Gaiam // 2012 // 176 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 3rd, 2013
The unthinkable has arrived.
What is that is so unthinkable? I'll give you a hint: it's not that studios have decided to stop producing terrible made-for-TV disaster movies.
For hotshot vulcanologist Dr. Matthew Cooper (Michael Vartan, Alias), the only thing more irritating than deadly underground volcanoes is the cute hippie activist who can't stop giving him crap about his alleged sympathies towards to a diabolical oil company. Unfortunately for him, both of these volatile elements are about to collide, when a series of terrestrial venting begins to spill lethal heat and fire, thanks to a controversial oil drilling method.
Soon, licks of flame and steam shoot up from the ground, setting off a chain reaction of subterranean volcanic busts which, if left unchecked, could end the world or at least cause widespread smoke damage in the Van Nuys region.
You know, I used to tolerate these kinds of movies. I was willing to recognize the mysterious market forces that led producers to believe that these half-baked, poorly visualized disaster films were moneymakers. All that may still be true, that for some reason, advertisers are eager to tie their products to CGI-generated tornadoes that look like my daughter wiped snot across the screen, but I am done.
I just can't take it anymore. I'm done. It's not that Ring of Fire is any worse than the crap that has preceded it; it's because it's exactly the same. Why can't anyone do anything different? Like even a little. Must all of these follow the established blueprint of disaster-strikes/attractive-scientists-respond-with-a-crackpot-theory/military-agrees-to-help-out-with-a-super-weapon/smiles.
Nothing changes here, except the answers to the Mad Libs. What's the disaster? Underground magma farting. Who are the scientists? Vartan and his bellyaching female comrade. What is the theory? The oil company something something something something evil. What is the super weapon? A humongous sonic bomb that was apparently used in Afghanistan against the cave-dwelling Taliban. I don't have to tell you how it all ends. Because you know how it all ends, Just like you know how it all rolls out in the beginning and the middle.
Worse: as a miniseries, your pain will be double. The first part, clocking in at 90 minutes, is all setup, with no disaster footage showing up until after the intermission. When the second hour-and-a-half chunk unspools, here's what you have to look forward to: sweaty close-ups of dudes on an oil rig yelling at each other; people running screaming from steam blasts; military dudes furrowing their brows; and a poorly-rendered CGI finale where Vartan drops a metal cylinder into the bowels of Mount Doom.
So that's three-plus hours of the usual dumb crap you'll find at 2 a.m. on the Syfy channel. Three. Hours.
If you indeed wish to go on this woeful misadventure, you can be assured you're getting a Blu-ray that will play in your Blu-ray player and little else. The 1.78:1 HD transfer is fairly ugly, grainy and under-performing in the clarity department, especially during the more frantic effects-heavy stuff. There is a silver lining: no extras, meaning your misery ends with the credits.
If you're looking for superior natural disaster thrills, insert your genitals into an anthill.
Guilty. Someone fetch the fire extinguisher.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 176 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated