METEOR -- AMC Academy, AMC Skyline, Landover, Roth's Silver Spring East, Roth's Tysons Corner, Tenley Circle, White Flint.


That's the sound of "Meteor" settling in at area theaters. It makes more noise than the usual disaster film only because more money was spent to sink it. It has movie stars in it, such as Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Trevor Howard and Henry Fonda, along with a former actor, Karl Malden, and it features the delulxe assortment of disasters -- an avalanche, a tidal wave, a bombed-out New York City and so on. (No rabid bats, though.)

Aside from that, it is your standard "My God -- here it comes!" job, for those that like that sort of thing. A meteor is scheduled to crash into the world on Pearl Harbor Day, it seems, and the President of the United States (Henry Fonda -- you thought Natalie Wood?) after being persuaded at length that this would be a bad thing for the world, asks the Soviets to join with us to head it off. As a by-product of this cooperation, the Cold War, the continued intensity of which we see in the form of some high-level Russki sneering, is stopped dead by a telephone call.

Little bits of rock, of the kind that were left floating in the Hollywood atmosphere by "Star Wars," are responsible for creating the mini-disasters that lead up to the big anti-climax.

The space stuff is not impressive, the mock-ups being about as exciting as animations of eggs traveling through ovaries in high-school hygiene films. On earth, technology has advanced to the point where television screens bring you pictures from all over the world of your friends being killed live, so to speak. The greatest technical feat of the film seems to be that Soviets actually speak Russian, even when played by American actors.

And so the only distinguishing mark of the picture remains its attitude toward money. We know this not only from press releases about the film's budget, but from internal evidence in the film.It begins with a former NASA scientist's being caught in the middle of a boat race by a Coast Guard ship, flown by special jet to Houston, only to be told there that his presence was wanted the next day in Washington, and then flown here, on a regular flight that NASA thoughtfully has held for him.

If that is how we conduct our civilization, small wonder that something is on the way down from heaven to destroy it.