AFI FEST 2020: Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds Review – A Herzogian Meteor Shower

Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds

With Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog is probably the only man who would look at a volcano and think of its impact on the origins of humankind. So it’s no surprise that Herzog would make a documentary about meteors and its influence on mankind. Once again, Herzog teamed up with co-director Clive Oppenheimer to visit various meteor impact sites to understand what their presence means to humanity and to those who live within their reach. Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds is a comprehensive study of meteors but done in that Herzogian sense of humor. 

Herzog’s sarcastic wit jazzes up the narration of the film, but like most comedies, the jokes are either a hit or miss. At one point, he calls a beach resort in Chicxulub, “so Godforsaken you want to cry.” Herzog, at another point, also says, “the dogs here, like all dogs on this planet, are just too dimwitted to understand that three-quarters of all species were extinguished by the event that took place right here.” So, if you chuckled at these sarcastic jokes then you’ll enjoy the narration in this documentary.

This documentary traverses the globe to study the various fields of science, faith, and ethnography, all while encountering fellow investigators and experts. Each of the diverse destinations they investigate is put together in a non-narrative, loosely strung together, episodic way. But this tactic is something that may or may not be for everyone. The non-narrative episodic way of documentary storytelling goes at a breakneck pace and may bore some viewers.

Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds

As it is with any Herzog documentary, he focuses on the scientists themselves as much as he does on their pursuits. The film connects stories from many cultures and towns who are highly influenced by the meteors that landed nearby. You’ll soon discover that no matter the culture, they all share similar tales that connect these meteorite craters with the lifeblood and spirit of the land. A lot of the scientists are so obsessively passionate about their work, and Herzog and Oppenheimer celebrate their passion and allow their love to shine by letting them geek out over their work.

One of the best aspects of a Herzog and Oppenheimer documentary is the elegance of the imagery presented — from the wondrous landscape or the natural brilliance of the meteor ores. Herzog has always had a knack for finding and filming in these remote places, and Fireball lets him visit a lot of them. 

Overall, Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds is a fascinating and visually striking documentary in the most Herzogian way possible. Yet the film is not for anyone unfamiliar with his work. For better or worse, Werner Herzog plays by his own rules, and it shows once again in Fireball

Rating: 3/5 atoms

Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds hits Apple TV+ on November 13th.

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1615 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.