Rotten at the Core
Magma: Volcanic Disaster (2006): 5 out of 10: The always watchable Xander Berkeley (24) and the impish Amy Jo Johnson (Pink Power Ranger) lead a surprisingly solid cast down made for television disaster movie hell.
With Made for TV disaster movies, the questions are not how good are certain elements but how mind numbingly awful will these elements be. Stack the deck with the terrifying fact this is a made for Syfy Channel disaster movie (Only PAX is worse) and anything above pure pain is a feat of cinematic luck. This is not pure pain.
The leads are watchable and the screenplay liked to actually kill off characters on screen, which is a pleasant touch. In addition, Amy Jo Johnson’s attempts to simultaneously bed Xander Berkeley and save his marriage were more entertaining than anything else in the movie. (Usually in disaster movies, these subplots put the “T” in tedium.)
Alas, the rest of the movie is a veritable disaster and both the screenwriter and the effects/sets departments share blame. First off, all most natural disasters are not caused by man. Perhaps a look near a dictionary for the definition of natural might clear this up.
The idea that nuclear testing and chemical waste is polluting the core of the earth (it’s solid and starts about 400 miles below the surface) causing it to expand is not the most ridiculous premise for a movie (that is shared by this film’s bigger sister The Core, The Day After Tomorrow, and Sixteen Candles) but it is close.
As for the special effects guys, I know the CGI lava looks bad and the model submarines are wanting, but if you’re going to put the characters in a lava tube, perhaps one without actual lights attached on the walls would be better. And what kind of underground mine was that, anyway? It looked like a styrofoam tunnel house.
The movie falls apart at the end with nuclear weapons once again coming to the rescue and a Yellowstone National Park finale, which was one of the funniest things I’ve seen all year. Magma: Volcanic Disaster is average in a field where the competition is awful.