Oh, Mother Nature. She’s so lovely and calming, with her peaceful pastures and breathtaking vistas. Except in the movies, of course, when she’s, well, kind of a bitch. Whether she’s wreaking havoc on major cities with heretofore undiscovered volcanoes or freezing us out with sudden-onset global warming, the Earth has quite a few nasty surprises in store for anyone who runs afoul of it. So if you’re an intrepid hero or science type intent on taking on the planet and its vindictive mother, let the following flicks serve as a warning.
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Dante’s Peak was entrant number one of two during the Year of the Volcano Movie. Basically, a picturesque town is turned upside down by a crazed volcano. And it’s a real son-of-a-bitch lava spewer, too, intent on killing everyone. Brosnan, a buff volcanologist, saves a lot of people, but not before the aforementioned son of a bitch boils some people alive, causes earthquakes, and turns the town’s lake into an acid bath. Now that’s what we call hot springs.
The Day After Tomorrow
To sum up: a Dick Cheney-look-alike vice-president scoffs at global warming, over the protests of uncannily good-looking scientist Dennis Quaid. Then global warming occurs in about 24 hours. Dennis Quaid looks smart and acts like a hero. The Dick Cheney look alike begs poor countries in the southern hemisphere to take in refugees from the rich north. Poetic justice is served and global warming becomes so outlandish that no sane person could fear it. Thanks, The Day After Tomorrow.
A massive quake destroys Los Angeles. Before you celebrate, note that the quake causes enough damage that it takes even Charlton Heston down. Still celebrating? Well, it’s one nasty earthquake, toppling buildings and leading to a number of small heroic acts from the former NRA prez. The earthquake itself makes a pretty poor villain, since earthquakes don’t last very long. The aftermath is pretty bad, but the devastation isn’t nearly as far-fetched as some of Hollywood’s other disaster fantasies.
The title says it all. Mother Nature is after the Midwest, which is well-known to openly mock her, hence inviting her biblical vengeance. But there’s more to Hard Rain than just forceful precipitation: Morgan Freeman leads a band of robbers who try to utilize the downpour to make off with a sizable chunk of cash. The movie engages in a bit of misdirection and the rain acts more as an accomplice to evil rather than evil itself, but that doesn’t make the copious amount of water falling from the sky any less irritating.
Ever wonder who would chase a tornado for the thrill of it? Turns out, either a band of antiestablishment types or corporate fat cats who represent an evil Weather Channel. Ever wonder how a realistic tornado behaves? Well, you won’t find out here, because, according to this flick, tornadoes are sentient and have only one desire: to kill Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. What the actors did to deserve such attention is a mystery, but it must have been a traumatizing experience, because the twisters are all bent out of shape about it.
Entrant two in the Year of the Volcano Movie is creatively titled Volcano. Here, a volcano unleashes havoc on Los Angeles, forming a river of lava that flows through the city’s main thoroughfares. Only one thing stands in the nefarious volcano’s way: Tommy Lee Jones, who organizes a variety of measures to divert the lava, including stacking concrete barriers, blowing up parts of the street, and even knocking over a high-rise building. The plan works, of course. Tommy Lee Jones: 1. Mother Nature: 0.
Before Johnny-come-lately Al Gore, one man had the courage to imagine what would happen if the ice caps melted. That man was Kevin Costner, who also had the courage to ask, “What if Kevin Costner became part fish?” Turns out, Waterworld is the answer to both questions. Mother Nature shows her cruel irony here, first in giving us a situation in which a urine-drinking Costner is the only one to save the day, then in having him find dry land that he can’t use because he’s part fish. There’s a lesson here, but it gets buried by Costner and the presence of entirely too much water.