You know those lenticular pictures you look at and see one thing, then look at from a slightly different angle and see something else? Skyfire is like one of them. Depending on the perspective with which you come at it, the movie is either middling or awesome. That is to say, this is an intentionally over-the-top action movie that delivers an abundance of insane mayhem, yet virtually nothing of substance in terms of plot, theme, or characterization. I kind of enjoyed it, while simultaneously kind of felt disappointed.
The premise can be boiled down to “Jurassic Park with a volcano instead of dinosaurs.” Jason Isaacs – who isn't in the film nearly as much as his presence in advertising would suggest – plays Jack Harris, a businessman who has opened a luxurious, fun-filled resort right at the base of a massive volcano. Why? So there can be tons of destruction for us to witness, of course! Meng Li (Hannah Quinlivan) is the scientist who realizes the thing is about to blow, just as the resort is getting ready to open. Because the movie wants to pretend to have more than calamity on its mind, her estranged father dramatically shows up right at this same time.
All this happens pretty quickly. Skyfire is eager to get on to its real purpose, namely a series of increasingly improbable, but undeniably entertaining action scenes. People and cars outrun flowing lava, fireballs drop from the sky, clouds of volcanic ash engulf helpless victims, etc. A particularly wacky scene finds two elevated monorail cars racing away from the eruption. The track one of those cars is on has become damaged, so the passengers have to jump from the imperiled one to the safe one before plunging to their doom.
None of what happens in Skyfire is even remotely plausible, much less logical. Director Simon West (Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and his screenwriters are solely interested in large-scale chaos. Without a doubt, those sequences are enjoyable if, like me, you have a fondness for movies that are cheerfully, knowingly ridiculous. You can practically hear the movie telling you not to take it seriously, to sit back and turn off your brain.
Does it work on that level? Sure. Even so, there's no denying that the characters are all one-dimensional, especially Jack Harris. You could do a lot exploring the mentality of a guy who thinks building a resort on a volcano is a good idea. Skyfire introduces him as man believing he can make a big score, then largely shuffles him off. The film also avoids showing us too much of the resort before catastrophe hits. Jurassic Park was smart enough to make its island seem cool and glamorous before destroying it.
Although there's nothing wrong with making a mindless action movie, I have to wonder why the makers of Skyfire didn't try a little harder in the areas that don't involve destruction. After all, if you're going to put that much imagination into the disaster stuff, why not put some into everything else, so that we have a reason to really care about it?
out of four
Skyfire is unrated, but contains PG-13 levels of action. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.