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Basically, we have a cataclysmic scenario involving volcanic
devastation. In Dante's Peak, we had 1 volcano destroying 1 town. In
Magma, we have numerous volcanos worldwide on the verge of erupting and
destroying all life on Earth.
The Earth's core has expanded because of increased heating from increased radiation levels from human activities. The magma in the core needs somewhere to go and therefore every volcano on Earth erupts or will be erupting at some point in the near future. To solve the problem, the lead scientist and his associates come up with a plan in which nukes are to be detonated at several locations on the Pacific and Atlantic ocean floors (via US and international submarines) to create vents for the lava to escape without harming life on land.
We have our classic natural disaster character archetypes: The scientist that discovers the impending disaster(Xander Berkeley), the government scientist in power not believing him even in the face of compelling evidence, the college students working with the lead scientist (primarily Amy Jo Johnson), among other characters.
The movie is kinda slow at some points with a subplot involving the scientist's troubled marriage which I'm undecided if it was necessary for the film, much less properly handled. In addition, soon after the movie reached its climax it ended too quickly. But the actors at least did very well.
Bottom line: As a disaster movie, it's well made enough, although Dante's Peak flowed better (please excuse the pun) and had much better special effects. To sum up this movie in one sentence, I would say it's a combination of Dante's Peak, The Core, 10.5, and The Day After Tomorrow all in one as a B-Movie. But at its core (once again, please excuse the pun) its a disaster movie. And like I said, it's well made enough.
Yet another example of a made-for-cable film that started with a workable premise and a couple of really good actors, but managed to screw it all up. Low budget isn't always a bad thing, but somehow the biggest deficit here is in the imagination column. Absurd situations, ridiculous plot oversights and contradictions, supporting actors who just recite lines, and awkward dialogue make this painful to watch. When you find yourself awake and channel-surfing at 3AM, if you happen across this, go ahead and take a look, but don't go out of your way to find it otherwise. Honestly, the Sci-fi channel has talented people at its disposal, couldn't they have managed one more script treatment before production started? At least buy the poor writer a thesaurus and a geology textbook!
This seemed like a typical Sci-Fi channel disaster movie that would be 4 hours over two nights. I didn't believe the TV Guide listing. But in the last 5-10 minutes, it wrapped up everything at warp speed. The end had more senseless death than I imagined. It was like a bad episode of '24' or like 'Atomic Train'. The only reason I completed watching was for two of my favorite beautiful actresses, Reiko Aylesworth ('24') and Amy Jo Johnson ('Power Rangers', 'Felicity'). Not bad clap-trap for a Friday night of nothing to do, but don't go out of your way for it. I am usually up for a good made-for-TV disaster, but this did not satisfy my excitement for world destruction. But then again, it was better than '10.5'. Test patterns are better than '10.5'.
Well, this isn't the worst Sci-Fi Channel Original Production that I've
seen, but it may just be the most boring. We start with a college
professor and a few students going to explore a volcano in Iceland. Of
course the volcano erupts, and they barely escape with their lives.
Turns out the professor knows some genius who has worked out a theory
of how all the world's volcanoes will start erupting, and we see the
scenario played out via the usual cheap looking computer generated
special effects. Loads and loads of cheap looking computer generated
effects. Toss in the stupendously clichéd government bureaucrats who
don't take the threat seriously, some utter nonsense about how humans
have caused the Earth's core to expand, and a breathtakingly dull
subplot concerning the professor's ex wife, and that about wraps it up.
Oh wait, I almost forgot the environmentalist speech at the end, where
we're supposed to learn from our mistakes...and some other stuff.
Sorry, I'm afraid I nodded off there for a minute. I'm sleepy after
sitting through this thing.
Overall, you've got a pile of characters we couldn't care less about, a plot that's identical to a dozen other really crappy disaster movies, a script that sometimes sounds as if it was written by someone who wasn't a native English speaker, and there you have it.
These film makers really need to hire a consultant to at least give them enough technical insight into their subject matter so that it doesn't make the average layman laugh at the absurdity of it.
