WHAT THE FILM!? “Volcano”


What The Film?! is a new weekly column exclusive to Under The Gun Review that brings to light the plot holes Hollywood hoped you’d never notice. Written by comedy writer Dane Sager, this column shows no mercy to films that try and pull the proverbial wool over our eyes.

If you know a film with major plot holes that you feel needs to be exposed, tell us! Email utgjames@gmail.com with the subject “What The Film” and we’ll try to get your suggestion featured on the site.

In the late 1990’s there was a huge splurge of disaster movies, similar to the way that we are  experiencing a splurge of comic book movies today. It was caused by the massive success of Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, a movie you may remember from having the Fresh Prince and Ian Malcolm destroying an alien mother ship with a Mac laptop (and with that description, I realize I may have picked the wrong movie this week).

It can save the world, but it still has a disk stuck in its SuperDrive

Independence Day was a massive success and a landmark in disaster movies, due to its high caliber special effects and its intense advertising campaign where they constantly showed the White House getting destroyed on television. No one had seen anything like it before and soon studios decided to cash in on the trend, green lighting whatever movie destroyed the most landmarks.


And yet Ypsilanti's stone penis still stands.

1997’s Volcano came out in the middle of the disaster sensation, only a few months prior to fellow disaster movie Dante’s Peak, and on the same day as fellow disaster Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion. In Volcano, Tommy Lee Jones plays the head of Los Angeles’ Office of Emergency Management while the city falls victim to a natural disaster (I’ll let you guess which one).

Volcanoes, the anuses of Earth

No one initially believes that a volcano could have erupted in Los Angeles and there are a gratuitous amount of scenes where someone sees lava destroying everything it touches and questions what it is. If that wasn’t bad enough, it takes a laughably long amount of time before they realize that the liquid rock coming out of the ground destroying buildings isn’t a normal part of an earthquake. (fun fact: the ‘lava’ was made out of methylcellulose, a chemical used in McDonald’s milkshakes to make them thicker).

“Oh my God, What is that?” Delicious.

Agent Kay ends up teaming up with a Geologist played by Anne Heche, who is the only person in the city who seems to be aware that the lava like substance and volcano like activity in the city means that there is a volcano. Early in the movie, she witnesses her friend and co-worker perish from the volcano, so when the city eventually decides to evacuate and stop the volcano once and for all, it is personal.

There is a big reveal in the last half of the movie where Anne Heche puts a basketball on the street to watch where it rolls to figure out which way is downhill. The reveal is that it turns out that they were preparing for the lava to flow one way and they discover that it’s going to flow in a different direction. It literally takes them half the movie to figure out that gravity plays an important factor in how a liquid moves. The amount of incompetence in the help in this movie makes FEMA look like it knows what they’re doing (I also have some Bob Dole jokes if that wasn’t topical enough).

This man ran for President.

Over the course of the movie, there are many scenes where people are dealing directly with the lava, only feet away from it. There’s a scene where people are leaning against and holding a concrete barricade in place while lava pools on the other side, there’s a scene where our two protagonists hang from a ladder that is suspended only a feet feet above the lava, there’s a scene where someone is escaping a subway train as lava flows underneath it; with everyone in such close proximity to lava, it can’t be that hot! Right? Volcanoes can’t be that big of a threat if everyone can just hang out in the same room as it.

Get 'em, boy. Scare it off.

Wrong. Lava melts at 1,300 to 2,000 Fahrenheit. It is rock that is so hot that it is a liquid. Human skin melts at 200 Fahrenheit, human fat melts at 300 Fahrenheit, and human bones break down on a molecular level around 1,200 Fahrenheit. All of those levels are below what lava’s temperature is. “But Dane” you ask, unaware that you’re not supposed to start a sentence with a conjunction. “They weren’t standing in the lava, so what are you complaining about?” you continue, oblivious to the fact that you ended a sentence with a preposition. Have you ever been in a room with a Plasma TV? It heats the room to an uncomfortable level. In the scene where a guy is escaping the subway car, the car is breaking down and melting due to the intense heat. The plastic is melting, his shoes are melting, the roof is melting, the glass is shattering from the heat, the guy is just sweaty.

For the sake of argument, lets say that the lava doesn’t heat a room to an insane amount that would sear and destroy your lungs. Lets give the movie the benefit of the doubt here. The people who were killed at Pompei didn’t die from the lava, they died from inhaling the gases and ash filled air from the volcano. They died almost instantly after a breath or two, which is why they were frozen in place. The entire movie consists of the leads at ground zero, breathing the air without a mask or any safety precautions.

At the end of the movie, there was a news report talking about how the causalities were around “a hundred”. A volcano opened up in a metropolitan area with a population of fifteen million people. That’s not lucky, that is a miracle to have causalities in just 3 digits. At least Free Willy used an old magical prayer to justify its inability to obey physics, maybe there was a cut scene in Volcano with that.

Sa-La-Na A-Yoong I-Asis!

Dane’s Dad can beat up your Dad! You can follow him on Twitter or Tumblr. Dane, not his Dad. His Dad is too cool for social networking.    

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  • Oh my god this one was definitely the funniest. You’ve won my heart with Free Willy references. But mostly you just won my heart a long time ago.

  • Grace

    Full marks for the sentence about grammar alone.