So, I’m sitting here and thinking about what I wanted to do for the first review of 2017 that wasn’t a recap of 2016… Ultimately I came up with a blank. School got me stuck firmly in a rut and the other areas I want to cover a little later. So, I thought to myself that it was finally time to open back up the vault and have a second look at a movie from the past. In particular we will be looking at the Pierce Brosnan & Linda Hamilton disaster movie, Dante’s Peak. In particular, what I want to look at is the fact that this movie is not looked upon fondly by many people. It bombed at the box office, walked away with under a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes (though admittedly that is today. Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t what it was then), and is often forgotten compared to its competitive counterpart, Volcano starring Tommy Lee Jones. I want to challenge that slightly. While I do not think the movie is necessarily “great” I do think it is entertaining on a camp level similar to the entertainment, but batshit insanity of Twister.
Our protagonist is the chisel jawed god that is James B- I mean Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan). Dalton tragically loses his fiance after a volcano eruption in Columbia. A few years later he finds himself in the small town of Dante’s Peak nestled in the Cascades of the northwestern United States. Along with a ragtag group of scientists, Dalton and his boss Paul Dreyfus (Charles Hallahan) are sent their to take readings from a dormant volcano where Dante’s Peak is located. Harry becomes close with the town Mayor, general store owner, and mother of two Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton). As the two form a bond, Harry notices that the volcanic activity continues to grow. As most of these movies go, nobody believes the experts and since there is some random ass money entity ready to give money to the town, any rocking the boat is enough to ruin everything forever. So nobody listens to the expert until it is too late and the volcano erupts. Harry, Rachel, and Rachel’s two children are then caught in the middle of the horrific disaster of a volcano that is about to blow its top.
It is a Camptastic Type of Movie
This movie is stupid. It is a goofball type of movie. It is the literal definition of a popcorn movie. It has its charm and it knows what it is. It is the disaster movie of the 1990’s, similar to Twister as well as its volcanic counterpart Volcano. The movie has a charismatic enough lead, though granted Brosnan is not his best in this film; the movie has interesting characters; it has a plot that you can at least be invested in; and it is grounded in some quasi form in reality. Not a lot, just enough to make people feel uneasy. It isn’t making any grand statement, but if you want to remember the 90’s and have some doofy fun then this is certainly the movie for you.
Bombastic 1990’s Fun
There is something about 1990’s action movies that are just… Well fun. The 1980’s may be the king of camp as well as the serious action movie, the 90’s have their own form of camp. They seem to bring in these main leads that do not seem to fit the movie at all like Keanu Reeves, Pierce Brosnan, and Tommy Lee Jones and makes some goofiness from them. Granted, Will Smith can carry any film to camp enjoyment with the notable exception of Wild Wild West but I digress. The point being is that this movie is a lot of 90’s action fun.
They have goofy leads, the action is fun but COMPLETELY implausible, the have unnecessary explosions, and just have a sense of enjoyment no matter how bad they are. The same cannot be said about the 2000’s action movies. They are the main reason I can’t watch movies like XXX, Fast and the Furious, and SWAT. The 90’s may have been a cynical time… But it certainly was not for their action movies.
Pierce Brosnan is less of a Scientist and More James Bond
I understand, everyone can be anything that they want. I am not saying that a chiseled mahogany God like Pierce Brosnan with a soothing baritone English accent cannot be a nerd and find joy in subjects like geology. I am not saying that at all.
However… When you have the guys surrounded by a group of absolute doofballs… For some reason the idea of plausible deniability get shaken. Say what you will about Twister, Bill Paxton came across as a good looking, but nerdy kind of person who would hang out with this group of goofballs chasing tornadoes. Pierce Brosnan feels like he stumbled onto the set of Dante’s Peak instead of the set of Goldeneye. Maybe i’m biased, but the juxtaposition of five people who are nerdy goofballs and then Pierce Brosnan just feels so weird to me.
Cinematography is Terrible
I can enjoy the bombastic attitude and the camp value of this movie, but I cannot deny… The camera work in this movie is fucking terrible. I want to pick the brain of the people who came up with some of these shots and decisions. Because I want to know what they were thinking to justify this level of silly. There are overlay shots of character’s terribly acted reactions over imposed over on a pyroclastic cloud. There are smash cuts into a zoom in shot of someone’s face. Typically speaking the acting during these shots are goofy and horrific as well. The shot of the lake when the old woman heroically and needlessly sacrifices herself is shot horrifically and at a strange low angle to boot.
None of this movie is shot well. There are strange close ups, weird wide angles, strange overlays, and awkward dutch angles popular at the time before Battlefield Earth killed that concept. It is just plain weird.
This movie is fun. It is terrible in writing, cinematography, and casting… But it is fun. It is a movie to lose yourself in. Get some popcorn, get some friends together, and enjoy some campy movie that doesn’t require a lot of thought or weight. It is a fast food movie, plain and simple. It is bad, not as bad as others claim, but it is certainly worth a watch.
Final Score 2.5/5
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