Edit: Kind of funny, I apparently wrote this review on January 26, and here it is February 6, and I can't remember ever having seen this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let's face it, volcanoes need little embellishment when it comes to
producing fear. Why Hollywood writers don't understand that is beyond
me, but their efforts to provide an "entertaining" story usually result
in a silly movie. While this movie was no exception, it was better than
I expected, which is a definite plus. Still, all in all, it was a
pretty bad movie.
The movie starts out with a geological survey team on a dormant volcano in Iceland. When the volcano unexpectedly roars back to life, the team is unable to get off the mountain before being engulfed in lava. Enter our hero, Peter Shepherd (Xander Berkeley), a vulcanologist teaching in Rochester, NY. The term has just ended, and Shepherd, along with four of his TA's, is off to Iceland to find out why the geological survey team has gone missing (apparently no one saw the eruption?). History repeats itself when the volcano erupts again while Shepherd and his team are on the mountain, but this time they escape without injury. Confused by this turn of events, Shepherd consults his old mentor, a now wheelchair bound old man, who claims that this is the start of his "Exodus theory" in which mankind has somehow caused the core of the earth to heat up and expand, which is causing all of the volcanic eruptions. This will result in the possible extinction of life on earth. Shepherd takes this to the government, but the chief geologist, whose only motive seems to be to discredit Shepherd, balks. When Mt. Fuji erupts, killing Shepherd's mentor, Shepherd feels he must act to convince the government that he's right. His trip to South America to investigate more vulcanism results in the death of one of his students, the serious injury of another, and the discovery that his rival in the US government is stealing his theory. Shepherd races back to the states with a daring plan to ease the vulcanism. Along the way, he is also trying to reconcile with his estranged wife, Natalie (Reiko Aylesworth), getting advice on this from the female member of his team, Briana Chapman (Amy Jo Johnson). Will he be able to convince the government to adopt his plan? Will he be able to get his wife back?
It's a classic disaster movie plot. The problem is, it's exceptionally poorly written. The science is a bit off, although perhaps not as much as some of the other volcanic offerings we've seen. Still if our use of nuclear radiation is causing the problem, it doesn't make sense to us it to solve the problem. Shepherd and his team take senseless risks that cost them dearly. It's hard to believe a skilled vulcanologist would keep losing members of his team that way. In addition, the whole subplot about Shepherd's estranged wife was pretty lame, and more confusing was Briana's fascination with Shepherd. Was she falling in love with Shepherd? What about her boyfriend, who was also on Shepherd's team? Equally strange was Shepherd's mentor's insistence on being on Mt. Fuji when it erupted. At first, it seemed that he was there to study the volcano, perhaps to help convince the Japanese of the danger. However, all he seems to do is watch and wait for the pyroclastic flow to get him. Was this supposed to be an honorable suicide? And why did his companion stay when he'd asked her to leave? And why such animosity between Shepherd and the chief geologist for the government? Oddest though, were several scenes of characters we knew nothing about succumbing to the lava. These were purely gratuitous, and seemed to make little sense. Overall, there is much in this movie that could have been left out, in favor of a few more scenes explaining some of the more confusing aspects of the story.
The acting was a mixed bag. I liked Xander Berkely as Shepherd, and felt that he breathed some life into the character. Likewise Amy Jo Johnson did a good job with Briana, although her interactions with Shepherd were a bit confusing. Berkeley and Johnson had better chemistry than either had with their love interest in the story. Most of the rest of the acting was relatively wooden, and really didn't help liven the story any.
In the end, this could have been much better. But I do take some heart in the fact that it could have been much worse.
It's hard to figure out what to rate a movie that's basically gives you
a neutral feeling: nothing to get excited about and nothing that
seriously disturbs you. In light of that, I'd have to say this movie is
This movie is entirely based upon one of the flimsiest of reasons - one that is explained in one sentence at a top government meeting. Basically it is this: humans have released toxins into the environment and this is causing the internal core to heat up.
