Dante’s Peak is a disaster film starring Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton set in the fictional town of Dante’s Peak where a stratovolcano suddenly wakes up and the town must fight to survive.
Volcanologist Harry Dalton (Brosnan) loses his girlfriend four years earlier while studying an erupting volcano in South America and due to that incident becomes jumpy when it comes to future volcanic activity. Four years later Dr. Paul Dreyfus, Harry’s superior assigns him investigate seismic activity near the town of Dante’s Peak, Washington that borders a dormant stratovolcano. Harry meets with Mayor Rachel Wando (Hamilton) along with her children Graham and Lauren who takes Harry with while they see her former mother-in-law Ruth, who lives near the lake at the base of the volcano.
While there they find dead trees, dead squirrels, and two people scalded to death in a hot spring. Paul, aware of the situation does not wish to spread panic without proper scientific evidence, calls off the evacuation Harry had called for. At a town meeting an earthquake is felt and the volcano begins to erupt, Harry and Rachel leave to pick up her kids, only to discover that both have set out to get Ruth, their grandmother who had refused to leave her cabin. When Harry and Rachel arrive at Ruth’s a lava flow surrounds Ruth’s cabin destroying the vehicles.
All five set out across the lake in a motorboat, but the lake has become acidic due to sulfur-rich gases emitted from the volcano, destroying the motor and eating away at the boat. Ruth jumps out pushing the boat to shore only to suffer chemical burns, dying from her injuries. Taking a Forest Service ranger’s truck Harry, Rachel and the kids continue to try and get off the mountain only to come across more lava in their path. Arriving at what’s left of the town the volcano suffers a massive lateral blast, triggering a pyroclastic flow obliterating everything in its path.
Harry, Rachel and her kids enter a mine, once inside Harry realizes that he left the beacon in the truck. While trying to go back for it, aftershocks cause rocks and debris to fall breaking Harry’s arm and leaving him trapped in the truck, not before he is able to activate the beacon. Several days later search and rescue teams are dispatched when Terry notices the beacon has been activated rescuing Harry, Rachel and the kids.
With Dante’s Peak the first half of the movie establishes our characters while the second half of the movie rewards the audience with an impressive special effects thriller. Released to theaters on February 7, 1997, it debuted at #2 at the box office behind the special edition re-release of Star Wars: A New Hope. At the end of its theatrical run Dante’s Peak earned $67.1 million in the U.S. and $111.0 million overseas, for a total of $178 million worldwide. Dante’s Peak received mostly negative reviews and was considered a box office flop.
Movies like Dante’s Peak have never been what you would call Oscar level movies when it comes to story or acting. It celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary and if you weren’t a fan of this movie back in 1997 you are probably still not a fan in 2022. While Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton star in some of my favorite movies, although not together, they do both help make this movie enjoyable on one level. Disaster movies then and even today are more what I would call pure popcorn enjoyment movies. At least for me I judge such movies on whether I was entertained or did it put me to sleep. I saw it in theaters in 1997 and I left the theater entertained and twenty-five years later it still entertains me. Will it ever crack a top 100 movie list of all time? No, but it doesn’t have to if all you’re looking for is a good time watching everything being destroyed.
Dante’s Peak (United States, 1997)
Director: Roger Donaldson
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Linda Hamilton, Charles Hallahan, Jamie Renee Smith, Jeremy Foley, Elizabeth Hoffman
Screenplay: Leslie Bohem
Cinematography: Andrjez Bartkowiak
Music: John Frizzell and James Newton Howard
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 1:49
U.S. Release Date: 02-07-1997
Categories: Movie Anniversaries