Volcano (1997)

Volcano (1997)
  • Time: 104 min
  • Genre: Action | Drama | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Mick Jackson
  • Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Don Cheadle, Gaby Hoffmann


Something unspeakably chilling is ultimately starting to heat up at The City of Los Angeles! Beneath the famed La Brea Tar Pits, a raging volcano has formed, raining a storm of deadly fire bombs and an endless tide of white-hot lava upon the stunned city!

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  • Disaster movies go way back in cinema. Just like how gore hound fans love to see their deadly horror films, there’s also a large crowd of viewers who live to watch disaster features. For unexplained reasons, studios and screenwriters alike have a fond interest of showing to their audiences how mother nature could flip the birdie at us. Unfortunately like a lot of other movies, there isn’t much of anything clever about these types of films. The problem is because the movie focuses more on the natural disaster itself more than the characters; especially during the late 1990s when special effects started being abused instead of being utilized. This film has that but does have a few points that make it worth the time to see (once).

    When worker Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones) of the Office of Emergency Management is notified of a couple burn victims in man-made underground pipes, he decides to find out what caused such a freak accident. Believing it could have been a pipe burst, Roark discovers something much more dangerous than he thought. Consulting to Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche), they hypothesize that the cause is actually an active volcano. As a story, this is about as far as it gets when it comes to anything that moves its characters. Initially the story starts out with what seems to be a political/social take on (possibly) what has happening in California at the time,…but it never really gets addressed. As for characters, the only actors who save themselves (performance wise) are Tommy Lee Jones, Don Cheadle and Keith David. Everyone else quite honestly wasn’t necessary with all the numerous story threads. Their roles are there for cliche development and that’s it.

    There’s a subplot about a nurse played by Jacqueline Kim that doesn’t go much of anywhere and Roark’s daughter played by Gaby Hoffmann wasn’t that important either. Even as significant as Anne Heche’s role was, she still has a cliche character. Also what’s with her and liking much older men? She has a crush on Jones in this movie and falls for Harrison Ford in Six Days Seven Nights (1998). It’s interesting to see who wrote the script for this movie. Credit is given to Jerome Armstrong and Billy Ray. Armstrong only has this movie to his credit. However, Ray has apparently improved because he now has critically acclaimed films like The Hunger Games (2012) and Captain Phillips (2013) on his resume. But for this work, it can be seen that he hadn’t perfected his skill just yet. The only pluses that can be given in the writing are the several tense scenes which involve the flowing lava peril or when the people of the city are working together. Both scenarios are polar opposites in tone but they also work effectively in bringing out the right emotion while watching the film run its course. It’s funny how that works.

    Mick Jackson directs the film and although it gets the job done in areas mentioned prior, the direction is just standard. This was also his last feature film to direct for the big screen. Since then, he has moved on to directing TV show episodes and TV movies. The cinematography provided by Theo van de Sande looks decent. Considering Sande had more than 20 years of experience before this, rightfully so his work should look good. Sande does not have wide scoping shots but they at least conceal the illusion that this movie was not filmed in a large city. The special effects to the lava also looked decent although a couple times some shots were recycled. Finally the musical score composed by Alan Silvestri work well. Again, when it came to the emotional scenes it did work in its favor. Considering that this is not a franchise, listeners should be able to understand why there was no memorable main theme. That’s acceptable for this kind of movie.

    It’s a very basic thriller when it comes to characters and their development. Plus the fact that it’s a disaster movie doesn’t exactly have anything to highlight other than the disaster. Thankfully, some of its main leads, peril scenes and effective music manages to make it entertaining enough to use some of the viewers time.

    Points Earned –> 6:10

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