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Last updated
December 04, 2002
12:35:26 AM
Godzilla
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The Lost World
Volcano

 

Volcano

Classification: Rated PG-13 (for intense depiction of urban disaster and related injuries.)
 
Directed by: Mick Jackson
Written by: Jerome Armstrong and Billy Ray
Sound Mix: DTS, Dolby Digital, SDDS
Running Time: 102 minutes
 
Cast:
Tommy Lee Jones - Mike Roark
Anne Heche - Dr. Amy Barnes
Gaby Hoffman - Kelly Roark
Don Cheadle - Emmit Reese
Jacqui Kim - Dr. Jaye Calder
Keith David - Lt. Ed Fox
Double Action Rating Conventional Rating Laughter Utilization (%) BIM Rating (1-10) Antic Level Buffer Zone (1-10)
35 1 DPC 2

The HYPE is TRIPE! At least that's what went through my mind while watching this film. The extent to which this film played up its political correctness was shameful. In addition, the attempt to depict the "triumph of the human spirit" really detracted from an otherwise hilarious film. In the previous disaster films that have come out so far, such as Twister and Dante's Peak, the actors are little more than puppets running around onscreen. Volcano on the other hand, like Daylight, attempts to add meaning and depth to its plot by showing scenes in which people are risking their lives for one another and "learn lessons of life". Naturally, Double Action viewers find humor in both approaches, but the former is preferable.

Tommy Lee Jones reprises his role as an obsessive US Marshal in search of lava, escaped from the Earth's crust, guilty of murder. Whoops - wrong occupation. He's an obsessive director of the Office of Emergency Management. An earthquake shakes LA, and he leaves his daughter at home (who is anxious to see him go) so that he can skip his vacation day and go back to work.

An odd accident kills a city underground maintenance crew, and the nature of their death raises suspicion. In the same vein as Brosnan in Dante's Peak, he wants to put the city on alert, but his superior shuts him down. He consults with a seismologist (Ann Heche), who gives him a lava hypothesis that even he is reluctant to believe. Of course, Heche is correct and the lava erupts and begins destroying block after block of the city. Chaos and laughter ensue as they perform desperate attempts to stem the flow. Failing that, they decide they must redirect the flow out to sea where the rest of the city sewage currently flows.

The writers of this movie obviously spent a great deal of time trying to get across politically correct viewpoints and teach us social lessons. They also make shallow attempts to focus on character development to try and bring the audience closer to the courage that their characters reach into themselves for. Let's analyze a few of these weak areas.

Tommy Lee Jones's daughter played by Gabby Hoffman is left with a particularly farfetched role. She plays a confident, smug, rebellious teenager at first, then a whimpering, sniveling little baby, and finally grows up and becomes a full fledged adult in the end by taking responsibility for a younger boy's safety. Who writes this stuff?

John Corbet fresh from the unemployment lines caused by Northern Exposure's cancellation plays a shallow, greedy, self-centered businessman. He only cares for his safety and that of his wife, the altruistic medical doctor played by Jacqui Kim. Let's see, the noble doctor is married to a conniving businessman and doesn't realize how reprehensible he is until the lava appears? What does that say about her judgement? These two characters were completely extraneous to the plot and should have been eliminated altogether.

Also there are the scenes with the policeman and the defiant youth from the inner city showcased the writers need to capitalize on the recent racial tension in LA from the various beatings and trials. Both the policeman and youth realize that they should set aside their differences and help one another. And they lived happily ever after.

There are two main scenes in which characters sacrifice their lives for someone else's. In one scene a demolitionist won't leave his friend that is trapped under rubble. All he has to do is run away and his life is spared. He doesn't and he dies a horrible death. In another scene, an engineer jumps into the pool of lava to save the life of a man he doesn't know and could have been already dead. If he abandoned the man, he could have jumped to safety, but with the weight of the man on his back, his death / injury was certain. He pauses a moment to make this heroic decision. This scene could have become incredibly funny if he did what I thought he might - throw the man's body into the lava and use it as a buoy much like James Bond did in Live and Let Die during the alligator pit scene...

