World on Fire has so much of its disaster movie take place off screen that when I finished watching it I wondered if it even deserved a place on the site. Instead this is really a cheap thriller around dodgy oil deals and volcanic lava tubes that throws a few extra disaster movie style scenes in for good measure. It’s perfectly watchable but hardly a must see and its plot is all over the place.
The disasters faced
Volcanic eruptions, lava tubes, oil rig explosions, oil pressure eruptions, terminator 2 rip offs and befriending deadly sisters clearly gets you killed!
Antoinette is a geologist professor – teaching by day and theorising about the world’s existence by evening. Her much younger sister Emily is in her class but she seems to be a slacker because she is chasing Antoinette’s co-worker Brandon. Brandon doesn’t seem to be involved in her classes though so why she is so insistent on being such a crap student is not made clear. On a field trip the trio and the rest of the class stumble across some weird samples and one of the class is boiled alive in a lake but no one seems to notice this throughout the duration of the movie. This is the kind of low bar we are dealing with…
Instead of focusing on volcanoes, we instead are treated to board meetings and people staring at laptops instead. This is because bad corporations are going to be the main villains here. CEO maniac Nelson runs a drilling company and has opened up a crazy oil rig using lava tubes to extract oil at depths that others simply aren’t able to. The reason why? No one knows the lava tubes are there and no one knows they potentially all flow to Miami! This is because Antoinette was in the middle of investigating this as a new piece of science. The oil rig hits the lava tube, kicks it into life (yes science) and promptly explodes killing everyone on board. Nelson, along with right hand men Ray and Jacob cover up the sinking to the press as a rouge wave.
This all smells to Antoinette, who along with her school trip evidence and a tip off from her ‘look I’ve arrived just in time’ ex Brad, suddenly puts everything together and understands what the drilling team are up to. However, as the drilling placement is perfect, she knows that they’ve stolen her research directly as she hasn’t published it yet. Along with Brandon, they visit evil drilling corp where Ray has taken over following the death of Nelson. Nelson greedily tries to drill for so much oil before they cut and run with the profits, it blows up his machines and kills him. One nice steamy oily mess. Ray is offered CEO as next in line and quickly flips from the voice of caution to the voice of fuck it. This is because the company board offer him a crazy cash incentive and we are in a Sci-Fy movie which means plot nuance is a no-no. Quickly understanding that Antoinette is onto him, he sends Jacob off as some kind of discount assassin to finish her off.
Meanwhile, almost as an afterthought, Emily teams up with Antoinette’s ex Brad to investigate where all the lava tubes are going and why they are now seemingly activating beneath Miami. This results in a quick death for Brad and Emily has to escape. She drives all the way back to the university with carnage following right behind her in a perfect straight line… just off screen.
When she gets the uni, it’s burned to the ground (thanks Jacob) and she joins forces with Antoinette, Brandon and the military to see what can be done to avoid the volcanic destruction hitting Miami.
Will our trio survive? Will Miami be lava’d to death? Will any of it take place on screen? Will Ray and Jacob get away with being near comical baddies? You’ve got to watch it to find out…
Why is it worth watching?
World on Fire is a difficult watch. Antoinette, Brandon and Ray (and possibly Jacob) are all good characters with great acting chops behind the roles and this trio are head and shoulders above the rest of the production. So much happens off screen and time jumps and offhand exposition doesn’t keep you informed either. It is actually quite a messy plot and no one really explains what is going on properly.
What makes it mildly entertaining are the side stories that take place for one or two scenes that set up characters purely to kill them off. They are pure filler as none of it impacts the story at all but there is some good fun. The wet bikini competition has more work on it than any other part of the movie which says a lot about the whole project. Here we follow two girls as a steam tsunami boils everyone alive. Then there is the laugh out loud tennis coach who gets killed when a tennis ball flies through some lava and then straight through his chest. The opening scene has an oil rig worker melt when he touches a lava filled pipe. It’s the small things in this movie that make it bearable and the utter silliness of it. The problem is that the rest of the movie is trying to hard to be a camp thriller, the two sides feel like two separate projects being mashed together and it doesn’t work.
There is some OK make up for the burn victims and a few mediocre explosions but most of the carnage takes place off screen. It is disappointing. If only they spent the cash on less bikini girls for the beach scene and more on the actual lava. There isn’t even a volcano!
Ray, Nelson and Jacob genuinely come from the school of cliche baddies. They are just missing a maniacal laugh to cap it off. As a result their scenes often are more interesting than the rest of the movie. Emily is just whiny until she needs to shoot things whereas Brandon is the only character that gets any kind of arc at all. I was really surprised at how uninterested Antoinette (Rachel Hunter) was as a character. There is barely any emotion in her at all and it muted the film a bit for me.
You bitches!Ray as he is shot eight times and then dies at the end falling over a bannister to his death below.
There memorable moments
- Tennis coaches death by tennis ball.
- The knock off Terminator 2 Jacob moment is so out of place it made me laugh.
- Bikini lady runs screaming with some burns into the bikini contest before dying whilst looking a little chargrilled.
The obligatory weird moment
There are so many off key moments in this movie but the best clanger happens when Antoinette and Brandon go to face off with Ray at his office. Antoinette places the hugest bluetooth repeater – complete with giant flashing red lights – on his desk in full view of everyone. She doesn’t even try to hide it properly. It is in such plain sight, I actually moaned out loud at how stupid it was. Then I was overjoyed when Ray spotted it about three scenes later. Silly Antoinette! You can have had a lot less trouble if you’d just hidden it under the desk instead!
The drinking game
Whenever you think Ray, Jacob or the terribly acted Nelson are verging on panto with their baddie vibes.
I feel cheated with the lack of disaster, the lack of polish and the lack of cohesion. It’s a thriller that aims for comedy cringe and panto villains and the tone is wildly off course. World on Fire is a marvellous mess but it isn’t messy enough to be good again. This one is just meh.
Rating – 2 / 5 – Poor
If you liked World on Fire / Miami Magma you may like…
- Volcano – Tommy Lee Jones vs a street volcano is much more entertaining!
- Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York – This is so bad its good again. Try harder Miami!
- When Time Ran Out – Irwin Allen’s camptastic so-so-so-bad-its-stunning movie.