Volcano (1997)

Mick Jackson directs Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche and Don Cheadle in this disaster movie where lava erupts along the streets and subway tunnels of L.A..

“The coast is toast!” That was the cheeky apocalyptic promise on the poster back in the day. Positioned as one of the big summer releases of ‘97, this now is a footnote. A dusty curiosity known only as the forgotten other half of a set of competing volcano flicks released within the same season. The equally duff Dante’s Peak seems to have at least retained a nostalgic fanbase. Neither movie delivered. I remember going to see this with my friend Cath and us only really latching on to the naff dialogue. Quoting the most unimaginative chunks at each other on the bus ride home, trying to mask our disappointment. It has not aged any better. I’m a fan of TLJ but his heroic Dad role is a bit too much of a softy for his trademark craggy overconfidence. A Harrison Ford or Sam Neill would have slotted into the lead as written more smoothly and maybe focussed the peril at little more dynamically to boot. Anne Heche’s straw-like arms struggle to convince us she’s ever held a pebble so casting her as a geologist is a bit of a hoot. The dangerous flow of the lava is too slow to create tension, the killer heat of its presence seems to shift depending on how famous the cast member in proximity to it is. None of the fodder ensemble really lands. The FX work is shonky more often than not. The Hollywood execs who greenlighted this must have howled and hollared at all the local in-jokes… 25 years on and this probably should come with an advance reading list so you can ken some of the niche references. The heavy handed race subplot feels particularly naive and creaky. The riots were still a raw wound when this was filmed. In many ways this feels like a family friendly Falling Down, with molten rock replacing Michael Douglas, burning a chaotic path through one city’s unique socio-economic problems… at an ambling gait. That makes Volcano sound better than it is. My only real long term take home is I’ve had the end credits song (I Love L.A. – Randy Newman) stuck in my head for almost a week now.


Perfect Double Bill: Deep Impact (1998)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

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