The familiar phrase that rhymed “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” holds true in Simon West’s Skyfire <天·火>, which marks the veteran Hollywood filmmaker’s first Chinese-language directorial effort.
West, of course, was best known for his first three movies during the late 1990s and early 2000s including Con Air (1997), The General’s Daughter (1999) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). Given his prior experience in directing blockbuster movies, the big-budget scale of the effects-heavy Skyfire <天·火> is certainly right up his alley.
The story, as expected, is nothing more than your standard-issue disaster-movie template: The sudden volcano eruption that takes place twenty years ago in China’s Tianhuo island has caused the death of Li Wentao’s (Wang Xueqi) wife (Alice Rietveld) during an ill-fated research expedition. Both Li and their young daughter Li Xiaomeng (Beeland Rogers), who were there during the eruption, manage to survive.
Fast forward to the present time, the now grown-up Li Xiaomeng (Hannah Quinlivan) works as one of the research team members responsible for monitoring the Tianhuo volcano’s activity using their state-of-the-art sensor technology, where the island has since become a theme park owned by a wealthy businessman (Jason Isaacs).
Long story short, it doesn’t take long before the volcano starts to erupt again and you probably knows what will happens next. This is particularly evident if you are familiar with all the disaster-movie clichés. Here, screenwriters Bu Wei and Sidney King basically rehash the same old formula seen in most Hollywood disaster movies.
Most of the cast is average at best, even though Hannah Quinlivan’s tomboy-ish role as the strong-willed Li Xiaomeng and veteran actor Wang Xueqi’s performance as Li Wentao are the only exceptions with their engaging screen presences.
Running at just 90+ minutes, Simon West’s workmanlike direction does deliver some goods here (both monorail and jeep chase scenes quickly come to mind). That of course, if you can tolerate most of the movie’s uneven special effects that tend to look like a shoddy B-grade piece of work.