Volcano (1997)


Volcano is a 1997 disaster film directed by Mick Jackson and produced by Andrew Z. Davis, Neal H. Moritz and Lauren Shuler Donner. The storyline was conceived from a screenplay written by Jerome Armstrong and Billy Ray. The film stars veteran actors Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche, and Don Cheadle. Jones is cast as the head of a crisis agency called the Office of Emergency Management (O.E.M.) which has complete authority in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. His character attempts to divert the path of a dangerous lava flow through the streets of Los Angeles following the formation of a volcano. A joint collective effort to commit to the film's production was made by the film studios of 20th Century Fox, Moritz Original and Shuler Donner/Donner Productions. It was commercially distributed by 20th Century Fox. Volcano explores civil viewpoints, such as awareness, evacuation and crisis prevention. Although the film used extensive special effects, it failed to receive any award nominations from mainstream motion picture organizations for its production merits. Volcano premiered in theaters nationwide in the United States on April 25, 1997 grossing $49,323,468 in domestic ticket receipts. It earned an additional $73,500,000 in business through international release to top out at a combined $122,823,468 in gross revenue. Taking into account its $90,000,000 budget, the film was technically considered a moderate financial success after its theatrical run. It was however, met with mixed critical reviews before its initial screening in cinemas. The Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film featuring special features was released on DVD in the United States on March 9, 1999.


An earthquake strikes the city of Los Angeles. Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones), head of the city's Office of Emergency Management, insists on coming to work to help out with the crisis, even though he has taken vacation with his daughter Kelly (Gaby Hoffmann). His associate Emmit Reese (Don Cheadle) notes the quake caused no major damage on the city, but seven utility workers are later burned to death in a storm drain at MacArthur Park. Despite the city's Department of Public Works insistence that the incident had nothing to do with the tremor and was just an accident, Roark tries to halt the subway lines which run parallel to where the mishap took place as a precaution. Chief Stan Olber (John Carroll Lynch) though refuses, feeling there is no threat to the trains. Against regulations, Roark and a colleague Gator Harris (Michael Rispoli), venture down the storm sewer in the park to investigate. They are nearly burned to death when hot gases suddenly flood the tunnel. Geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche), believes a volcano may be forming near the city with lava flowing underground, but cannot come up with enough evidence for Roark to take action. Early in the morning, Dr. Barnes and her assistant Rachel (Laurie Lathem) go back to MacArthur Park to investigate the scene of the accident. While they are taking soil samples, a massive earthquake strikes and Rachel is killed in the ensuing chaos. Near the La Brea Tar Pits, smoke rises out along with lava bombs. Steam explodes from the sewer system, sending steel grates flying into the air, while a subway train filled with passengers derails underground. Roark with his daughter witness the calamity while driving through the city streets. Nearby, a newly formed volcano erupts, and lava begins to flow freely through the city's boulevards. Roark and his daughter become separated as she is injured and taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the care of Dr. Jaye Calder (Jacqueline Kim). Roark and Dr. Barnes devise a plan to organize the stacking of concrete barriers at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue to create a cul-de-sac to pool the lava. The authorities then dump massive amounts of water from helicopters on it to form a crust. The operation is successful, but Dr. Barnes later theorizes that the main lava flow is still running underground in one of the subway tunnels, heading north. She calculates that the main eruption will occur at the Beverly Center--right where Cedars-Sinai is located. Through Roark's direction, explosives are used to create channels in the street to divert the flow of lava into Ballona Creek, which will later flow into the Pacific Ocean. But Dr. Barnes deduces through a geological map that the street is sloping in the opposite direction. Therefore, Roark engineers another plan to demolish a 22-story condominium under construction by Jaye's husband to block the lava's path from entering the city. The plan succeeds, although Gator is killed in the condo's implosion when he refused to abandon an LAPD SWAT cop who'd gotten trapped under wreckage while slotting explosive charges, and the lava flows safely to the ocean. The film's epilogue displays a graphic stating the volcano Mount Wilshire, is still in an active state.