Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I believe 1997 made a small bit of history by being the first year with two big budget volcano movies released within a few months. The first, Dante's Peak, was okay, but hard to recommend. The second is Volcano, with Tommy Lee Jones (who I think is a better actor than Pierce Brosnan, the hero in the other volcano flick). Volcano is actually a slightly better movie than Dante's Peak, but the margin is very slight. I think what made me like the movie was that it pretty reasonable in the first half. If a volcano actually erupted in LA, this movie shows us sort of what it might be like. Jones plays Mike Roark, head of the OEM. Now the beginning of the movie informs us that the OEM has the ability to command a city during a terrible situation. That explains why Mike is so involved when the lava begins to seep through the broken cement of the city. Volcano is surprisingly realistic in its depiction of both the lava and the public reaction. It also has some thrilling sequences, like when Mike and a woman are picked up by a crane as a stream of lava moves towards them. But what nearly takes the movie down was the finale, which was almost insultingly cliched. There's a massive apartment complex that Mike decides to blow up. He believes that it was alter the current of the lava bring it into the ocean. Now there are two problems here: one they only have twenty minutes, and two, Mike's daughter has gone into the basement of apartment complex to find a stupid little boy named Tommy who has run off. Before this, the daughter and Tommy share some of the worst lines of dialogue I have ever heard. They're playing paper, scissors, rock, and the daughter points out that Tommy has selected paper. Then Tommy, an annoying blonde kid, probably five, with a chili bowl haircut, retorts in an incredibly annoying voice: 'I'm not paper, I'm lava. What beats that?' Daughter: 'my dad.' Okay, forget that line and the climax and the movie is pretty good. It's not comparable to other great disaster movies, but it does win the volcano movie battle of 1997.