally hits the earth, just where and when predicted. There is a blast of 100 million megatons spreading the impact wave out from the impact point creating a crater six miles in diameter lined with melted and vaporized rock. It jets rock and water miles into the air. Fernando sees the fiery blast wave just in time and manages to take shelter behind a steel door. The vast amount of energy released forms changed particles that spread out in an electromagnetic pulse that disables any electronic device within the global range. Electricity, the glue that holds civilization together is gone. Then the fall-out as tons of dust and rock that went up into the atmosphere rains down all over the world blocking out the sun. The cloud that now surrounds the world in a burning rain and ash. Next the floods as tsunamis pound the coastlines north to New York City with twenty foot waves. A few hours late Europe is hit and the coastline changed. Back in Africa the tribesmen think it is a curse from the gods and enact a desperate ceremony to beg forgiveness. In Hawaii the people at the observatory rush to prepare for the coming fire ball. Surface temperatures may rise as much as 600 degrees. Rocks and fire fall from the sky and surface temperatures are to extreme for life. The only hope is get underground. In Paris the Vatone family seeks refuge in a subterranean canal. Some days later the temperatures cool as all that is combustible is consumed and the ash cloud block the sunlight. Those people who survived face dwindling food supplies, no electricity and no hope to even grow food. Fresh water is almost impossible to find. The entire world is back in the dark ages.

Image Entertainment is well known for the diversity of their DVD releases. With this one they worked with the Discovery and Science Channels to bring one of the best DVDs in ages out for release. This film grabbed me in the first minute and held be glues to the television for the next 84. It is far more gripping than any of the Hollywood flicks about this topic. The way the real scientists were used was brilliant. They were talking heads but the setting was made to look like some Government think tank considering a real situation. The stories of regular people around the world and how they were affected was inspired. This personalized the film more than any big name actor could. It was more like watching a documentary. The urgency and dire circumstances is presented as real and immediate. This would be an event that all of our modern technology could not prevent. If a sizable comet is headed for us there is little to do. The film does show the resourcefulness of the small part of humanity that lives. They don’t face rebuilding civilization; they are far too busy just finding food, shelter and water to worry about what marvels we lost. This is too intense for younger children so you are warned. It might even give the adults a nightmare or two. This is incredible, the perfect mixture of real science and exciting cinema.

Posted 12/22/07

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