We are starting our top three 1997 disaster movie list with this epic. At number three it is the worst among them, and the reason for that is the totally unrealistic and pretentious script. Especially towards the end, where you will find yourself saying (or shouting) lame at every other scene; it almost fits the category movies so bad that they are good (it fits, moved to this category). But the great cast and even better special effects somehow saved it. And when I say saved it, I mean that this movie is watchable, if for nothing else than for the enormous quantity of cliches and scientific inaccuracies.
Another interesting thing is the social commentary, where the writers decided that a disaster movie should show “average” people what are the true “American” values. I wanna say pure ideology, but Volcano didn’t even manage to do that. There are not a lot of good volcano movies. I mean, sure Pompeii from 2014 is the best looking one with Dante’s Peak, released the same year as Volcano, coming in hot at the second place.
The rest of them are mostly TV movies that still look pretty decent like St. Helens or Supervolcano. Speaking of TV movies, Volcano’s director, Mick Jackson, gained his fame with post-apocalyptic BBC drama Threads. It scared the Brits proper with a very realistic and gritty vision of a world after a nuclear disaster. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some good old disaster flicks like Krakatoa, East of Java from 1968 loosely based on the 1883 eruption and When Time Ran Out… from 1980 starring Paul Newman and Jacqueline Bisset.
After he finally went on vacation with his daughter, the director of the Office of Emergency Management, Mike Roark is called back to work after a series of earthquakes. And while earthquakes are pretty regular in this area, Roark is alarmed by the reports of burned utility workers in a storm drain. He decides to check out the storm drain only to narrowly escape with his life after toxic fumes start filling the air. It’s going to be a long night for him…
Mike Roark is trying to save the city of Los Angeles from the erupting volcano, and he is doing a damn good job. What amazed me most about the script is Mike’s total devotion to his daughter, so he is willing to sacrifice hundreds of people just to save her. And speaking of that, I must mention one scene, SPOILER alert, when they are about to detonate the charges, set in the nearby building, Mike runs through the explosion for about 200 meters just to jump on his daughter and some retard that wandered off in the middle of the volcano eruption.
And after this, an immense structure fell on top of the Mr. Tommy Lee Jones, from which he triumphantly emerges from the debris with two children. Epic fail. Even if he was Terminator or SkeletonMan he could not pull that off, and this is an example of that social commentary that I was talking about in the first part of the review. But still, this movie is interesting enough for those lazy Sunday hangover mornings or afternoons. I mean, where else would you see a major city in the middle of a volcano eruption? In the same way, you can check out Alligator from 1980 to see how a giant alligator fares in the urban environment.
Director: Mick Jackson
Writers: Jerome Armstrong, Billy Ray
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Don Cheadle, Keith David, John Carroll Lynch, Marcello Thedford
Fun Stuff: The lava was primarily made of methylcellulose, the thickening agent used in fast-food milkshakes. The ash was made mostly of ground newspaper.