Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fire From Below


Have you ever read an entire page of a book, only to realize that you don’t remember a single word? That’s what watching Fire From Below was like for me. Even as I was watching it, I recognized that I didn’t actually understand what was happening. Normally, disaster movies have gaps in logic or reasoning, but Fire From Below goes beyond the gaps in logic – it just doesn’t have any. The tag on the poster reads, "The Laws of nature have just been broken." I now realize that the marketing team was trying to warn me.

Basically, after a group of miners strike … something, a sparky fire tentacle begins terrorizing a small town in Texas. It is apparently caused by the stuff they’re drilling for: a huge supply of a lithium isotope, the L-6 isotope. What is the L-6 isotope? I’m glad you asked. According to the “sexy” business lady over at Drake Industries, the L-6 isotope has huge potential to be used in long-running batteries and in alloys for plane bodies. There’s only one flaw: it is highly combustible with water. Yes, to you and me, this seems like a bad substance to tack onto an airplane, but Mr. Drake dreams big.


So that’s the major threat for this movie: the combustible L-6 isotope. I think. At some point, a dam almost bursts because I think the water gets too hot, or because fire is randomly shooting out of the reservoir, I don’t know. But the thing to take away from this is: the L-6 isotope is combustible.

This accounts for the fire tentacle that kills the miners in the first scene. Or, at least, it sort of accounts for it. They never really explain why the fire tentacle chases after people. That’s right. I said chases. There are several chase scenes in the movie with people running from a fire tentacle that’s right on their tail, weaving back and forth along dirt roads or over lakes.

For example, a group of friends out water skiing are chased by one of the fire tentacles. They try to outmaneuver it, but it follows them and then eats the boat, or whatever it is this fire tentacle does. I don’t understand the fire tentacle’s motivation. Why does it chase the speedboat? So it’s combustible with water. Okay. But it spends a lot of this movie chasing after things that aren’t water, like speedboats or Jeeps. Or, it surfaces in random spots, like when a guy goes into a clearing to pee, and then the fire shoots out of the ground and immolates him, then chases after his girlfriend when she tries to escape in a truck. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what warrants a fire tentacle and what doesn’t, other than, “Because we needed a chase sequence.”

Anyway, Kevin Sorbo is a brilliant seismologist who ends up vacationing with his fiancée in the very same tiny Texas town that is being plagued by fire tentacles. What a fortuitous and unexpected turn of events. I couldn’t tell you what his fiancee’s name is, and it doesn’t really matter, because I think she had all of ten lines, despite being in the entire movie. So, Fiancée and Kevin Sorbo enjoy the down-home charms of Tiny Town, Texas, until they go to Lost Lake and find a dead body. They head back into town to report the corpse, only to find that everyone in the town is dead, and it smells like sulfur. Normally, this would be the point where you would pack up your bags and leave town, but Kevin Sorbo and his hair are more heroic than you are.

An entire town dying warrants its being taken over by the military, and it is. Kevin Sorbo tells the army guy to fly in his team – two assistants who spend a lot of time being useless. For some reason, the army listens to him. This is unusual, given that normally, half a disaster movie is spent with the hero trying to get the government/armed forces to listen to him, despite being a genius and the top in his field. But even the army knows, when Kevin Sorbo asks for something, you give it to him.

After what is apparently a warp-speed helicopter trip to get Kevin Sorbo’s assistants, they all venture down to Lost Lake. It was totally normal (except for the dead bodies) the day before, but now, plumes of flames are shooting out of the lake. Suddenly, there’s a big earthquake, and the ground opens up underneath the two assistants and a sergeant. They fall into the cavern, and split off into their own totally different cave-exploring movie that involves acid burns and the sergeant being attacked by bats. Yes, that is the best part of the movie.

Basically, they’re walking through the (really well-lit) caves when a swarm of bats appears. He-assistant pulls she-assistant to the ground, but the sergeant isn’t so lucky. The bats swarm around him, and he screams like a little girl and tries to wave them off of him. Unfortunately, he does this while walking, and he walks right off a cliff. Unfortunately, they don’t show the sergeant-shaped hole in the ground, Looney Toons style.

Meanwhile, above ground, the fire tentacle is chasing the Jeep carrying Kevin Sorbo, his fiancée, and a military guy. Again, I don’t know why the fire tentacle can chase moving objects. I also don’t understand why it’s chasing them away from the water, when that’s what makes it combustible. I don’t think it’s reacting with water vapor in the air, because 1) then it wouldn’t be an individual tentacle, and 2) wouldn’t it just constantly be burning? Like I said, I seriously don’t know what’s happening in most scenes.

