Directed by Roger Donaldson
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton & Charles Hallahan.
Opened: Friday, February 7, 1997 | Rated: PG
"Dante's Peak" is the first of an onslaught of disaster revival movies attempting to cash in on the "Twister" crowd using the same vauge story outline.
Hansome scientist (Pierce Brosnan) and female companion (Linda Hamilton) run like hell from impending doom after getting too close and too cuirous about Mother Nature. This man-versus-nature yarn offers nothing new, save the special effects shots of tree-tossing torrents of lava in place of barn-tossing storms.
Brosnan plays the scientist who cried wolf. A vulcanologist whose wife was killed by a flaming rock to the head in the unrelated opening adventure sequence, he is in the Washington Cascades investigating a dormant volcano that has started waking up. He's convinced she's gonna blow but is gagged by his superiors who are worried about panicking the quaint village.
Hamilton is divorced mayor (with two young kids who will eventually need rescuing), who starts to take the volcano-man seriously after two naked lovers are found boiled to death in the volcanic hot-springs.
Once the fireworks start, the tension is a quality brand that is sufficiently seat-gripping. The town is burried in ash, a lake turn to acid that melts escape boats, and the computer-generated effects are more than adequate -- especially a bridge-flattening flood caused by snowmelt as the mountain warms up to blow.
But unless you're completely wrapped up in the urgency, "Dante's Peak" could easily be picked apart as an excersize in silliness and absense of creativity:
To show the all-American quality of the town, as Brosnan arrives they're holding a festival that includes a parade which, the moviegoer is not supposed to notice, consists entirely of the high school band. No floats, no waving folks from cars -- just the band.
Brosnan is accompanied by a van full of quirky fellow scientists that I could swear is the same bunch of oafs from "Twister."
When the lobster-skinned lovers are discovered in the hot springs the mayor is asked who they are. "I've never seen them before," she responds, while the bodies are still face down in the drink. What, she knows every ass in town?
While "Dante's Peak" does fall apart in every thoughtful respect, it is safety-pinned together with the dime-a-dozen thrills that at least keep one's attention. Believe me, you've seen it all before. Just not with hot lava.
If you are at all inclined to see the barrage of disaster films that are scheduled this year (including another volcano pic), you might want to start with this one and get it out of your system. "Dante's Peak" is no prize, but it's even money that the rest will be much worse.