Dante’s Peak – Not Kidding – The End is Nigh! week

Dante’s Peak is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: Everything you know about volcanoes thrown into one small town – fun havoc ensues.

Dante’s Peak (1997) – Rated PG-13

“Pierce Brosnan stars in this nail-biting thriller as volcanologist Harry Dalton, who comes to the sleepy town of Dante’s Peak to investigate the recent rumblings of the dormant volcano the burg is named for. Before long, his worst fears are realized when a massive eruption hits, and immediately, Harry, the mayor (played by Linda Hamilton) and the townspeople find themselves fighting for their lives amid a catastrophic nightmare.”

“It’s coffee time! Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee!”

I cannot say that Dante’s Peak has less mistakes than the other natural disaster movies but at least it tries. Most of the faults come from the implementation of what a volcano can do. The plot goes through a laundry list of volcano effects without regard to what would or could happen.

Yes, volcanoes can turn a lake acidic – no, not to the point where it instantly melts a boat. Yes volcanoes can erupt basaltic flows and pyroclastic – no, not simultaneously. Yes, there are pyroclastic clouds – no, a vehicle without tires cannot outrun one. Yes, you can drive onto a lava flow – no, you are not driving off of it.

As the Hollywood studios often do, two volcano projects were rushed into production. Dante’s Peak got released just two months before Volcano (much like this year’s dueling Snow Whites – Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and The Huntsman). Much as I like watching a volcano appear in Los Angeles, Dante’s Peak is the better film.

Roger Donaldson wisely limits the scope to a small town and keeps the focus on a single family (the Mayor, her two children, her mother-in-law and their dog) and the small USGS crew. There is no over-the-top attempt to stop a volcano from blowing, merely an attempt to predict and dealing with the inevitable aftermath.

Donaldson has some nice stylistic touches such as having Linda Hamilton look out a car window during the event and have her worried face reflected in the glass while we see the explosion. He likes it so much that he repeats that basic shot twice more. Real footage of Mt. St. Helens is melded convincingly into Dante’s Peak, lending some authenticity to the proceedings.

There are a lot of jarring continuity issues that pulled me out of the film: disappearing clothes hanging by the hot springs, a busted in window made whole again, a truck emerging from the river dry, writing on a cast disappearing. There are shoes, goggles, and glasses that appear and disappear. The worst one though is clearly the one-lane bridge that is sometimes the width of one lane and sometimes wide enough for two lanes and a shoulder.

Dante’s Peak answers the question of what did Linda Hamilton do after the Terminator movies. She is just fine here as the mayor and mother of two. Pierce BrosnanĀ  is his usual charming self as the vulcanologist who knows more than his colleagues. The child actors (Jamie Renee Smith and Jeremy Foley) acquit themselves well as does Elizabeth Hoffman as the cranky old grandmother. In short acting is solid but not award-winning.

Dante’s Peak is engaging and, if you can forgive the prominent errors, really starts to rock once the Peak blows. I’m beginning to think that what I like about disaster films are all the errors but if that were the case I would enjoy hacker movies more.