Normally, I'd be outraged. In this case, I didn't really care because my expectations are so low that the movie can only go up in value. Somehow this movie slightly redeems itself if you're sympathetic to volcano disaster movies. In this case, many characters (both genders) are "allowed" to die by dripping magma and simply being overrun by lava flow. Generally this doesn't happen in most volcano movies.
Also, large populations of people also get wiped - another thing which doesn't typically happen in volcano disaster movies. So on these marks, I commend the filmmakers/screenwriters for daring to actually create a "disaster" in a volcano movie (most movies in this area typically avert all disaster).
The atmosphere, tone and performances in the movie are decently serious (except for Amy Johnson's character - way too nutty). The special effects reminded me more of 1970s film-making - but they were passable.
I'd rate this a '5', where a '7' is what it would take for me to actually recommend a movie. See it if you're under 15 and are easily impressed, or in the background if you're really into natural disaster movies - esp. volcanoes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ho-hum. Another SciFi Channel production and another direly tedious,
badly acted, poorly produced effort with sub-standard effects and
story. Who woulda guessed, huh? The SciFi Channel seem to think that
getting the crews' four year old kids in as science advisers is a good
idea. Hence we have the laughable technobabble on display here that
makes Star Trek look like science fact.
The Earth is rebelling against us, since we've poisoned it with radiation and chemical pollutants etc. How very Gaia-like. Also how terribly intellect-insulting. I'm not sure what is worse. The fact that they hope we'll swallow this garbage or the decision to try to send an eco-message to the viewers (albeit only in passing).
Clearly no one even proof-read the script or they'd have noticed the glaring gaff involved in solving the problem of the erupting Earth. You see, having poisoned the world with radiation and such, the only solution to save the planet is to detonate nuclear warheads, thereby adding more radiation. It really isn't just me that noticed this ridiculously counter-intuitive nonsense? Right? Other intelligence insulting details include the apparently limitless diving abilities of nuclear ballistic submarines and the attendant ability of their torpedoes to likewise survive the crushing pressure at the tremendous depths of ocean trenches.
My favourite nonsense though, was the scene where a guy gets dripped on by molten lava and later, in hospital, we're told that he only has "superficial burns".....
All in all this was complete rubbish, like most SciFi productions and is best avoided by all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Magma: Volcanic Disaster: 5 out of 10: The always watchable Xander
Berkley (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 Sci-fi Channel Disaster movie (Only PAX is worse) and anything above pure pain is a feat of cinematic luck. This is not pure pain.
As I said the leads were watchable and the screenplay liked to actually kill off characters on screen which is a nice touch. In addition Amy Jo Johnson's attempts to simultaneously bed Xander Berkley 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 true 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 by the way 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 subs are wanting but if you're going to put the characters in a lava tunnel 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 simply falls apart at the end with nuclear weapons once again coming to the rescue and a Yellowstone finale which was one of the funniest things I've seen all year. Magma is average in a field where the competition is awful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A far fetched contrivance. Professor Peter Shepard(Xander Berkeley),in his dedication to volcanology, realizes that unexpected volcanic activity spanning the globe, is earth's way of signaling a warning of imminent catastrophic danger nearing mankind to extinction. Shepard and a group of his students take a field trip to gather information to devise a plan to ward off disaster and save the planet. This low budget made-for-cable action drama at times depends on ridiculous situations and painfully awkward dialogue to move the story along. The CGI is not exactly top notch and neither is most of the cast. Players of note: Amy Jo Johnson, Reiko Aylesworth, David O'Donnell, George R. Sheffey and Michael Durrell.
The movie was fine, a little cheesy, a little predictable. The special effects were like in any disaster movie I've seen - kind of fake and hard to believe (I'm not sure whether this was a budget issue or maybe that's what things would really look like and viewers are generally looking for something more real than real). Nevertheless, it was refreshing to watch. It had an underlying moral, and some pretty cool things happened. What I can say for sure is, that the main actors did a fantastic job with what they were given. If you are considering watching this because you're a fan of Xander Berkeley, Reiko Aylesworth, or another actor with a bigger role in it, you will not be disappointed. By the way, it was shot in Bulgaria, so the scenery is lovely as well.
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