DVD Review: Magma – Volcano Disaster

“If you see the volcano hunter running, try and keep up!”

Magma – Volcano Disaster is a made-for-TV catastrophe flick in which a group of adventure-seeking geologists attempt to save the world from ever-increasing volcanic eruptions that are threatening to plunge the Earth into another Ice Age. The end result is a movie filled with clichés and terrible special effects. I’d rather be on an exploding volcano myself than have to watch this movie again.

The film was directed by Ian Gilmore (who hasn’t been involved in anything since the late ’90’s) and the dialogue was written by newcomer Rebecca Rian. Strangely enough, the movie has no acknowledged screenwriter – which could explain why the plot is so full of holes. If the entirety of the writing and plot development was left up to the person writing dialogue, it’s a surprise the movie didn’t completely implode on itself during filming.

Renowned scientist and “volcanology” professor Peter Shepard (Xander Berkeley) teams up with a handful of the talented young students, as well as the perky Brianna Chapman (Amy Jo Johnson), to try and prevent the molten core of the Earth from destroying every living thing on the planet. In stark contrast to idiots who just climb up on volcanoes without knowing the dangers involved, Shepard and his team do plenty of research to make sure a situation is life-threatening before diving right in. This is why scientists are smarter than everyone else.

Magma – Volcano Disaster is yet another prime example of a promising premise marred by a cable TV budget. To be honest though, there haven’t been too many movies that have handled erupting volcanoes very stylishly. 1997’s lava flick Volcano brought impressive computer generated molten rock, but the acting and pacing left much to be desired. Magma fails in both areas, with horrible acting and cheesy special effects.

Shepard spends most of his time casting smarmy, pensive looks at the rest of the cast and holding his head in his hands while contemplating what to do next. Johnson seems to be the best actor of the bunch, assuredly due to her lengthy gig as the Pink Power Ranger, but never really rises above her children’s show theatrics. She basically plays a squeaky college girl whose excessive enthusiasm grates the nerves the moment she begs Shepard to let her join his expedition team.

I’m considering starting a college scholarship fund for Hollywood writers who need a couple of semesters of science classes. In all seriousness though, the writers for this movie seem to have no understanding about the insides of the earth – instead choosing to just have characters explain complex theories in single sentence statements.

The hero blames the entire volcanic catastrophe on human pollution, and something about radiation and waste causing the earth’s core to expand…or contract…or something. Perhaps, to the writers, proven science just isn’t interesting enough.

The writers hint many times that Shepard and Chapman will get together, but instead choose to negate any chance of this ever happening by giving Chapman a new boyfriend in the middle of the movie and having Shepard wrapped up in his feelings for his ex-wife while mourning for a lost friend. Who needs character development when there are exploding volcanoes to be stopped?

Sub par TV quality video permeates the feature, and the lack of cinematic angles doesn’t help much. Everything is pretty much just point and shoot. Also, if you end up watching this movie you can look forward to the mainstay action movie cliché: Earthquake Cam, where any time and earthquake rumbles or volcano erupts, the camera man shakes the camera back and forth feverishly.

The audio is decent, but everything could’ve used a bit more punch. If you shoot nuclear warheads into the sea bed, I don’t think a mere rumbling gets the job done. We need to hear the surface of the earth bursting open and the terrible sound of an enormous explosion as well. Dialogue, on the other hand, is very clear and understandable. It’s too bad the supporting actors simply recite their lines instead of inflecting any sort of emotion into them.

Three extras are tacked on to the film. The first is an awful theatrical trailer which, as usual, surpasses the film it represents in both pacing and excitement. Extra number two is a photo gallery with shots of the cast on set as well as the haphazardly cobbled together set pieces. Wrapping up the special features is a collection of previews for other, more interesting movies.

In summary, stay away from erupting volcanoes and stay away from Magma – Volcano Disaster. The plot moves as slow as a lava flow and the action suffers for it. If the creators had added a pinch of imagination to the movie instead of treading on old clichés, I might’ve been able to recommend Magma – Volcano Disaster. However, I can not.

Magma – Volcano Disaster is now available at Amazon. As of yet, there is not a release date for the UK. Visit the DVD database for more information.

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.

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