Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds Movie Poster Image
Docu about meteorites has beauty, cosmic significance.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 97 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Plenty to learn about science, math, and the cosmos. Also addresses larger concepts about possible life elsewhere in the universe, the coming of a deadly meteor that could wipe out everything, and the idea that everything is made of stardust.

Positive Role Models

Many scientists are interviewed, and the movie shows that they're real, diverse people and that their work can be used for the greater good. Two in particular have the job of monitoring the skies in search of meteors that might be a threat to Earth.

Violence

Discussions about mass destruction and meteors "destroying us all." Story about a woman hit in the head by meteor; photo of her bruised side. Images of meteor destruction from the 1998 movie Deep Impact. A man is a four-time cancer survivor.

Sex
Language

Use of "hell." Uses of "godforsaken." Mention of meteors being "send down by God."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds is a documentary by filmmaker Werner Herzog that explores meteorites -- not just in a scientific way, but also in a grand, existential way. It's a gorgeous, enlightening movie, if perhaps a bit too dense for younger viewers. There are discussions of a "big one" impacting Earth someday and destroying everything, as well as fictional footage of destruction from the movie Deep Impact. There's a story about a woman getting hit in the head by a small meteor and a photo of a bruise. Cancer is mentioned. Language includes a use of "hell" and uses of "godforsaken."

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What's the story?

In FIREBALL: VISITORS FROM DARKER WORLDS, filmmaker Werner Herzog and Professor of Volcanology Clive Oppenheimer explore the history of meteorites on Earth and the impact they've had on human beliefs and cultures throughout time. A black stone that's most certainly from space has become a spiritual artifact in Mecca. A scientist picks up micrometeorites and photographs them at the molecular level to discover new patterns, geometrical possibilities, and even organic matter. People who live near huge craters feel a connection to them. We even see ancient dances that may be inspired by meteorites. Says one interviewee, "meteorites have meaning."

Is it any good?

Herzog delivers another of his amazing nature documentaries that go beyond mere facts and into the cosmic, existential meaning of it all; this one, about meteorites, is glorious. Here, Herzog gives co-directing credit to volcanologist Oppenheimer, who previously appeared in Herzog's documentaries Encounters at the End of the World and Into the Inferno. Oppenheimer does the heavy lifting in Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, interviewing the various scientists on camera and making the film's information, including some tricky mathematics and geometry, clear for viewers.

Meanwhile, Herzog narrates in his familiar, mournful voice, with his signature metaphysical, sometimes apocalyptic poetry lending the images an immensity that makes them seem comforting, like gazing up at a star-dotted sky and realizing that we aren't alone. As in his other movies, Herzog tends to follow his own insatiable curiosity, and he winds up in some amazing places; the two people who photograph the micrometeorites are a scientist who's also a jazz musician and a four-time cancer survivor who prefers to dress like Wyatt Earp. In the end, Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds reminds us that a big one may be coming our way someday, but that, at the same time, we're all stardust.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds's violence. Is the movie trying to scare viewers with the idea that a meteor could wipe out everything? How did you feel about this information?

  • Did this movie inspire you to become more interested in science?

  • What does it mean that some micrometeorites contain organic material?

  • Is everything really made of stardust? Why, or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love space documentaries

Themes & Topics

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