I wanted to do a double feature and review this movie along with Volcano since both these movies came out the same year and are both about erupting volcanoes (much like I did with Armageddon and Deep Impact), but I couldn't find Volcano on any streaming services and I would have to rent it if I wanted to watch it. I've never seen Volcano before (and this was my first time watching Dante's Peak), but I have a a feeling it's not worth paying to see! So, therefore, you're only getting my review of Dante's Peak. So I won't be able to tell you which movie is worse.
In Dante's Peak, we have one of the most forced relationships between Linda Hamilton's and Pierce Bronsan's characters. These two have no chemistry and I don't know why we're worried about making a romance happen when a damn volcano is about to erupt! Okay, I can kinda understand if they might form romantic feelings for each other because he (spoiler alert) does help save her and her children from the volcano and they go through the traumatic experience together, but they're trying to make them a romantic pairing even before all this even happens and they've only known each other for a couple days!
Rachel Wando (Hamilton) is the mayor of Dante's Peak, Washington. (Before seeing this, I had just assumed Dante was the name of the volcano, hence the title of the movie). Dante's Peak has the distinct pleasure of being the second best place to live in the United States with a population of under 20,000. I want to know which town under 20,000 was voted as the best place to live. This is a very popular touristy place; I guess people like to go camping and hiking here and it is a beautiful part of the country. Even though they have Linda Hamilton in this movie, she has nothing to do besides be a mother to her two children and a potential love interest for Bronsan's character. I don't get it. You have bad-ass Sarah Connor in your action movie and you don't even let her do anything? Oh, wait, she gets to pour and hand out coffee. You see, besides being the mayor, she also runs a coffee shop. The hell? Doesn't she have enough responsibilities with being the mayor of a small town, not to mention a single mother to two children? I realize this is a small town, but you'd think she'd be pretty busy with that. Guess not!
As though Mayor Wando's schedule isn't already full, she's the one to drive Harry to the volcano. Her mother-in-law, Ruth, lives in a cabin near the foot of the volcano. I'm not really sure what happened to Rachel's ex-husband. They make it sound like he just left them. Kind of awkward for the mother-in-law. She still has a relationship with her grandchildren, but she's got to face the woman who her son left every time they visit. Rachel's kids, Graham (about 13) and Lauren (about 10) are your typical annoying Hollywood movie kids. Graham is a little rebel and likes to hide out in the mines with his friends (and when Rachel goes to pick him up, I knew these mines would come back in the movie, and wouldn't you know it, I was right!) The minute Lauren meets Harry, she's already asking if he's married and has kids. Pry much, little girl?
Once they get to Grandma's house, Graham and Lauren are already in their bathing suits, ready to jump into the hot springs. On their way there, Harry starts noticing signs that things are amiss. If you thought the dead trees and the dead squirrels were the worst of it, you thought wrong! In an earlier scene, we see two young out-of-towners who are about to get it on in the hot springs and after the woman exclaims how hot it is, we see lava (I assume, as it was red) spurt from beneath their feet. Graham is about to run and jump in the water (even if the water isn't boiling hot to cook you alive, is it still a good idea to run and jump into hot springs? No, I don't think so). Luckily, at the very last second, and I mean the very last second, Harry is there to grab Graham right before he can leap to his death. You see, Harry already knows something isn't right and his instincts are right when they see the two young adults face down, all bloated and dead in the water.
think anything is wrong and he doesn't want to panic anybody. Look, I understand about now wanting to start a panic, but isn't it better to be safe than sorry? Though this is a tourist town and if they have to close shop, they will lose money. And you know, money is more important than human life. (For the record, I'm being sarcastic there).
Harry and another volcanologist (named Terry; really movie? Harry and Terry?) are inspecting the rim of the volcano and they have brought along a machine (made by NASA if I remember right) that can measure the seismic activity. Or something. Paul and the other volcanologists are watching all this from their headquarters on the ground on a monitor. Terry sends the robot machine (named ELF which stands for Extreme Low Frequency) a few feet down the crater so it can do its thing. Unfortunately, it gets stuck and Terry needs to go down to get it. He is attached to a rope and Harry tells him he doesn't think this is a good idea, but Terry isn't going to lose this expensive machinery. I predicted that either he was going to die or nothing at all was going to happen and he would be fine and this would just be a fake-out. Well, I was wrong on both counts. He neither dies, but nothing goes smoothy, either. Once he's down, he unclips the rope (I guess it makes it easier to get ELF). Of course, once he does that, a rock slide happens and at first I thought he got completely buried by rocks, but one of his legs get pinned and Harry has to go down and help him. He calls for a helicopter to come get them. Terry has a broken leg, but other than that he'll survive there rest of the movie. (Hope that wasn't a spoiler!)
From the reading they got from the machine, Paul determines there is no imminent threat of a volcano. Look, I don't know exactly how volcanoes work, but you think there would be some sign of impending doom. (Spoiler alert: there will be an eruption in the near future!) All the volcanologists will be leaving to go back home tomorrow.
The night before he's to leave, Harry goes to say goodbye to Rachel (and I think he wants to do more than just say good-bye). While they're embracing, Lauren calls for her mother, asking her to bring some water. The water that comes out of the tap is nasty and brown. Harry asks Rachel to take him to the town's water supply and he finds that the water has been contaminated with sulfur dioxide. He goes to Paul's cabin, banging on his door in the middle of the night and tells him he now has proof that the volcano is in danger of blowing. Now is when Paul gives permission for Harry to put the town on alert. "On alert"? WTF? How about we start evacuating everyone?
