“A volcanologist arrives at a countryside town recently named the second-most desirable place to live in America, and discovers that the long-dormant volcano, Dante’s Peak, may wake up at any moment.”

Director: Roger Donaldson
Writer: Leslie Bohem
Staring: Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: February 7, 1997

Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) is a renowned volcanologist, but his sterling reputation is tainted with the pain of a terrible tragedy that happened to him on the job. He lost someone he cared about and went into hiding at a desk job, but has been brought back into the light to go to a small country side town in America that was recently named the second-most desirable place to live in America.

Yes, it is really what this place is described as.

The mayor of this up-and-coming suburbia is Rachel Wando (Linda Hamitlon). When she is not making lattes at her own coffee shop, Wandon is corralling her two kids and trying to get the town on the map for investors to come and settle down. It is a lot of pressure, and it’s all about to explode in her face. (Phrasing Stanko, come on man).

Dalton arrives in the white-picketed utopia to check up on a thought-to-be dormant Volcano, and what he learns is that the sleeping giant is about to wake up. He does his best to try and alert the town and its coworkers, but everyone is a bit stubborn. They don’t see the big fuss.

That’s until the earth starts quaking, the ash starts falling and the lava starts flowing.

Will Dalton have enough time to save as many people as he can? Will he and Wando be able to keep her two kids safe while the town is being pummeled into oblivion by mother nature?

That is Dante’s Peak.

Before continuing, we have to mention how awesome the title of volcanologist is. Just an objectively awesome job title.

There is a best scene in Dante’s Peak and I’m not entirely sure its debatable. When Dalton finally convinces his coworkers, led by Charles Hallahan (Paul Dreyfus), to come and check out the volcano, they have this exploration mission with a robot at the volcano’s crest. When the ground beneath the technician crumbles, Dalton, or should I say Brosnan, reaches into his action back of tricks and jumps down to safe his friend in surprisingly tense sequence. This five minute stretch caught my attention more than anything involving the actual volcano and its wake.

1997 was a rocking time for Pierce Brosnan. He has the release of Dante’s Peak, followed by the 1700s set drama Robinson Crusoe (1997) and then the Christmas time blockbuster release of Tomorrow Really Dies (1997). When you watch Dalton escape acid-riddled rivers and crumbling rocks all while keep his love interest and her children safe… it is impossible not to see a little bit of James Bond in Dante’s Peak. The willingness to dive into trouble and then to escape with the ingenuity of a MI6 spy makes the absurdity of Dante’s Peak work. In order to find the entertainment in this overall not fantastic movie, it is necessary to suspend you disbelieve with science and the ability of a normal man.

The most believable part of Brosnan’s performance is his smolder and chemistry with Linda Hamilton in their intimate one-on-one moments. Now I want to be clear, these romantic moments in Dante’s Peak are not good. The dialogue is very cringe, but Brosnan has whatever unique ability there is to embrace the awkwardness and make it work with a somehow magnetic smile. Brosnan as a romantic interest for any character always works. He is always able to pull something out of nothing.

Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) & Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton)

Never would I think of Linda Hamilton as a coffee store owner. Never would I think her to be the damsel in distress. I am the first to admit that I am not the most versed in Hamilton’s filmography, but even for the most lament movie fan, you know her as Sarah Connor. In 1991 she kicked arguably the most ass ever in Terminator 2: Judgement Day and since then she has been trying to chase that high. It is a bit crazy that she never became an all-time action movie star. Linda Hamilton set the groundwork for Charlize Theron.

Reversing back to Dante’s Peak; this movie and the character of Wando goes against all the traits that makes Hamilton remarkably identifiable. You do not see Hamilton’s traditional muscular stature and demeanor. In 1997 she was trying to break the typecasting that The Terminator franchise pinned on her. She married James Cameron, then turned down a role offered to her in his movie Titanic (1997), and then divorced him two years later when she discovered he was having an affair with someone on the Titanic set.

The late 1990s was a crazy time for Linda Hamilton. One can totally respect that fact that she wanted to create a path her herself, but there is a alternate version of history where she has much different trajectory in Hollywood.

In a very fun fact from IMDB trivia’s page, Dante’s Peak was in a race with fellow 1997 disaster movie Volcano (1997), what stared Tommy Lee Jones and had the incredible tagline of “It’s Hotter Than Hell”. Dante’s Peak reached theaters first and earned over $178 million while Volcano took home just under $123 million. Reviews for Dante’s Peak were a bit better as well, but to call either movie good would be a massive leap of faith.

In a random tid-ibit, I have an inkling that I have seen Volcano before on TV. For some reason I remember lava being circumvented by a few cement block barriers and I remember thinking it was absurd as a child.

Also random question. Which genre of movie has the best tag lines? Another one for Volcano is “The Coast Is Toast”. I mean, that is remarkable. I will never forget it.

Reverting back to Dante’s Peak, Bronson and Hamilton’s talents can not carry a movie that sets a solid foundation but crumples at its highest points. It is strange to see Hamilton not absolutely kicking ass every scene, but Brosnan does some bring some gravity when it comes to surviving the unsolvable. Overall Dante’s Peak lands right smack dab in the middle of most disaster movies; it is entertaining, flawed, and forgettable. It’s best attribute now is that its a time capsule to a time where Brosnan and Hamilton were enough to make everyone interested.

STANKO RATNIG: D (1.5/5 Stars)


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