Volcano review by Matt Fuerst


1997 was the year of the natural disaster film. Two hotly competitive companies, 20th Century Fox (with Donner/Schuler Productions) and Universal Pictures were producing two disaster films, Volcano and Dante's Peak respectively, at the same time. Dante's Peak won the race to the box office, being released in February, with Volcano coming out later in April. The tone of the two films is quite different as well, with Dante's Peak attempting to be more stately and scientific in it's tone, and Volcano being a shameless action picture.

Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones) is the head honcho at the Office of Emergency Management in the county of Los Angeles. An earthquake happens on a random day, but not just any earthquake. This earthquake is so disruptive that it has allowed molten lava to come up from underneath the crust and bubble up to the surface. Molten lava is then flowing down Wilshire Boulevard. Obviously this is a stressful day to be the head honcho of a place called the Office of Emergency Management. Will Roark be able to stop the flow of lava before all of California is burned up in a hot, gooey mess? I'll leave the shock ending up for your enjoyment, or lack thereof.

The most surprising thing of Volcano is the number of needless subplots it manages to include. Now, considering the film is only 103 minutes long, obviously the main story of man vs. nature wasn't going to be a satisfying film, but every single subplot is needless and ridiculous. Subplots are literally formed along the way and some, discarded immediately. All of them should have been discarded altogether. From memory, some subjects we touch upon: And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We also get episodes of childhood innocence and racism (everyone's face covered with ash, nauseating, dumbass, deserving of death child Tommy says "Look at the faces! Everyone looks the same!"), brotherhood of policemen and members of the Office of Emergency Management (character Gator chooses to stay with a hurt officer in a building as it explodes for no apparent reason) and Roark's bizarre relationship with a strange neighbor lady. The cuts from scene to scene are nauseating as you never know where you are going next.

For a film that I setup as being more action based than Dante's Peak, that sure sounds like a lot of story. I say Volcano is more action based since the action starts early and really is the driving force of the story. Not that the earthquake and ensuing volcano is particularly satisfying. The effects are pretty poor for someone that uses a traditional summer blockbuster as a measuring stick. The lava is lame and not imposing. Lots of firesticks and other effects are pretty obvious and not very well done.

Should I continue? I don't feel it's really necessary. You get the point, I beleaguered through the movie through all 103 or so minutes of the film, and you spending 5 minutes on this review could be far better spent. I imagine if you struggle enough, you could put together quite a paper on the concept that Volcano is really a tale of Hollywood taking a critical look at itself. It's certainly not a coincidence that a lot of Hollywood gets rubbed out by an unstoppable force of nature. A couple other scenes could be looked at in such a critical light, most notably when a lava meteor just happens to take out a billboard of a Marilyn Monroe knockoff. But this is giving a polished turd much more credit than it deserves. A polished turd is a turd none the less. Thanks for struggling through the dootie analogy.

I watched the film via a Laserdisc, which is a nice presentation of a poor film. The Laserdisc is THX certified, with a good rumble in the low end and a clear 1.85:1 transfer. The Laserdisc nor the DVD have any particular extras, which in this case is quite a relief. One less throw away cast interview that I had to wade through. Even if a magic genie promised me eternal JackassCritics success I don't know if I could have made my way through 103 minutes of directors commentary. Even if I was an unemployed computer programmer sitting at home all day without a working XBox, I wouldn't watch this bitch again. If I had this and Mumford in my hands... man, I'd cut off both hands and consider myself better off. Overall, I've had more satisfying eruptions in my underpants.

2 out of 10 Jackasses
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