Mayor Wando calls a town meeting, but it isn't until like six the next day. These people don't seem to be in any hurry to get the townspeople out of the town. Even if they don't think the volcano is going to erupt with in the next couple of hours (oh how wrong they are!), you'd think they still want to start evacuating people right that second because a) might be a good idea to get a head start before that thing erupts, and b), the water is all nasty and brown! How do you drink it? How do you shower? How do you brush your teeth? How do you cook if you can't boil water? How can Rachel serve her coffee with that dirty, nasty, brown water?
Before the meeting, Rachel calls Ruth to tell her to get the eff out of there, but she refuses to leave. Either she refuses to believe that she is in any danger or she doesn't care if there is an erupts and she's just stubborn and will "go down with the ship", so to speak.
While their mom was at the meeting (and before the earthquake happened), Graham and Lauren are still trying to call their grandma, but at this point, she's taken the phone off the hook. So Graham gets the oh-so-brilliant idea to take his mom's truck and go up the mountain to get their grandma. What a dumbass. This kid is no older than thirteen, remember. By the time they're halfway up the mountain, the volcano has erupted and their visibility is zero. I laughed when Lauren tells him to make the windshield wipers go faster. Please. Like that's going to help. The air is just full of ash and dust and they can't see anything. Hell, even if it was a clear, sunny day, Graham would still hardly be able to see anything because it looks like he can barely see over the steering wheel! In reality, these kids would have driven straight off the mountain (in reality, anyone in this situation would have driven straight off the mountain!), but no, they make it safely to Grandma's house. Give me a break!
Harry and Rachel go to Rachel's home to get her children. She's calling for them, but they're not answering. (Did she not realize her car was missing?) She finds a note in the kitchen from her daughter telling her where they went. I love the "P.S. Don't be mad" line. Oh, she is livid!
There's no way they'll be able to get to Ruth's cabin in a quick manner because all the roads are full of cars of people trying to get out of town or they're blocked by debris and destruction. Since Harry has this heavy-duty truck (it's pretty much invincible from any kind of damage), he decides to drive across the lake. As they drive across it pretty much only the roof of the car is visible. Just as they're about to reach the other end, the car gets stuck in some mud and it starts filling up with water. As he's gunning the gas pedal, the car starts filling up with water. Rachel starts panicking, but Harry remains calm. He has faith that they'll get out of this. When they were halfway across the lake, they start seeing other cars get the same idea and start following him into the lake. There are Hondas and Toyotas and cars that aren't heavy-duty and should not be doing this. But once again, we don't see any of these cars not making it to the other end. In fact, one of them runs (well, floats, rather) into Harry's car and that's how they are able to get out of their predicament.
So they're pretty close to the other side, but still have a few feet to go. It's at this moment that Harry realizes that the acid eaten the motor and they are now stuck. In one of the most WTF moments from the movie, he wraps his jacket around his arm and uses his jacket-wrapped arm to propel them towards the shore. Um, so I guess leather is immune to acid? This is some of the dumbest sh*t I've ever seen. He gets them somewhat closer to shore, but then, with only a few feet to go, Grandma Ruth decides to save the day by jumping out of the boat and pulling it towards the dock. By this time, the water is a little less than waist-deep, so her legs are getting severely burned. Once they're on shore, she can barely walk and Harry has to carry her. At one point she begs him to put her down and he does. This is when we see how badly burned her legs are. The kids tearfully say goodbye to her and she tells Rachel that her son was a fool to leave her. Then she dies a hero.
Harry makes a pitstop at his headquarters to grab an emergency locator beacon. (Yeah that might come in handy later!) They realize there is no way out of town and they need to get somewhere safe because Harry has discovered (from looking at his fancy volcano equipment) that they are due to have one more large earthquake. This is when the mine comes back and they drive in it just in time. They manage to be safe from the destruction of the earthquake inside the mine, but unfortunately they are blocked in by the falling rocks and boulders. The car could only go so far in the mine before it got too narrow, so they all get out and walk towards an area where Graham (very conveniently) has water and snacks. Once they get there, Harry realizes that he left the emergency locator in the car and has to go back. Well, that was stupid, Harry. He has to be careful going back, because now rocks have started falling in the cave. His arm gets broken and we even see a bone protruding, oh, god, that is even worse than when we see Grandma' burned legs. When he gets inside the car, more rocks start falling on top of the car and the roof caves in so he's essentially trapped in the vehicle. Luckily, he does manage to activate the locator and his friends, who all presumed he was dead, get this signal and they are able to rescue them.
So I thought they were rescued the same day, or at least the next day, but according to Wikipedia, it's "days later" when they're rescued. I guess I understand that it's going to take awhile to get there (not to mention to remove all the rocks), but I had no idea it was several days until they were rescued. I guess it was lucky they had all that food and water in there (though poor Harry didn't get any). Rachel is relieved to see that Harry is alive and they kiss in front of everyone and Graham and Lauren couldn't be happier. Yay. Now that question is, where will they now live now that their home has been completely destroyed? Too bad we never found out what the best place to live in the U.S. with a population under 20,000 because I bet that's where they went. I bet it's Mayberry, North Carolina!