The Jesse Eisenberg Disaster Movie That Is Completely Forgotten By Everyone

By Doug Norrie | Published

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Before he was Mark Zuckerberg or Lex Luthor, Jesse Eisenberg got one of his first “big” roles in a disaster movie that has gone largely forgotten. It’s rare to see flicks with future stars fall off the collective radar, but that’s just what happened with Lightning: Fire from the Sky.

Lightning: Fire from the Sky is a less-explored film in which Jesse Eisenberg appears in a pretty significant role when he was just 18 years old. This disaster film hit the screens on December 23, 2001, and saw director David Giancola at the helm.

Lightning: Fire from the Sky came out in 2001 with Jesse Eisenberg playing Eric Dobbs, a student trying to save a town from impending doom

Jesse Eisenberg takes on the role of Eric Dobbs, a whip-smart high school student residing in a small American town. His on-screen father, Tom Dobbs, played by John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard anyone?), holds the position of the town’s sheriff a plot point that will bring father and son at odds before it’s all said and done.

The plot of Lightning: Fire from the Sky is centered around a previously unexperienced weather phenomenon, leading to a series of catastrophic lightning storms that threaten the safety of the town. Although the town is no stranger to regular thunderstorms, this emerging situation is unprecedented. Eric, a budding meteorologist, begins noticing alarming irregularities in the weather patterns and anticipates the imminent danger.

Undeterred by the mockery of his schoolmates and skepticism from his father, Eric passionately pursues his research, aiming to devise a way to rescue his town from the impending disaster. His academic acumen (a trait Jesse Eisenberg pulls off well) combined with his relentless quest for truth leads to a climactic showdown, during which the entire town must unite to survive nature’s fury.

Jesse Eisenberg in Lightning: Fire from the Sky

Though the film went largely unnoticed, Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Eric Dobbs did begin to demonstrate his acting versatility, showcasing his talent in the early days of his career before he rose to fame with movies like Zombieland (2009) and The Social Network (2010).

Lightning: Fire from the Sky presented something of a compelling character progression for Eric, who grapples with typical teenage problems, family dynamics, and the ultimate burden of saving his town.

This movie was only the second credited role for Jesse Eisneberg

Despite the film’s disaster-centric theme, Eisenberg’s youthful charisma and heartfelt performance add a layer of warmth and relatability to the plot. The transformation of his character from an underappreciated teenager to a town hero is one of the captivating aspects of Lightning: Fire from the Sky. In this way, it was fun even early on to root for Jesse Eisenberg to win even if he went on to play some unlikable dudes at times.

Lightning: Fire from the Sky was Jesse Eisenberg’s second credited role following a somewhat longer stint on the series Get Real. It would be a few years until we saw him in The Village or The Squid and the Whale, movies that really began to show his range and depth as an actor. 

Jesse Eisenberg’s Acting Career Took Off Not Too Long After

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It was in the late 2000s when Jesse Eisenberg’s star really began to shine in movies like the incredibly underrated Adventureland and then Zombieland which showcased his quiet and hilariously subdued innocence in the wake of a zombie invasion.

Of course, he would go on to have major roles in Social Network and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. But even with the DC Universe set to kick back up in high gear, it doesn’t look like he’ll be reprising the Lex Luthor role in James Gunn’s world.

So if you want to see it go back towards the beginning where his acting career started,  Lightning: Fire from the Sky is the way to go. Now we just need to wait for this Jesse Eisenberg film to actually stream somewhere. Sometimes with these relatively unknown flicks, that’s the biggest challenge.