There are few phrases that inspire so much fear in people. “Direct-to-DVD” is one of them. “SyFy Presents” is another. Sadly, both of those monikers can apply to SUPER ERUPTION, and that’s a shame because, as a flick, it works just fine. No, not all of it makes perfect sense. No, not all of it is original – many of the story’s central tenets are borrowed wholesale from other films that have served them greater justice. But there’s something to be said for a telefilm that knows what it is – a telefilm – just doing the best it can to set up, execute, and deliver a story for Saturday night folks with their butts parked firmly on the couch.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and character. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
A “super volcano” lying in wait beneath Yellowstone National Park erupts, bringing about an end to life as we know it! (And that’s only the first ten minutes!) Then, the audience is given the assurance of “two days earlier” and the rest of our story can be told: Park Ranger Charlie Young (played by the always reliable Richard Burgi, whom I’ve enjoyed all the way back to his days on UPN’s THE SENTINEL) and Volcanologist Kate (the lovely Juliet Aubrey) are trying to piece together the puzzle of some unusual events taking place on Earth when Kate receives a Skyped message from the future version of herself (no kidding), warning her of the coming cataclysm.
SUPER ERUPTION erupts right away, focusing on action right as the credits finish. Of course, the downside to this is that the characters get no real introduction (not until about 15 or so minutes into the film) so the audience has no emotional connection to these early catastrophes; however, from a narrative standpoint, it works just fine. In fact, the opening segment does what it can to strike fear into the heart of every viewer, giving the impression that something special could be in the offing once the End of All Things is dispensed with.
Sadly – as you may guess – there really isn’t anything all that special or “super” about ERUPTION. It sets up its premise rather quickly – that it’s going to deal with the lives of these people trapped near the heart of the blast – and, on that point, it delivers. Much of the pacing of Rafael Jordan’s script is kept rather lean and mean, thanks to Matt Codd’s ‘obligatory’ direction. It’s all served up as a grand catastrophe, and much of it works just fine.
Where ERUPTION flounders – even for a B-TV-movie – is that it tries too hard with some secondary plot elements to be something greater than the sum of its parts. Kate’s messages from future Kate are neither all that cryptic, nor do they make much sense, as she’s allowed to somehow magically email herself specifics of how to save mankind to her former self. This is a bit of a creative canard that was handled much better the first time audiences saw it in 2000’s FREQUENCY, which starred Dennis Quaid as a father communicating with his grown-up son (PERSON OF INTEREST’s Jim Caviezel) in the future. Messages from the future sent into the past everyone knows would create an “information paradox” which should cause the universe to implode (and if you didn’t know, well now you do), making the future self no longer possible to exist and thus undo the story.
Too much information?
Thankfully, ERUPTION doesn’t mince words with “real science.” Instead, it’s mostly an action/adventure story set in a sci-fi universe. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
SUPER ERUPTION (2011) is produced by Marvista Entertainment and Unified Film Organization (UFO). DVD distribution is being handled by Arc Entertainment. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds about as solid as any direct-to-DVD release can these days on a budget; while some of the effects are close to laughable, I never found them unnecessarily distracting from the dime novel story. And – as is often the case – there are no special features to speak of, and that’s a shame: it would’ve been nice to have at least a few actors interviews or bios.
RECOMMENDED. All you need to realize is that this is a Direct-to-DVD release in part funded by the SyFy Channel, and you pretty much have a solid idea of what to expect with SUPER ERUPTION: it’s a far from perfect flick heavily laced with sci-fi elements and made with affordable alternative to big budget stars. And – for all its foibles – I had fun with it. I’ll give much of the credit to the reliable Richard Burgi and Juliet Aubrey, who as a pair put a wonderfully human face on all of this madness. Had it been anyone else, I may not have enjoyed it as much … so, at least, the producers got that right!
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Arc Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of SUPER ERUPTION by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.