For tropes about volcanoes, see Lava Tropes.
We're going to put as many people in front of it as it takes. Listen up, people! Let me tell you what's south of us: no more museums, no more department stores, just homes! People! If we turn and run now, they're going to be defenseless! You don't like my plan? That's good. Give me a another plan, but don't tell me we're backing out!
Volcano is a 1997 Disaster Movie directed by Mick Jackson and starring Tommy Lee Jones. He plays Mike Roark, head of the Los Angeles Emergency Management Center. One day, after an early morning Earthquake, Roark discovers fire erupting below the city. A scientist, Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche), points him to volcanic activity brewing underneath the La Brea Tar Pits. Later that night, an actual volcano emerges from the tar pits and erupts.
It's up to Mike and his management team, including his second-in-command Emmit Reese (Don Cheadle), to save the city from total destruction.
Tropes used in Volcano include:
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: Just like Dante’s Peak, the film got a lot of flak for the portrayal of a volcano but those who study volcanoes admit there were some things shown were correct.
- While having a volcano forming from tar pits is part on Artistic License Geology, but there has been a reported case in Mexico where a volcano formation was witnessed by humans. In 1943, a farmer noticed something was wrong while he was working on his cornfield, which prompted his family to flee their home for their safety. When other residents in Parícutin saw the same thing, they got as many people as they could to safety and far from the disaster.
- When Heche’s character mentions Iceland, it was based on an actual case in 1973 when a fire department in Eldfell was able to save the town from a volcano, except there was a handy harbor nearby which supplied them with just enough sea water to put of the volcano.
- Cat Scare: Or more... a Rat scare. A couple rats spook two of the characters. But they press on deeper into the storm drain. Then they see the charred rats as the Thermal Camera goes nuts...
- Cassandra Truth
- Chekhov's Volcano: Averted, since the titular volcano is not yet formed in the beginning of the movie. But given its title...
- Confiscated Phone: Roark confiscates a cell phone from a radio reporter when his own phone becomes unusable.
- Conflict Ball: A black guy and racist cop are fighting while the eruption and lava flow are going on.
- Convection, Schmonvection: Played anywhere from painfully straight to averted, as the plot demands.
- In some scenes lava represents no threat to anything it isn't directly touching. Even if you're directly above it and a few feet away, inside or on top of a metal vehicle that is actually melting in the heat.
- In another scene the main character has to get away from the heat emanating lava 10 meters below a manhole. Basically convection works by the Rule of Cool.
- There are too many instances to count where individuals are standing directly on the other side of concrete barriers redirecting and holding back lava.
- Dueling Movies with Dante's Peak, both released months apart in early 1997.
- Feet of Clay: Minor example with Kelly having a scene with her father about what to do during an earthquake, yet during an actual earthquake she just sits in bed and screams until her father pulls her out and puts them under a doorway.
- Genre Blindness: The usual disaster movie ignorance is of course present but the fact no-one in LA has no clue what lava is verges on the ridiculous. Sure, the first time people actually see lava it's understandable they do a double-take. However it soon gets to the point where the film seems to be set in an alternate reality where the very existence of volcanoes is an obscure geological fact completely unfamiliar to the public.
TV Anchorwoman: Well, we now have a name for this crisis. It is, according to the US Geological Survey, a "volcano"...
- Hey, It's That Guy!: The train conductor that gets saved by Stan is Ernie from The George Lopez Show.
- Infant Immortality: All the small children survive. And so does a small Jack Russell named Bill. Just in case that wasn't enough to assure you no innocents were harmed there is even a brief news report on vets setting up an emergency pet shelter.
- Though the last is more taking a jab at the sort of pointless "human interest stories" that news reporters do when they can't find any real news in a crisis other than what they've already repeated twenty times.
- Ignored Expert: Anne Heche's character.
- Jerkass: The yuppie husband who wanted his doctor wife, Jaye, to stop working with the injured downtown because they were just poor people. He finally stalked off, never to be seen again on screen once his wife insisted on doing, y'know, her job.
- Karmic Death: Stan, the Metro manager who refused to stop the Red Line subway. At least he goes out in a Heroic Sacrifice, albeit a hugely pointless one.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The guy mentioned above as a Jerkass, who wanted his doctor wife to leave behind the injured and flee the city, owns a new office building. It gets knocked down to channel the lava.
- No Endor Holocaust: The body count at the end of this disaster is a paltry 100. With a few thousand injured. Considering the destruction on screen not just from the lava itself but numerous secondary fires. Not to mention the accompanying the off-screen implication of mass panic and looting, this result is nothing short of divine intervention.
- Red Shirt Reporter: At one point, a reporter is standing only barely on the right side of the concrete barriers holding the lava back! Convection, Schmonvection indeed...
- Too Dumb to Live: Kelly. She claims to not need a babysitter but she freezes up constantly, forcing people to drop what they're doing (which once includes trying to save someone else's life) to bail her ass out. The worse instance being losing a kid she was put in charge of and when she finds him on an exploding street...decides to stay there and wait to be saved.
- More generally, the entire population of L.A., who have apparently never heard of volcanoes before the event of this movie.
- You Fail Geology Forever
- California is a geologically complex place with many centers of volcanic activity, but most of them aren't anywhere near the Los Angeles Basin. The closest volcanic rocks are millions of years old from long extinct volcanic activity, and the Los Angeles area has no volcanoes active or even recently extinct, with no volcanic activity anticipated in the foreseeable future of human presence.
- And of course, the La Brea Tar Pits are in a deep sedimentary basin associated with a transform boundary, and for bonus points, they are Tar Pits and the LA basin is full of oil wells, so it's hard to imagine that someone wouldn't have noticed long before the characters in the film. Petroleum deposits cannot form geologically in the presence of volcanic activity.
- You Fail Physics Forever: The concrete barrier is set up in the wrong direction, making it far less effective when pushing against the lava.