Skyfire is directed by Simon West, a filmmaker with a not-so-good track record. Two out of his previous four films have a score of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, while one stands at 32%, and the last one has no score. The filmmaker’s most well-received work in the previous decade is The Expendables 2, which itself is far from a perfect movie. With this in mind, I knew Skyfire wouldn’t be the next 2001: A Space Odyssey. In fact, I didn’t expect it to be a watchable fare. Surprisingly, it is far from unwatchable. It’s no 2001, but it ain’t Gun Sky or Stolen either. It exists somewhere between disposable fun and cheesy entertainment, which itself is a compliment for a Simon West film.
It is everything you may expect from a disaster film. Not a thing more. It’s almost like the writers are reading your mind and do the bare minimum to subvert your expectations. You get exactly what you get. Every jump, every boom, every character movement, and even dialogue, for that matter. Not once does the film go break the cliche, nor does it try to; it’s content with its mediocrity, and it may work for those who seek comfort in a film, never to expect it to surprise them.
The film opens with the eruption of a volcano on an island that kills the mother of the protagonist, Li Xiao Meng, dead as her father Wentao Li fails to rescue her in time. Twenty years later, Xiao Meng is a scientist studying the patterns of volcanoes and is distant from her father. When an American businessman builds a resort just below the volcano and plans to expand it monumentally, Xiao Meng warns him of nature’s suspicious patterns and requests him to abandon the island. Being the ignorant capitalist he is – like every money-minded secondary antagonist in a disaster film – he pays no heeds to her plea and no prizes for guessing what follows.
We have seen it all. The arrogant decisions, the CGI repercussions, people trying to outrun fire and lava, cars trying to overtake the natural explosions, a guy-in-the-chair located at an unbelievably safe place guiding characters while the world outside his computer-riddled interior burns. The film aspires to be a simple disaster film, and it passes with flying colors. It doesn’t push any boundaries both in terms of story-telling and visuals. From the acting to CGI, everything is adequate. If there is anything that feels excessive, it’s the background score, which indicates a moment of significance, danger, and emotion well in advance. Picture this, a man saves a young girl and brings her to the safety boat. As she leaves, the man insists on staying to find someone dear to him. As the boat leaves, the camera tracks backward, gradually widening our view of a raging disaster he is in the thick of, and melancholic music gradually increases, and yes, he ends up getting toasted.
Skyfire is full of such moments. You see the threat coming from a mile, reducing the thrills to predictable occurrences. But it’s never boring. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, the film makes for a fun, forgettable viewing.