What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

Well, this seems pretty self-explanatory. Dean Cain, Robin Givens and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs star in Airplane vs. Volcano.

Airplane vs VolcanoCast of Characters:
Rick Pierce – Dean Cain
Dr. Lisa Whitmore – Robin Givens
Landon Todd – Matt Mercer
Rita Loss – Tamara Goodwin
Specialist Neil Tully – Morgan West
Jim Kirkland – Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs

Director – James Kondelik & Jon Kondelik
Screenplay – James Kondelik & Jon Kondelik
Producer – David Michael Latt
Not Rated

Apparently based on a true story, Airplane vs. Volcano is – well, exactly that. While in flight, an airline crew and several passengers find themselves trapped in an active volcano region. There’s no escape, and even worse, both pilots have been killed. That’s when passenger Rick Pierce (Dean Cain) takes charge in landing the plane, while both on board volcano expert Landon Todd (Matt Mercer) and his colleague Dr. Lisa Whitmore (Robin Givens), back on land, provide guidance to Pierce. Everyone must band together in order to avoid being obliterated from off the face of the earth… aka dead.

Oh, I forgot… And God help us all.

I’m not exactly sure what part of this film is based on a true story. One thing I’m certain of, though, is that this confirms my belief that whoever it is that comes up with the feature film titles for Syfy slacks off on it ’til the due date, then comes up with the first idea that pops in his head at the presentation.

Either that, or they have a raffle machine that randomly combines one transportation device and a natural disaster.

Stay tuned next year for Speedboat vs. Hurricane, Subway vs. Earthquake and the riveting 2006 Toyota Corolla vs. Cloudy and Rainy with a Slight Chance of Thunderstorms from 4-10 P.M.

Like any disaster picture, this is cluttered with all the familiar character tropes. Leading the way is Dean Cain, aka Superman Lite, and Robin Givens, aka Mike Tyson’s favorite punching bag…


Okay, I’m going to hell for that one.

Givens is the token attractive scientist that’s contractually obligated to be down to a sweaty tank top and tight pants by the climax of the film. Cain is the worn down, 5 ‘o clock shadowed hero that is determined to land the plane and save everyone on board. His only experience was practically a rinky-dink cargo puddle jumper, so naturally flying a commercial airliner through a barrage of volcanoes should be a walk in the park. Hey, if Ian Ziering can fly and land a plane, anyone can do it.

I’ll trust no one over Ted Striker. He landed a plane just fine, and that was with a drinking problem.

Behind Cain and Givens, we get the single mom and child no one would care about in this movie if it wasn’t for the fact that she struck up a modest friendship with the air marshal (so that’s what happened “Boom Boom” Washington from Welcome Back, Kotter) which starts out with a casual “hi”, then next thing you know the kid’s acting like he’s the air marshal’s son near the ending. There’s also the tough guy, the frightened stewardess, the two dead pilots, the scientist who, as luck would have it, is not only an expert on volcanoes, but is a close colleague to Givens’s character, the engaged guy on his way to meet his fiancee, which means he’s gonna die, the dickhead military leader (whose acting chops convinced me he must’ve recently won Grand Prize at the Horrible William Shatner Impression contest), and some pissed off dude. The film never makes clear if he’s a terrorist or a criminal or whatever, but he’s always suspicious of everyone and talks to them like he’s cooking up some diabolical plan. It is clear that he has a really bad headache that seems to be on a pain equivalent to a massive brain tumor.

Why he goes so far as nearly shooting everyone on the plane is beyond me. That must be some bitchin’ headache if he so easily flips a nut, whips his gun out and threatens everyone’s lives.

Either all of these characters have spines of steel, or they have the worst reactions in the history of mankind. Don’t get me wrong. I myself have been known to do a double-take every now and then.

  • “Hey, they look familiar. I think I know them. Let me first take a second glance and make sure before I go strike up a conversation with them.”
  • “Is that some debris up ahead in the road? Let me double check before I swerve around it. After all, driving smart is key to your safety, the safety of others and the safety of your automobile.”
  • “Hey, is that a massive volcanic belt? Let me fly this plane a little closer toward what looks to be the Ninth Circle of Dante’s Inferno just to make sure those are really mountains spewing out 1,500-2000° lava. After all, flying smart is key to us not getting completely incinerated by all that deathly hot magma.”
  • “Hey, are those pilots dead? Hmm… One’s not breathing at all and the other is hacking up more blood than one normally should… Dammit, if only I was a doctor.”

Amongst them all, there arose one lone voice in the wilderness who, after looking out the window, shouted, “THAT’S A VOLCANO!!!!” in such an overly-obvious manner, it earned him a hearty pat on the back from John Madden

Airplane vs. Volcano’s biggest problem is that writer/director brothers James and Jon Kondelik take this project way too seriously. It’s like they just finished watching Dante’s Peak, then followed that with United 93 and inspiration suddenly hit. If I can give the Sharknado movies any props, even though they fall prey to those needless dramatic moments as well, it’s that they at least take a break to give the viewer a wink. You can forgive a film with some margin of error when it aims for schlock. If you strip a film like this of its entertainment and take the whole thing seriously, then, boy does it shine a bright halogen light on all those flaws.

I can’t really explain what it is they’re passing off as effects here. Not that Syfy and The Asylum were actually giving ILM a decent run for its money before this, but I’ve seen better effects works done on those History and Discovery Channel digital reenactments. I can only assume…

  • The Windows screensaver they used for the volcanic explosions threw up all over the screen, creating the blurry mess we end up seeing.
  • They had a 2-year old whip something up on Paint and – voila! There’s their CGI background.
  • They resurrected the corpse of Jackson Pollock, gave that mofo a sixer and had him go to town.

Too serious to be schlock entertainment a la Snakes on a Plane and too unintentionally funny to be taken seriously, Airplane vs. Volcano has all the necessary ingredients for a train wreck production from The Asylum: bad acting, cheesy dialogue and effects straight out of Windows Movie Maker. If this is, in fact, based on a true story, the reason the victims have been mum about it all this time should be obvious.

They’re either ashamed or haven’t stopped laughing.

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