Tommy Versus the Volcano
In a strange way I would like to have said that it was possible for a volcano to form in L.A., not out of some sort of malicious emotion but it would have made the movie "Volcano" at least a little bit more realistic. But science says that a volcano can't form in L.A. and so "Volcano" is a far fetched fantasy, a disaster movie which runs through the disaster movie play book and unsurprisingly the longer it goes on the more outrageously daft it becomes. It has to be said that "Volcano" is entertaining but that is as much for what is bad about it as is good, because when "Volcano" is bad it is laughable bad and when it isn't laughable bad it's full of action.
Following a small earthquake, OEM manager Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones - Batman Forever) believes there maybe something bigger is on the way, so abandons his vacation with his daughter Kelly (Gaby Hoffmann - The Man Without a Face) and goes to check things out. What he discovers with the help of geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche - The Juror) is that things are heating up beneath the surface but no one wants to listen to him when he wants to close certain areas of the Metro down. But they soon wish they had when a volcano starts to form in MacArthur Park and L.A. comes under threat from a river of molten lava destroying everything in its path.
"Volcano" put simply is very much a text book disaster movie, in fact it works through the disaster movie play book without ever deviating from the rules which are set down by the countless other disaster movies which have preceded it. As such the first part of "Volcano" gives us the classic mix of introducing us to all the major players, the characters we know will become pivotal when the disaster hits. And at the same time it hints at the disaster which is to come as engineers mysteriously die whilst working in tunnels under L.A. and lakes start heating up.
Intro out of the way, you then get the middle section where disaster strikes and it strikes in quite impressive fashion as a volcano forms in MacArthur Park, erupting hot lava which leads too mass destruction and death. Of course whilst this is all going on we get to see what is happening to all those characters we met in the first part especially that of Mike Roark who works for the Office of Emergency Management and finds himself caught in the midst of all the turmoil with his daughter. And what follows this is the blend of not only escaping death by molten lava but also finding someway of stopping it before it destroys the whole of L.A. And you guessed it all those characters we have been following sort of combine as Roark leads them, along with the police and fire crews in trying to discover a way to sort this mess out.
Now all of this is text book disaster movie but where as previous disaster movies have been sort of realistic or at least possible what we get in "Volcano" is action fantasy. From the whole idea that a volcano can form in L.A. through to the ingenious and laughable ways that they try to stop the river of lava it is basically over the top. And being over the top it often borders on the corny especially as it tries to bring in a message about racial tension and then delivering the big message that everyone being the same. As such "Volcano" is a movie where it is essential to disengage your brain and just watch the rollercoaster ride of action as one big action scene follows another.
Talking of the action some of it is quite good, the special effects are not bad and watching a river of lava flowing through L.A. is at times quite impressive. But it is also often very cheesy especially when director Mick Jackson employs over indulgent use of slow motion to make acts or heroism seem so much more. It's a case for every good action scene there will be one which is laughable for being seriously cheesy especially when some of the action sequences border on the crazy when it comes to trying to stop the river of lava.
And to be honest the mix of good and cheesy works its way through every single performance and character. You could say that every single character is a cliche especially that of Roark who is meant to be holidaying with his daughter but is a workaholic who being separated from his wife doesn't really know what his daughter likes. And so it goes on from racial tensions between a resident and a policeman through to the laid back attitude of one of Roark's fellow workers who idolizes him. As such none of the performances are great and whilst Tommy Lee Jones makes a good hero and Anne Heche makes a good scientist what we get is for the most unmemorable. And that is the same for all the cast from Gaby Hoffmann through to Don Cheadle.
But whilst all of this makes "Volcano" technically a very cheesy movie which borders on the bad it is entertaining. Yes you will laugh at some of the special effects, cringe at the cheesy dialogue and over use of slow motion. But the incessant stream of over the top action is entertaining even if it is often stupid and as such "Volcano" is surprisingly watch able.
What this all boils down to is that "Volcano" is not a good movie and in fact it probably has more wrong with it than is right. But despite the dodgy effects, dodgier use of slow motion and some painful dialogue it is entertaining because it is a rollercoaster ride of over the top action. As such if all you want is a no brainer disaster movie which fires one big action scene at you after another then "Volcano" will most definitely entertain.