They drive into a barn, because apparently Kevin Sorbo has confused this movie with the far superior Twister. At this point, you might think, “Gee, Kevin Sorbo, risky choice going into a structure made entirely of combustible materials,” but he’s one step ahead of you. He’s figured out that the fire tentacles react with liquids (how?), not dry things like barns, hay, or the watering troughs used in horse stalls.

The situation in Tiny Town, Texas is getting worse, as a giant fire has broken out. The news reports that they show keep suggesting it’s terrorism, which is absurd, because this is a small town in Texas, not a major metropolitan city. The news continues to mention terrorism through the rest of the movie, I guess because it was the screenwriter’s attempt at being socially relevant.

Anyway, Kevin Sorbo and his fiancée are called to either the Pentagon or an office building, I’m not sure which. To the best of his ability, Kevin Sorbo explains what’s happening, but my eyes glaze over. Then he demonstrates how volatile the L-6 isotope is by pouring some water on it. Because it does not act consistently at any point in the movie, this time the L-6 isotope kind of ignites, but it doesn’t shoot out flame tentacles and kill everyone.

I have to say, this is not nearly as convincing a demonstration as when Josh Keyes lit a peach on fire. Actually, I’m surprised it convinced them of anything other than, “I bet Josh Keyes and his chiseled jawline would have already fixed everything.” I guess Kevin Sorbo can tell that he pales in comparison to Josh Keyes, so he decides that the best way to fix everything is to blow up the caves or something. I don’t know. I didn’t understand the logic at the time, and it hasn’t gotten any clearer with two days to think about it. The point is, everything can be solved by explosives.

So, Kevin Sorbo, the sexy businesslady from Drake Industries, and some military guys head into the caves to place a bunch of silver metallic cases throughout the caverns. Kevin Sorbo realizes that his two assistants are still down in the caves, so he goes to save them. He finds them by firing a gun into the air, which seems like a great idea in a cavern full of totally not flammable gasses. Kevin Sorbo and the assistants take off running as the fire tentacle shoots out of the mine. Somehow, despite only having 10 minutes to cover 30 minutes of cave paths, they manage to get to the cave entrance, only to realize that the water table has risen and the cave entrance is now flooded.

“Oh no!” you might think. “But the fire tentacles are drawn to water, and combust in water!”

Yes, with all the evidence we’ve been given throughout the movie, this would be the conclusion you would come to. However, you would be wrong. Instead, the fire doesn’t follow them into the water, or ignite the surface, or anything that would make sense within the rules they have created. So Kevin Sorbo and his assistants swim out and pop up in the middle of the Lake that was once on fire, but now isn’t, because I guess the explosions solved everything?

Seriously, I have no idea what just happened here. None. I even wrote quotes down, and I can’t remember who said them. I still don’t understand why the whole thing started in the first place, why the fire tentacles chase things, how the bombs fix it – yeah, you know what? Let’s just go to the arbitrary points system.

Arbitrary Points System:
Starring Kevin Sorbo, and it’s not made in the ‘90s: +22
It looks like it was shot in the ‘90s: +4
Fire tentacles!: +13
Wait, fire tentacles?: -11
Yes. Really badly animated fire tentacles!: +10
Not having as compelling a demonstration as Josh Keyes: -8
If it combusts with water, why does it chase cars?: -12
Not destroying Chicago: -34
A sergeant dies after being attacked by bats and accidentally walking off a cliff: +29
The news suggesting a large wildfire is terrorism: -4
Fire tentacle chase sequences: +6
While trying to escape the fire tentacle, Kevin Sorbo’s truck nearly collides with a motorbike. The biker wipes out on the pavement and is immediately immolated by the fire tentacles, but it’s okay, because the biker gave his life so that Kevin Sorbo could survive: -14
Using bombs to fix everything: +21
Not using nukes to fix everything: -14

Total: 18 out of 100

Best quotes:
“What are you doing in the women’s bathroom?” - Sexy businesslady
”My god … welcome to hell.” - She-assistant

Fire From Below Trailer

1 comment:

  1. OH MY GOD, this is quite possibly the funniest description of a movie ever. I know you're not updating this anymore but wow. This is awesome.

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