Skyfire shows what happens when action director Simon West finds a new audience. Li Wentao has been studying volcano activity aggressively since his wife died. 20 years later, he’s sounding the alarm about geological activity underneath an island resort created by an Aussie billionaire. What can Li do when his daughter is working on a research term at the theme park and resort? Li heads to the island in time for the volcano to erupt.
Skyfire represents something that American film fans should have already been noticing by now. The Chinese market is poaching that which the West has left behind. It’s kinda funny that emerging audiences declare that what we’ve grown beyond is entertaining enough to turn into monster hits. I’m still kinda shocked that Bruckheimer hasn’t started making his way out East.
Chinese action movies owe a lot to what used to work in America. But, what’s crazy about Skyfire is how it works like a mix between When Time Ran Out and Jurassic World. It’s hokey, it’s jokey, but you’re going to watch the damn thing from start to finish. Just don’t expect a great movie, even if you are familiar with these sorts of releases from years past.
Jason Isaacs is doing his best Post Modern Ray Milland/George Lazenby. I easily buy him as an Australian businessman doing his best to make sense of the craziness. He’s not evil, but he’s that classic style businessman antagonist that creates the mess and then tries to clean it up to a point. He even gets a heroic moment.
Wang Xueqi is an odd action star. I get that the Chinese Studio System is trying to frame him as an older action star in the vein of a present-day Tom Cruise or Liam Neeson. I just don’t buy him in these roles. That’s not a problem with Xuegi, but more of an issue with how he is utilized in what I’ve seen him do. It’s a worldwide issue with a wide variety of actors, so some things never change.
The Chinese influence on the global film market and action cinema is quite notable. Basically, it’s the film equivalent of a DLC video game skin on tired American cinema that would have been at home anywhere between 1995-2012. So, if you’re a dad that likes DVDs he finds at the Car Wash, this might be for you.
What’s so kooky about Skyfire and all that comes with it is the basic film appeal. People like killer volcano movies. It wasn’t that long ago that I had a Twitter conversation with someone about how all runaway train movies deserve at least a “B-” in terms of grading. Some things are just appealing in the fact of their poor ingredients.
The AndersonVision rant on Skyfire
Skyfire’s greatest sin is its greatest strength. It’s a throwback action movie about a natural disaster and nothing else. If you grew up in a time when Dante’s Peak and Volcano were dominating the box office, this won’t look that different to you. The only catch is the Chinese market is getting their first true taste of big budget schlock.
All studio systems have had eras of this kind of cinematic fluff and that doesn’t make for bad films. What it does do is take away money and attention from better cinema. I hate to see that creative and financial mismanagement spreading across the globe, but it’s the nature of business.
For every Raise the Red Lantern collecting dust on a library shelf, you have 30 discs of Skyfire getting curious rentals out of a vending machine. While it’s quick and disposable, these are the movies that raise the funds for studios and production firms to continue. It’s the ultimate cinematic Catch-22.
The big lie of filmmaking is that giant action movies like Skyfire aren’t needed. If that was so, many of the great cinematic directors wouldn’t have had cut their teeth working on these films. The money for all artistic endeavors has to come from somewhere and wealthy patrons only go so far. So, fire up the cameras and make some schlock to entertain the masses for 2 hours. Then spread the wealth to the prestige and indie pics.
The thing that film nerds never understand is that the average viewer would be happy watching Rob Schneider hang out with a talking horse. While some of us mature and stop picking our film by the Burger King tie-in glasses, others will never break out of that mold. If you’re still interested in Skyfire, then pick it up today. Use our link on the side of this review to rent it.