I am a sucker for bad geology movies. Sure, I suffer somewhat through the bad science and bad dialog, but I still find myself hooked on these films. I guess there’s some appeal to seeing attractive, action star, Hollywood versions of geologists. I mean, Pierce Brosnan played the star volcanologist in the 1997 flick “Dante’s Peak”. There are plenty of inaccuracies in the film. But I wish that more volcanolgists looked like Brosnan, and I really think they should train the USGS geologists to talk like James Bond. “Hi, I’m Bond. Volcanologist Bond.” Good stuff.
Tonight, I watched another bad volcano movie, the made-for-TV flick: “Magma: Volcanic Disaster”. What a bad, yet delightful movie. The science is terribly inaccurate and implausible, the plot and writing awful, and the acting mediocre, even with the two actors from the TV show “24.” Nonetheless, I plan on buying this movie, already available on amazon.com! I may wait a couple of weeks. The movie isn’t even out yet and already the price has dropped from $24.96 to $16.99. Another week, maybe, and I’ll be able to get it for six bucks. Once I do, I’ll watch it again (with buttery movie popcorn… mmm) and write a review of the bad (and good, too– I should be fair) science of this movie.
Interestingly, this movie is one my father and I could enjoy together. While I enjoy geology flicks, my dad really enjoys a good submarine flick. In this movie nuclear submarines are used to fire warheads at hydrothermal vents… um, yeah… my dad says that the submarine information is just about as accurate as the volcano information. That is to say, it’s not very accurate! Nevertheless, the movie was entertaining, and I wish my volcanology advisors would tell me to forget about finals because we need to go out and save the world!
Other bad geology movies I enjoy? “The Core”, “Volcano”, and my all-time favorite bad geology movie, the 1959 Disney musical “Journey to the Center of the Earth”. Yes, I said musical. There’s some catchy geology songs, and Pat Boone, accompanied by his trusty accordian, sings his way to the center of the Earth. Now, that’s a movie.
If I ever teach a volcanology class, I’ll have my students watch a bad, yet still entertaining, volcano movie such as “Dante’s Peak” and write a short one or two page critique of the science in the movie. I’d want my students to constructively critisize the flick, not only pointing out the bad science but also suggesting ways in which good science could be incorporated into a fun and action-filled, yet still accurate, plot.
Popular movies are an important medium through which the public is exposed to science. Even bad geology movies may do good by inspiring people to learn more about volcanology and other aspects of geoscience. There is a danger, though, when the only exposure the general public has to geology is through these bad geology movies.
I’d love to write a geology movie that’s both action-filled and accurate. Trust me, volcanoes are dangerous and exciting enough to come up with a good movie script without resorting to bad science. Perhaps I’ll write one if I can find the time.
Have a happy Christmas, if you’re celebrating! Go rent your favorite bad science flick and share with your loved ones. There’s always MST3K, too!