Volcanoes are among Earth’s most stunning and awe-inspiring geographical features. From giving birth to new islands to their ability to disrupt and even destroy life around the world, it’s no wonder that they have been the subject of so many documentaries and major Hollywood blockbusters. Luckily, those blockbusters, which are largely fictitious, have flopped while the docs have been far more successful. This past December, PBS released what was at the time just the latest in that long flow (yes, that awful pun was intended) of volcano docs on DVD in the form of NOVA: Killer Volcanoes. Originally having aired Oct. 4, 2017, this roughly hour-long program is an interesting look at what is just one of history’s most cataclysmic eruptions. It is a story that is certain to engage and entertain audiences just as much as those flash-in-the-pan big screen flicks without worrying about being forgotten. This will be discussed shortly. Considering that the program focuses on just one volcano in particular, its title is of course, a little problematic. Even as problematic as it is, it is not enough to make the program unwatchable. It’s just something of an annoyance that was obviously overlooked. It will be discussed later. Staying on the matter of the program’s aesthetic elements, its cinematography and editing give audiences just as much reason to watch as the story itself. They will be discussed later, too. Each element noted here is important in its own way to the whole of NOVA: Killer Volcanoes. All things considered, this episode, while perhaps somewhat reminiscent of previous, similar programs from PBS, still is its own “hotly” (yes, that pun was intended, too) entertaining and engaging program.
NOVA: Killer Volcanoes is an interesting new addition to PBS’ rich history of programs centered on what is easily one of Earth’s most stunning and awe-inspiring geographical features. While not the first doc of its kind from PBS, the story at the center of this episode of NOVA is an original, giving audiences plenty of reason in itself to watch this doc. The story follows a group of researchers as they try to find the volcano (or volcanoes) responsible for a cataclysmic event that happened in the 13th Century. It was an event that impacted life around the world, even causing countless deaths because of its impact on global weather patterns. The lengths to which the researchers go — including traveling to a far-flung corner of the world — and the research and efforts undertaken in that process, coupled with the mystery at the heart of the story makes this overall story one that is just as engaging as any major Hollywood disaster flick, if not better. That is a telling statement, showing once more the value of PBS’ programming. It is programming that easily holds its own against so much mainstream material, and stands the test of time at that. Keeping this in mind, it becomes clear why the story at the center of NOVA: Killer Volcanoes is so important to its whole. While the program’s story overall forms a solid foundation for its presentation, it’s a story that doesn’t entirely match up with the program’s title.
The title of this episode of NOVA is Killer Volcanoes. However, the focus of the whole program is the search for just one killer volcano. Given, the whole search starts by trying to figure out which of the world’s many volcanoes was the one responsible for the cataclysm at the heart of the story, but once the specific location of the volcano is pinpointed ,the search turns to one volcano in particular. Not to give away too much, but the volcano in question doesn’t even exist today. The surprise in that revelation is another key piece of the story. Getting back to the issue of the title, very fact that roughly 90 percent of the story is spent focusing on the Indonesian volcano in question, the program’s title really does not fit here. In defense of the program’s creative heads, maybe the thinking was to point out that killer volcanoes could be anywhere in the world. Even with that in mind though, the program should have focused more on the other, more briefly noted, cataclysmic eruptions. That being the case, either re-naming the episode or simply titling it Killer Volcano instead of Killer Volcanoes would have been more fitting in the case of this episode of NOVA. Having discussed all of this, the title of Killer Volcanoes does take some points away from the episode, it is hardly enough to make the program unwatchable. It’s just something that really should be taken into account with future episodes of NOVA (and even with PBS’ other programs). The collective cinematography and editing exhibited throughout the program do just as much as the program’s story to keep audiences engaged and entertained.
From start to end of this episode of NOVA, audiences are treated to so many sweeping shots of the Indonesian islands and their volcanoes. The visuals of the tropical landscapes and the volcanoes that gave rose to the islands is in itself more than enough reason to watch. Viewers will be amazed by the wide aerial footage (and related editing of that footage) of the crater left by the suspect volcano. The work put in by the camera crews and editors is certain to leave viewers in awe. The timing of each stunning shot is a tribute to the effort put in by those responsible for the program’s editors. Just enough time is spent in each shot to keep viewers engaged. One could even argue that something as simple as the timing of the skeleton footage in companion to the footage of the volcanoes early on has its own impact, too. Between moments such as those noted here and so many others, the overall cinematography and editing proves itself to be just as critical to this program’s presentation as the program’s central story. When those elements — the story, cinematography and editing — combine into one, they prove NOVA: Killer Volcanoes to be its own “hotly” entertaining and engaging doc.
NOVA: Killer Volcanoes is a “hotly” entertaining and engaging and engaging program that will easily appeal to any lover of the earth sciences. That is the case even with the program bearing a title that doesn’t exactly fully fit the episode. That is thanks in no small part to a story that is just as gripping as any major Hollywood disaster flick. The collective cinematography and editing exhibited throughout the program does just as much to keep viewers engaged and entertained as the story itself. Each element is important in its own way to the whole of this program’s presentation, as has been explained here. All things considered, they are certain to keep viewers completely engaged and entertained throughout the roughly hour-long program. Keeping this in mind, this episode of NOVA is sure to appeal to every student and lover of the earth sciences. it is available now and can be ordered online direct via PBS’ online store. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:
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