What do you think is the most overused trope in SyFy Channel movies? I dismissed “drilling somewhere you shouldn’t” because it’s a given; and although “estranged couple” is the undisputed champion, running it a close second is “X days earlier”, after a crash-bang-wallop intro leads you to believe the rest of the film might be just as good.
Astonishingly, this movie manages to do something original with its “2 days earlier” intro. Yes, I couldn’t believe it either, but there you go. After seeing the world of 2 days in the future turned to ashes thanks to a gigantic eruption of the volcano in Yellowstone National Park; we then go back to the scientist whose crazy idea for saving humanity just wasn’t quite ready, and lead on from there.
Fans of “Primeval” will recognise Juliet Aubrey as Kate, but in case you don’t here’s a picture of her with Lucy Brown, who I loved in “Frost Giant”:
Anyway, she’s the volcanologist working at Yellowstone National Park, and Richard Burgi (“The Sentinel”, “Desperate Housewives”) is Charlie, the head Park Ranger. He’s annoyed at having to share a station with her, and she’s too busy pondering the crazy things that could happen when there’s a super-eruption (including, amazingly, time dilation) to notice that he’s sort of into her. Yellowstone’s volcano kicks off, people are a little slow to react and then Kate gets a very unusual message on her computer…
There are one or two age curiosities in this movie. Charlie’s daughter, who they treat like a teenager, was 31 at the time of filming; her love interest, the assistant ranger, looks ten years younger than her but the real-life gap is only two. When he tries to roust a couple who are having sex in one of the hot springs and calls them “kids” a few times, the visual is very weird because the male of the couple is a distance older than him – it feels like they wrote the script before doing the casting and then just never bothered to change it.
Aside from the bizarre need of people to have irrelevant conversations at incredibly crucial moments, this is a surprisingly fun movie! The plot races along at a decent pace, the two main characters are strong, and the central gimmick of the film feels fresh (for a SyFy movie, anyway). The special effects are fine, they found a decent location…I really can’t find too much to criticise about this. Which worries me, to be honest. Are my critical faculties gone? Or am I just getting better at enjoying these movies for what they are?
I had a brief exchange with scriptwriter Rafael Jordan (click on his name to go to his Twitter page) about this, and he was kind enough to fill me in on a few things. Without spoiling anything, he’d written a whole extra subplot which was cut out by SyFy, and it sounded really good. But what we got was also decent, I think.
If you’re bothered by stuff like lava flowing uphill, and giant holes opening up when they just nixed one plan for needing a large hole, and then never going back to that plan, or how helicopters would cope in an ash cloud, then perhaps avoid this film. But otherwise, grab yourself a strong drink and a forgiving attitude and you’ll have a good time.
Rating: thumbs up
PS – it was really weird seeing a Polaroid camera in there, as I thought they’d been out of business for years, but it turns out they resumed production the year before this film was made.