Ring Of Fire ReviewJune 12, 2013
Ring of Fire features a compelling story, solid action and admirable special effects, but is dragged down by clichés and unnecessary sub-plots.
Ring of Fire is a Reelz miniseries that aired back in March 2013, and is now available on both Blu Ray and DVD. Featuring familiar TV faces such as Terry O’ Quinn (Lost, Hawaii Five-O), Michael Vartan (Alias, Columbiana) and Lauren Lee Smith (CSI, The L Word), Ring of Fire follows a greedy oil corporation that blatantly disobeys drilling regulations in a small town, setting off what could be an “extinction level event” of volcanic eruptions. Dr. Matthew Cooper (Vartan) is the level-headed scientist who tries to warn everyone of the danger before it’s too late, Emily is an environmentalist, and Emily’s father is the mustache-twirling oil tycoon.
Overall, Ring of Fire is better than I expected it to be. Sure, there are some hammy performances, but the main actors anchor the film well and give it substance. Vartan and O’Quinn give smartly subdued performances, and Lauren Lee Smith is decent enough as Emily. The script is pretty well done in the first half of this four-hour miniseries, but comes apart at the seams a bit in the home stretch. Ring of Fire‘s writers obviously tried to add some engaging sub-plots, but it seems they got a bit carried away, and a few things come off as just plain hokey or unbelievable. Namely, the most outspoken environmentalist just happens to be the oil tycoon’s daughter, and Dr. Cooper just happens to have an aneurysm that’s about to burst (his doctor tells him to avoid stress). Oh, and two former high school enemies – one ended up becoming a tree hugger, the other security for the big bad oil company – end up the sole survivors of an explosion and have to put aside their differences to survive. It’s all just a bit too contrived.
O’Quinn’s oil tycoon Oliver Booth decides to go against regulations and drill further into the Earth, hoping to mine what he thinks is oil. Dr. Cooper soon discovers that this is actually compressed magma, which if drilled into could set off the extinction level event, a term the script loves to throw around. One of the engineers at the drill site grows a conscience and leaks what info he has to Emily and Dr. Cooper, but not in time to stop the doomsday event from being triggered. I have to say, the CGI on display in Ring of Fire is quite impressive for a low-budget miniseries. The explosions, eruptions, and landscape views of the world covered in ash all looked convincing enough.
Ring of Fire feels like it could have easily been edited into a three hour film. A lot of the side characters and sub plots just feel like filler, and frankly take away from the main story. For instance, the sub plot with the engineer’s brother looking for redemption just felt forced and unnecessary. Similarly, the whole sub plot with Dr. Cooper’s aneurysm is never resolved and didn’t add anything to the film except a lot of close-ups of Vartan massaging his temples, and Emily and Dr. Cooper’s romance feels forced. I also feel it necessary to mention the camera-work; the director shows a ton of foreground objects out-of-focus, which is distractingly overused – the same goes for the Bourne-style shaky-cam effect.
Despite its flaws, the first half of Ring of Fire delivers some solid character development; it’s just a pity that its ending is packed with cliches and preaching. The action and CGI work is pretty great for a miniseries, and the main characters prove memorable enough. The DVD features no extras, just a sneak peek of the next Doomsday Series entry Eve of Destruction.