Ring of Fire movie — Part 1 airs Monday, March 11, at 8pm ET; Part 2 premieres Tuesday, March 12, 8pm ET on REELZCHANNEL.
How much have those blatantly cheesy, over-the-top creature features known as Syfy Original Movies permeated our consciousness? It’s to the point where every effects-heavy, end-of-the-world miniseries with B-list stars on a fledgling cable network causes us to assume the worst. But in truth, Ring of Fire — the first of five disaster-themed miniseries coming to REELZCHANNEL this year — bears more of a resemblance to classic disaster movies like The Poseiden Adventure or The Towering Inferno than something like Mega Python vs. Gatoiroid.
It’s not going to make any year-end “best of” lists, but unlike its Syfy counterparts Ring of Fire isn’t out to wink at the audience, There’s no stunt casting in sight, with real, actual actors like Michael Vartan (Alias), Terry O’Quinn (Lost) and Lauren Lee Smith (CSI) handling the proceedings, giving Debbie Gibson and Tiffany time to plot their next catfight. It also takes its many subplots — a classic element of disaster movies — seriously, and actually works to explain its apocalyptic setup. Almost too much, in fact, as Part 1 gets a bit talky at times, getting the audience itching to finally see some ‘splosions.
Vartan plays a geologist charged with saving the world after an oil company headed by snaky CEO (O’Quinn) drills into what it believes is a vast oil supply, only to learn that it is in fact a vast supply of deadly magma. This causes a volcano near a small Oregon town to erupt, leading to widespread death and destruction. But the threat is in danger of going global as the eruption could spark the entire Ring of Fire area around the Pacific Ocean into unleashing an extinction level event on the Earth. Or, as Vartan’s character so memorably puts it, “It’ll make Mount St. Helens look like a fifth-grade science project.”
Despite the doomsday scenario, which inherently requires lots of running and jumping, Vartan says it was the dialogue on Ring of Fire that challenged him most. This might sound surprising, seeing as he had previously spent three seasons mastering medical terminology on TNT’s HawthoRNe, but apparently not all scientific dialogue is created equal.
“There are certain words that are just hard to say, over and over and over again, ‘magma’ being one of them,” he says. “After a 14-hour day and you’re exhausted and your eyes are falling off your face and your mouth is drooling, saying ‘magma’ 10 times in a scene is very difficult.
“There’s a scene where we’re brainstorming how to drain this cauldron into the ocean — it’s a six- or seven-page scene and I basically had all the dialogue, this technical mumbo jumbo. It was really hard. There were so many words to remember, and it’s just really hard to inject any life into it because you’re so focused on remembering long sentences with all this critical stuff that you’ve never heard of. So I asked the director when I first booked it, ‘Hey, could we shoot that scene in the first couple weeks to get it out of the way?’ Of course, we shot it the very last day. I had that thing looming over me the entire six weeks I was in Vancouver.”
There were some perks to the gig, though, including Vartan being reunited with O’Quinn, whom he has fond memories of working with on Alias.
“I love Terry. He’s a great actor, and really down-to-earth, no-nonsense kind of guy in general. Those are always the actors you tend to like most, because we know in my business there are some doozies out there. … It’s only happened to me a few times, but it’s always nice to work again with people you worked with in the past. It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, we’re still working! We’re still doing this. People are still hiring us. Awesome!’”
O’Quinn took on the role despite not being a fan of disaster movies in general. But it did afford him a chance to work in Vancouver, where he likes to shoot, and the script didn’t call on him to do much of that awkward CGI acting, which can require strange skill sets like having to act opposite a tennis ball on a stick.
“I haven’t had to do too much of that stuff,” O’Quinn says from Hawaii, where he just finished a guest spot on Hawaii Five-0. (It turns out he developed quite a taste for the islands during his six seasons on Lost.) “When I sing, I like to harmonize, and when I act I like it to be with actors.”
He put it another way, which I think I like even more. “I like doing scenes with actors, rather than doing scenes with volcanoes.”
Ring of Fire serves as a respectable introduction for REELZCHANNEL’s so-called Disaster Pack collection. Also on tap in the coming monts is CAT. 8 with Matthew Modine, Delete starring Seth Green, Eve of Destruction with Steven Weber and Exploding Sun with David James Elliott.
And you thought 2012 was supposed to the year the world was in trouble.
Photo: © Sonar Entertainment