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Movie Review


Reviewed by: Cheryl Sneeringer

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
13 to Adult
113 min.

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Ann Heche, Don Cheadle, Gaby Hoffman, Keith David, Jacqueline Kim, John Corbett, John Carroll Lynch / Director: Mick Jackson / Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

In Los Angeles, seven men working in a storm drain are killed by a blast of subterranean flame-their bodies blackened to a crisp. The temperature of a pond rises several degrees overnight. Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones), of the Office of Emergency Management and geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Ann Heche) investigate. They discover that the shifting of tectonic plates beneath the city has opened a fissure, and that magma beneath the Earth’s surface is about to erupt, forming an instant volcano in downtown L.A. As the disaster plays itself out, we get to see great special effects—geysers of fire, molten lava rocks shooting into the air like missiles, and a magnificent lava flow.

The premise of this movie sounds good, but the finished product is abysmal. The fatal flaw of this film is its script, which is excruciatingly bad. The movie is so full of major scientific errors that I found myself groaning in disbelief.

Consider: you have a river of molten lava hundreds of yards long successfully cooled and solidified by spraying it for a minute with water from about fifty fire hoses and a few dozen helicopters. The screenwriters did not bother to research the physics of heat transfer. Then there’s the man who is walking in a subway train with an open metal grate for its floor, lava flowing just beneath his feet. The man’s shoes are melting as he walks on the hot grate, but he has no problem breathing the superheated air in the car.

Throughout the movie, people do preposterous things. Firemen continue spraying water on (empty) burning buildings, paying absolutely no attention to the lava flow that creeps by just a few feet behind them, incinerating everything it touches. In the midst of raining cinders, erupting steam and blasts of shattered glass, no one seems inclined to take cover. As the lava streams down the boulevard, Roark engages a team of men to turn a bus over on its side to block the lava flow—though the length of the bus is only a fraction of the width of the flow. Frequently in this movie, people stand very close to the lava and never even sweat. Perhaps the screenwriters did not understand that lava is HOT!

Don’t waste your money on this movie. If you want to see an action-packed movie about a volcano, a better choice would be “Dante’s Peak”. Whereas “Volcano” takes place largely on one strip of pavement in L.A., “Dante’s Peak” carries the action to several different locales—portraying the effects of the volcanic eruption on highways, rivers, villages, lakes, and meadows. “Dante’s Peak” is more visually complex than “Volcano”, and there is a magnificence and grandeur about the devastating event it portrays.

To its credit, “Volcano” has no sex or nudity, and just four instances of mild/bad language. Not bad for a PG-13 film. However, it earned its MPAA rating through the scenes of gruesome horror (burned bodies, a man melting in lava, people’s legs on fire, etc.), which make it wholly unsuitable for young children, and sensitive adults and teens.

Year of Release—1997

Viewer Comments
I thought that this movie was fairly good except for one thing. AS the lava starts to boil out of crevaces in the highways, lakes, and ground of the city, reporters are heard saying, “there’s a strange orangish liquid and its eating everything in sight.” For those of us who never made it past first grade, that’s called LAVA! I wanted to scream it to the people acting in the script. LAVA!

Like most movies, I saw good and bad in this movie. I didn’t feel it threatened my christian values though. I agree with the review, it didn’t seem real or even life threatening in most cases. God is the only one in control of our vast creation. Only He can cause something as huge as a real volcano to stop. My heart goes out to those who do not know the Lord as their Savior. It opens my eyes to a lost and hopeless world, who have willingly turned their back on Jesus. I cried throughout much of the movie. I do not know what tomorrow brings, but I do know that I am ready to meet my Maker. Are You?
—S. Gerlock, age 36
It amazes me that Hollywood is able to spend millions of dollars on special effects without a decent script. I saw this movie several weeks ago and I’ve already forgotten the plot. I just remember wondering how did they do some of the special effects and continuously saying “you’ve got to be kidding” to some the situations. If you like special effects, wait for the video and fast forward through the dialogue, otherwise forget this one.
—Ben Stroud, age 36
I really enjoyed this movie; the scenes where great and the effects awsome. If Dantes Peak is better I have to go see it. I went with my girl and we had a blast. Keep the reviews coming!
—Edwin Aybar, age 16
I apologize to fellow believer in Christ Chris Utley and to all in Los Angeles for the comment I made about the “City of Angels.” I am known for saying silly things and that was an example. Sin is rampant everywhere, not just in the big cities. So please forgive me…
—Miller Nguyen, age 22
Volcano was a blast!! The effects were awesome. As an LA resident, the thing that struck me most about this one was the heavy usage of LA satire. Great screenwriting on that part. Way better than Dante’s Peak. p.s. In regards to Miller Nguyen’s comment about people in LA fearing the Lord: Don’t be so quick to judge us. A whole lot of us in this town are gonna be in the rapture just like you. Stop by Faithful Central Baptist, West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Greater Bethany Community Church and the TBN Studios in Santa Ana for proof!
—Chris Utley, age 24
First of all, the special effects were pretty cool in this movie. Amazingly, a scripture verse was used in the movie when T.L. Jones and Anne Heche quoted Jesus in Matthew 7:26b saying “shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon he sand.” God says His word doesn’t return void in Isaiah 55:11. A really stupid part in the movie was when two policemen were giving an African American guy a hard time.HELLO! Not all policemen are biggots.They put their lives on the line daily in their line of work!! In conclusion, I left this movie with a feeling that people better fear the Lord’s judgment after watching this movie, especially in Los Angeles.
—Miller Nguyen, age 21
I saw this film this past weekend. Enjoyed it, but had no allusions that the script would try to obey any laws of science. By the way, the person who found the number of profanities that Ryan describes must have had a stethescope to the speaker. In terms of discernable foul/dirty language, I’d say most folks would have to strain to hear more than 6 or 8.
—Tom, age 36
Whoa, whoa, whoa. You said only 4 instances of bad language. This confuses me. I visit two diferent moview review sites—This one, and ScreenIt… The review of “Volcano” said this about the language: 1 incomplete phrase using the “f” word (“What the…”), 22 “s” words, 13 hells, 8 damns, 2 “ass” words, and 8 uses of “Oh God,” 4 of “God damn,” 3 each of “God” and “Oh my God,” 2 uses of “Jesus” and 1 use each of “Jesus Christ,” “Oh Jesus,” “My God,” and “For Christ’s sakes” as exclamations. This totally conflicts with this reviewers opinions on the profanity. I probably won’t see this film, but what is the scoop on the language?
—Ryan Kelly
I agree fully with your review. Though I do feel that this movie is worthy of going to see. It’s got excellent special effects and basically that is what this movie is all about. It’s not meant to be serious, it’s kind of a joke in a way. Angelinos are so used to disaster that having a Volcano erupt in such a place as L.A. is humorous. Though there has been talked that a Volcano could never erupt in Los Angeles I’m not one to underestimate the awesome power of our Mighty Creator. If God wanted to have a Volcano erupt in Los Angeles then He could erupt a Volcano in Los Angeles. As for your reference to “Dante’s Peak,” this is a totally different film with a totally different concept.

Finally, I must admit I saw a better movie this past weekend in Romy and Michele. The movie had a great story and a whole lot of truth about life.
—Brian McClimans, age 22