Dante's Peak is a non-stop action thrill ride that doesn't let up
To start out, I just want to say: Don't listen to critics who are paid to rip movies apart because they may have cliches or they are too violent. Sure, this movie has many cliches that most disaster movies have; but a really good disaster movie can suspend your disbelief and make you forget about those cliches and plot holes that may be apparent. During Dante's Peak, I don't think I thought about the plot once. What I mean is that I didn't try to figure out things that may seem strange if you analyzed the movie.
Dante's Peak opens with the cliched sequence of a perilous situation that ends in disaster in which the hero has to cope with for the rest of the movie. Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) is trying to escape the wrath of a volcano with his girlfriend. Unfortunately, a fragment from the volcano hits the truck and smashes into the girl's head. This is known as the Unrelated Perilous Opening Sequence (a good example is from Cliffhanger, but Cliffhanger's opening sequence was all too powerful and shocking). Next, we jump ahead four years to find Dalton being sent to Dante's Peak, a small town with a population under 20,000. He is to investigate the local volcano to see if there are any signs of the volcano erupting.
There, he meets the mayor of the town, Rachel Nando (Linda Hamilton), and decides to hold a town meeting in order to decide what they should do about some warning signs of an eruption. Dalton's boss, Paul Dreyfus (Charles Hallahan), warns against evacuation because it could hurt the city and the investments being made into the city. The movie may seem a little slow to begin with, but it quickly picks up the pace and doesn't slow down for one moment. And of course, as Dalton has said all along, the volcano erupts without much of a warning and the entire town scatters to get out of town.
The thing that impressed me most about this picture is the special effects. They were very good in Twister and Independence Day but this movie had something more. I guess it was more realistic looking, especially the lava. It's hard to imagine it more realistic looking, but the terror of falling ash and gushing lava is genuine. I also found it hard to imagine that the effects weren't done by Industrial Light & Magic, the leader of the pack in visual effects. They were done by Digital Domain, and this movie proves that they are a force to be reckoned with in the special effects department.
To be honest, I probably have never been more tense in a disaster movie than this one. Daylight, the Stallone disaster picture was terrifying as well, but Dante's Peak has something that none of the other disaster movies I have seen have: a sense of hopelessness. When they were running from the volcano, I truly had no idea what was going to happen. That's why I liked this movie so much. I knew the heroes were going to live, but that thought was put on hold when I realized how much trouble they were in. I questioned on whether they really were going to live or not.
Now, this movie does have its flaws that don't go unnoticed. The biggest one I saw was the "dog" cliche. I really hate this cliche and they use it over and over, time and time again in movies. The dog manages to survive on its own and ends up just where the truck is driving. Another unbelievable moment was when the kids decide to take the stick-shift truck up to get their grandmother who is unwilling to come down the mountain. This really bothered me, because the kid was around 12 years old. I'm 17, and I still don't know how to drive a stick. How he knew I'll never understand. One final flaw isn't really flaw, but a problem that I had with the ending of the movie. There wasn't any tension involved, because I knew how it was going to end. Perhaps if they had actually killed one of the survivors, then it would have raised the stakes and made it more of a dramatic ending. (Trust me, I didn't ruin anything by telling you that)
The actors are pretty good for this movie, but the little girl had some trouble at the beginning, sounding a little wooden. Pierce Brosnan is good as the scientist who "feels" a bad sensation and warns the people to evacuate. Charles Hallahan is quite good, playing Brosnan's boss. Linda Hamilton, taking a step down from her buff action figure in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is very good and probably the best one in the movie. I did have a problem with the grandmother, though it wasn't the actress that bothered me, it was just the character. Other than that, the rest of the cast is great.
Dante's Peak is rated PG-13. There is some violence and gore (Brosnan gets a compound fracture) and some mild vulgarity, nothing really offensive but it is quite disturbing to watch people get broken arms and little girls sitting on porches crying for their parents, and this might disturb little children. Besides, the movie wasn't meant for children under 13. The movie is very tense and visually enticing, and if a movie can make you forget about all the cliches and plot holes until the movie is over, then you know that it was a good movie despite its flaws.
***1/2 out of ****
Reviews by Boyd Petrie