The cultural, geological, biological, and historical impact of meteorites are laid bare in this moving and existential documentary
Werner Herzog once again teams up with his Encounters at the End of the World and Into the Inferno collaborator, volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, for this beautiful, fascinating, and even funny study of meteorites and their impact on everything from earth’s geological make up to the shaping of our religions. Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds is another in the long list of triumphant documentaries from Herzog, marrying his profound curiosity with his unmistakeable wit and possibly the most authoritative voice this side of David Attenborough.
Herzog and Oppenheimer travel all over the earth in search of meteorites, guided on their travels by amiable scientific obsessives whose wonder and awe is absolutely infectious. There are eccentric scholars in Oslo who have invented an entirely new sub-genre of science, collecting micro-meteorites that look unbelievably gorgeous under a microscope, and a journey to an Aboriginal village in Australia shows the way these celestial beings loom large in cultural memories and folk art.
Particularly moving moments come on a trip to Antarctica, where a South Korean expedition is overcome with emotion upon finding a giant and exceedingly rare meteor, members of the group breaking down as if they’ve just seen the face of God. And behind all these moments is Herzog’s wonderful commentary, sometimes amusingly snarky but always sincere in his appreciation of his subjects’ drive and ambition.
With its sweeping establishing shots and omnipresent voiceover, Fireball is a reassuringly old-school documentary that will leave you marvelling at the sheer scale of the cosmos and the power of the stones it sometimes throws at us. They may well have brought life to this planet, but they could also wipe us out any second, granting Fireball a compelling existential quality. Plus, it features master filmmaker Werner Herzog repeatedly waxing lyrical about 1998’s Deep Impact. Who could ask for more?
Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds is now streaming on Apple TV+.Where to watch