Airplane Vs Volcano
For a lot of movies the cleverest part of an action thriller is the title. In the cases where the action is predicated of a specific, unorthodox match-up are frequently among the best examples of this hypothesis. For example in the classic creature features you knew what to expect with movies like ‘Frankenstein meets the Wolfman’ of ‘King Kong vs Godzilla’ the scenario was plainly stated. Even though it was a better unintentional comedy than thriller ‘Snakes on a plane’ certainly demonstrates the statement. The movie under consideration here, ‘Airplane Vs Volcano’ is another prime example. Again it is not a particularly great flick but it meets the criteria it applied to itself and was actually a good old fashion Saturday afternoon matinee thriller. As kids we went to see movies like this not to gauge the realism or adherence to the laws of physics. We went for off the wall crazy fun. True, as preposterous as the premise is I found myself back in the mindset of a ten year old sitting in the dark enjoying an exciting movie. An airplane goes up against an erupting volcano. That’s thousands of tons of molten lava emitting thousands of degrees of thermal energy being challenged by an aircraft constructed of a few tons of lightweight metal composite. The only possible outcome is within a couple of minutes the plane bursts into flaming slag instantly killing everyone on board. Yet, the filmmaker managed to contrive a way to stretch this out to about an hour and a half. At this point a statement must be made; do not write the Mythbusters on anything you see presented here, any semblance between what occurs here and the reality of physical laws is purely coincidental.
The undisputed master of the disaster movie ‘Irwin Allen’ preferred to call his films. Survivor movies’, after all the actual disaster typically requires a mere sliver of the running time while surviving the aftermath requires the bulk of the story. One of the intriguing aspects of this film is the way is manages to sidestep this progression. The action hits fast and early but continues to escalate until a fairly satisfying dénouement. However the story does adhere to the prequel rule used to set up the upcoming circumstances and the brilliant scientist who will define the nature of the danger and eventually devise the means of salvation. That learned person is Lisa Whitmore (Robin Givens), a volcanologist studding reports of some subterranean active in a long inactive caldera in Hawaii. The flick was produced for the SyFy Channel by ‘The Asylum ‘a production company that specializes in action movies similar to this. They have a well-earned reputation for extremely economically crafted movies. They are perfect for the SyFy network since when commercials are added the total time fits perfectly in a two hour time slot. Within minutes Dr. Whitmore’s co-worker has planted a sensor watched it react and die in the opening salvo of the awakening giant beneath the ground. She sends out a call for a colleague, Landon Todd (Matt Mercer), who jumps on the next flight to join her. As it just so happens that is the titular aircraft, the ill-fated one as it will soon turn out.
Although the writing on the craft denotes it as an air bus, as doe’s later shots of the rear section opening into a large cargo ramp the number of passengers falls way short of a fiscally sound manifest. Considering the number of natural laws about to be broken airline protocol is the least of your worries concerning accuracy. On board there are the pilot, Captain Minor (Jonathan Nation) and his co-pilot. Their requisite demise occurs quickly with suitable intensity. The Flight Attendant, Rita Loss (Tamara Goodwin), is soon on the verge of panic but bravely sallies on in a calm professional manner. In support of the flight attendant, now the senior member of the flight crew, there are a couple of level headed men. While Landon rigs some personal electronics and the air phone to ascertain the scope of the danger, just in case the inferno of smoke and molten rock outside the windows escaped notice, a man with experience on smaller planes, Rick Pierce (Dean Cain), assumes the pilot seat, he has some personal baggage about flying but not much is actually mentioned. I guess he checked it rather than carry on. The auto pilot is stuck on and the dead pilot had the code so there is only minimal maneuvering by sheer strength to make the slightest change, add to this when he tries to get Rita to cycle the circuit breaker she inadvertently jumps a lot of fuel. Next you need the adorable child and his attractive mother. That is supplied by Tony (Zachary Haven) and his mom, Jennifer (Natalie Burtney) they immediately bond with the nice man across the aisle, Jim Kirkland (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs), who just happens to be an Air Marshall. There are a few other non-descript passengers that might have well been issued red shirts in wardrobe. That last mandatory character is the insane passenger. A suspicious man of Mid-Eastern decent, Carlos Crieger (David Vega) starts out as annoying but readily escalates to seriously dangerous. I kept waiting for him to blame everything on the ‘Langoliers’.
Co-writers and directors, brothers James Kondelik and Jon Kondelik, have a few other credits together in similar projects but their creativity in holding this premise together is quite laudable. Although the abandoned any hope of realism they do keep the audience duly engaged and anxious to see what happens next. A large portion of that is contributing by their expertly splitting the action between the plane and the military command post in charge of evaluating and handling the growing crisis. The commanding officer in charge, General Rhyker (Mike Jerome Putnam), is a by the book sort suddenly faced with a situation that is definitely not covered. He reluctantly concedes to permit the one volcanologist in the vicinity into the command center despite the little fact that the situation at hand involves, oh I don’t know, volcanos. It doesn’t bode well for his ability to deal with the unexpected. He decides to completely write off the plane as not worth the risk to his troops. Fortunately Specialist Tully (Morgan West) has a healthy amount of empathy, humanity and the common combination of common sense and the willingness to use it. Disobeying the General by contacting the plane and sending a midair rescue, Specialist Tully (Morgan West), is arrested and threatened with a court martial. Later on listening to the fail well messages from the passengers he doomed, the pleading of Jennifer for son’s life gets to the stone hearted officer and he relents. Part of the rescue is dispatching a squadron of fighter jets to ‘plow the road’ by shooting fireball out of the way. That is not the most ludicrous action move. After an engine id hit by s chunk of lava a man is secured by snapping all the seat belts together and let him go out the door to knock the rock out of the engine restoring its functionality. Really, don’t bother the Mythbusters with anything you see here. the movie is better than you might think by the title and makes for satisfying popcorn flick.