Review by James Lindorf
Sidney King is coming off of a 17-year break, and Wei Bu is a relative newcomer; perhaps that is why they could come up with the concept for “Skyfire” that is ripped from the heart of the ’90s. Wei and King decided to unite two ’90s classics “Jurassic Park” and “Dante’s Peak,” into one action-packed film. Tianhuo Island is a beautiful paradise located in the “Ring of Fire.” Twenty years ago, an eruption cost geologist Wentao Li (Xueqi Wang), his wife, and Meng (Hannah Quinlivan), her mother. Now an adult and a geologist like her parents, Meng has returned to the island. She is there trying to develop an eruption forecasting system that could save countless lives at businessman Jack Harris’ (Jason Isaacs) thrill-seeking theme park. Distraught for his daughter’s safety, Wentao breaks his vow and returns to the island to try and talk her into leaving. His worst fears are realized as the volcano begins to erupt. They must race against the clock to save themselves, the tourists, and the villagers from the apocalyptic chaos. “Skyfire” was directed by Simon West (Con Air) and produced by Jennifer Dong and Jib Polhemus. The first Hollywood-level Chinese action-adventure blockbuster will be available On Demand on January 12th, 2021.
In an effort to emulate Hollywood, China went all out on an effects-laden disaster film and stumbled over every trope along the way. To create the theme park and the volcanic destruction, some great practical effects are paired with an abundance of VFX that ranged from bad to fair. Some scenes wouldn’t be so obviously done on a blue screen that It borders on distracting. If they had more time and/or money, they probably could have produced more realistic images. On top of inconsistent effects, the film also suffered from some typical relationship tropes. People are willing to die with or for someone, there is a random kid whose parent(s) are dead, and the main character has to help them out. The worst of the recycled ideas is that of the disaster bringing people together again. Whether it is reuniting a family are reconciling a marriage, the need to have people work through their problems via disaster is incredibly uninteresting at this point.
The writing, direction, acting, and casting succeed is creating a credible female action hero that could cement the next several years of Quinlivan’s career. Like Ripley, and Sarah Connor, who were the best to do it, Meng is a complex character whose capability is balanced by her intelligence and personality. She is just as likely to cut you down with witty remarks as she is to build you up with a friendly or flirty compliment, and there is no one on the island you’d want coming to your rescue more than her.
“Skyfire” is the quintessential 3 out of 5. It does somethings well and others poorly, but most of the film is right there in the middle. Sometimes the middle of the road is a death sentence, which means the movie may be forgotten by the end of the year. I hope that doesn’t Happen because Meng is a character worth remembering and worthy of carrying on if they want her to explore a volcano that doesn’t hate her family. If “Skyfire” does well and wants to bring the entire creative time back, I would be willing to give them a second chance. Maybe this experience will be enough for the writers to create a plot as rich as their leading character. Whether it is remembered or not, “Skyfire” is a perfectly good way to spend a lazy afternoon where you want some basic entertainment.
Original Language: Chinese
Director: Simon West
Producer: Jennifer Dong, Jib Polhemus
Writer: Wei Bu, Sidney King
Release Date (Streaming): January 12th, 2021
Runtime: 1h 37m
Production Co: Production Capital, Meridian Entertainment, Gosdom Entertainment, Base FX
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