Directed by: Simon West
Starring: Hanna Quinlivan, Xueqi Wang, Jason Isaacs
Skyfire on IMDb
If you’re in the mood for some hot steaming lava action, you can certainly do worse than the Chinese-produced volcano film Skyfire (original title Tian Huo). Directed by Con Air helmer Simon West, this one is fast and furious and checks all the genre’s boxes. (Well, ok, there’s no pet to be rescued. But apart from that.)
The plot is straightforward enough: A businessman, Harris (played by Jason Isaacs), has come up with the brilliant idea to build a theme park on a volcano (the titular island of Tian Huo). Xiao Meng (Hanna Quinlivan) is a driven geologist, working to set up a monitoring system that can warn if the volcano shows signs of waking up. This system was originally designed by her mother, who died in Tian Huo’s last eruption, so the whole thing is very personal for Xiao Meng. Unsurprisingly, the volcano starts rumbling just as potential investors sip champagne down in the crater. Xiao Meng and her father (Xueqi Wang) team up to try and save both the tourists on the island – and their strained relationship.
Where some disaster movies spend a lot of time establishing characters and building a plot, this one goes straight for the action. Xiao Meng’s mother is killed in a violent eruption four minutes in. Director West gets the necessary exposition over and done with quickly and efficiently. We’re all here for fiery fun anyway.
The father-daughter relationship is quite clichéd, and the characters are all very lightly sketched. That’s fine here, there is not much need for real depth. Skyfire does make use of genre tropes like the obsessed scientist that no one listens to, and the business person/politician that refuses to heed any warnings, but it doesn’t labor the point. Even the supposedly bad guy, Harris, isn’t all that unsympathetic. The main cast all acquit themselves well.
As for the action, it is frenzied, over the top, and quite entertaining. We get vicious rains of flaming volcano rocks, sudden eruptions of hot gas vaporizing hapless tourists, and massive pyroclastic flows. Highlights include our heroes trying to outrun a huge lava flow by reversing their truck at a high enough speed to jump a ravine – backwards! – and an out-of-control cable car ride down the mountainside.
Skyfire is a pretty well-produced movie. It looks really good, with some indoor-looking lighting in outdoor shots as very minor flaws for the nitpicky. The CGI is nice overall.
So, to sum up: An unpretentious, entertaining, slick, and suitably silly disaster flick, clocking in at a comparably trim 97 minutes. Worth a watch.