Volcano (1997) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Volcano had the misfortune of following Dante’s Peak in the 1997 disaster movie race. Two Volcano flicks in four months created market confusion and turned off audiences that felt both films were blatant cash grabs. Dante’s Peak won the war of box-office dollars, but is the inferior film between the two competing pictures.

The La Brea tar pits have become the base of a raging volcanic eruption. The flowing magma spills onto the streets of downtown Los Angeles causing chaos throughout the city. Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones) is an emergency services director that is caught in the middle of the action. As the calamity and the casualties mount a group of public servants and civilians are forced to act bravely in saving lives and countering the damage of the raging lava.

The story line is basic formula for the genre, but the film does take off when the fiery explosions start raining down on the city. The modern urban setting of the film is more relatable and fun than the mountain town setting of Dante’s Peak. There is a perverse joy in seeing the L.A. area torn apart and burned. Coming off the Los Angeles riots a few years earlier, I don’t think audiences were ready for seeing the city destroyed, even in a fictional setting. Without the burden of current history and through the prism of two decades, Volcano glorifies the visual elements and continues the time-honored cheesy characters and dialogue that are hallmarks of the genre.

Director: Mick Jackson
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, Don Cheadle

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