The most shameful attempt to draw a "feel good" sigh from the audience occurs during the scene in which a child cannot distinguish people's faces because everyone is covered in volcano ash and thus there is no apparent race or sex discrimination. When the rain comes to wash away the soot, I almost shed a tear myself - from laughing so hard my sides hurt.

These stories are supposed to convince the audience that disasters can bring people together. We'll learn what we're all capable of, not only in acts of heroism but self- sacrifice. Our true colors will show through. We'll test our mettle. In Spock's words, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few." OK, enough with the rhetoric. Maybe we should look forward to natural disasters in real life...

                                         drkpitt

Bookmarked Scenes:

Extra Crispy, Please
A worker is pulled from a storm sewer and the entire left side of his face is charred like a piece of barbecued chicken. Mmmm, where's the Colonel's recipe for 11 herbs and spices?
Cliffhanger II
Dr. Calder finds herself perilously hanging over a bottomless rift. Barnes is unable to pull her up, and we are delighted that Dr. Calder manages to exclaim "Why Me???" as flames engulf her body and she embarks on her last scientific expedition - a journey to the center of the Earth...
Fireman, Warrior Prince
A firetruck is knocked over onto it's divers side by a lava bomb, and after it slides for a few seconds, a fireman is ejected from the passengers seat toward the sky violating the laws of physics. Only Xena, Warrior Princess could have managed a better liftoff...
Love Triangle
Roark and Barnes save an unconscious man from oncoming lava but find themselves trapped in a Bermuda Triangle of a lava, a burning tree, and an overturned bus. They all jump onto a fire truck ladder to swing to safety. Naturally, the fire truck's ladder is not designed to withstand heat (!!!???), and it starts to fall apart. The laughter ensues when the unconscious man wakes up and finds himself on fire.
I'm Melting, I'm Melting
A man leaps into a pool of lava so he can throw a man on his shoulders to safety a few feet further. His body bursts into flames and he screams "Why Me???" while he gets shorter and shorter with his hands outstretched toward the sky. Most importantly, he still manages to scream even as his body is burned up to his lungs. There's no place like home...
Stretcher Boogie
A "seriously" injured man in a hospital stretcher is struck by some falling lava bombs as the patients are trying to escape the makeshift hospital in the streets. The speed and reflexes which this patient jumps out of the stretcher and begins to jump and dance around in order to put out his burning body prove that he was simply lazy and wanted people to cart him around.
Why Us???
A member of an explosives group preparing to blow up the foundation of the building is caught beneath fallen debris. His partner, refusing to leave his side, gives the all clear to his commanding officer to blow the building up. The expression of self sacrifice is hilarious.
Demolition Man II
Roark uses his x-ray vision to see that his daughter and a boy are in direct line of the explosions set to blow up the street and building foundation. His efforts to outrun the explosions as they creep closer to them are completely ridiculous. The best screen shot is with Roark outrunning a falling building. This entire scene should have been set to the music from "Chariots of Fire", and Roark should have uttered SBC.

*Special Notes:

One of the most disappointing aspects in the film was a key scene that Double Action viewers had expected to achieve SDSPL. Newspapers and film trailers across the country featured an incredible sequence depicting BIM which violates the laws of physics.

This scene showed a fireman violently flying out of the passengers' seat of a fire truck with no explanation for his propulsion (it's not coming from the explosion - note there are no flames coming from the passengers seat, and the fire truck turned over on the wrong side to throw him out.)  More important, his body flies out a full second after the truck turned over...

Unfortunately, the theatrical release trimmed the scene, and framed it such that we can only briefly see his body rocketing out of the passenger seat for only 6 feet before leaving the frame (and Earth's orbit.) My fellow Double Action viewers and I were completely robbed of incredible laughter, and for that reason, are reluctant to give this film a very high rating.

tripe. Pronunciation: 'trIp. Function: noun. Etymology: Middle English, from Middle FrenchDate: 14th century

1 : stomach tissue of a ruminant and especially of the ox used as food

2 : something poor, worthless, or offensive

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