Storm trackers, thrill-seekers, and everyday townspeople document an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes touching down in the town of Silverton. (from IMDB.com)
18 years ago, viewers were introduced to a visual thrill ride called Twister that not only became a box office smash hit, but helped launch the career of the much lauded Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The movie centered around a group of storm chasers trying to use new technology to help give people ample warning of impending tornadoes. It was a fun, adventurous movie with plenty of comedy and drama that helped it become quite the success. Much deliberation was made over a sequel, but it never came to be. Instead, 2014 sees the release of Into the Storm, a "found footage" approach to storm chasing and the victims of these storms that lie in their wake.
In 2008's Cloverfield, the film was entirely presented as if you were watching a video tape that had been found that had documented the events of an alien ransacking the city. There wasn't even any musical score until the end credits rolled. Into the Storm, however, plays out as if you're watching a documentary made up of found footage and documentary-shot footage. There are even shots taken from security cameras and news reports. It feels a bit inconsistent at times--like cutting to unexplained aerial views of vehicles passing by the camera and such ("B-Roll footage" from the documentary perhaps?), and it gives the viewer many different camera perspectives. In addition to the documentary film crew, we have cameras from a couple kids making school projects (like a time capsule project). Of course, the cameras usually keep rolling to catch the action, but it does get a little frustrating as a viewer when something happens and the camera drops and/or cuts off, leaving us out of some of the action. This worked pretty well in Cloverfield at times, actually, but here, it feels out of place given the multi-camera format (and some stuff is caught on film that would make you wonder if the given characters really would keep filming during such life-and-death situations?!). Plus, it was such a gimmick for Cloverfield that it just kind of feels unnecessary (and been-there-done-that) here.
While Twister had memorable characters and a fun, albeit sometimes corny, script, Into The Storm does not. The teens fooling around with the camera early on, gushing over girls or a teacher's cleavage, or arguing with their dad, feel more like really bad Michael Bay material than anything. Then there are two thrill-seeking hicks who just want to do stupid, dangerous stunts in hopes to become famous on YouTube (and, therefore, get girls). Then there's the documentary crew who've been driving around for a year chasing storms with no luck, lead by a guy who doesn't care about anything but getting an exciting movie made. Honestly, the only interesting characters are a scientist named Allison, played by Sarah Wayne Callies, and the father of two of the teens, Gary, who's played by Richard Armitage--but that might only be because it's interesting to see Armitage outside his makeup as Thorin in The Hobbit films. When Gary's teenage sons aren't being typical horny teenagers or bickering siblings, they're rather one-sided characters. And the object of Donnie's affection, Kaitlyn pretty much just exists for eye candy for the teenage viewers. For the most part, Into the Storm has the depth and execution of a Poseidon, or any number of flat disaster films, like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012. The script does little to make you care for the characters, other than just our humanity hoping people survive (but, admittedly, part of the fun of a disaster movie is guessing who's not going to make it and how).
Into The Storm really gets off the ground once the first storm touches down (with the intro scene not counting). While these disaster films can't rely solely on thrilling visuals and special effects, those really are what you watch a movie like this for. Still, story remains very important, and the story is only as strong as its characters and actors, too. But once the plodding intro gets done setting up its caricatured characters, and the action begins, Into The Storm becomes entertaining. It's certainly a neat concept, despite being a borrowed one, but without the fun vibe that helped drive Twister, Into The Storm just feels like a one-dimensional kind of story. There is one pretty emotional scene that is likely to stir some viewers, but its resolution is a hard sell. And the plot of the kids hating a parent until a disaster turns their hearts around is nothing even remotely new. Even Spielberg's disappointing redo of War of the Worlds unnecessarily used that to an exhausting end.
The content on Into The Storm is kind of annoying. I remember feeling like Twister went over the line with excessive use of blasphemy at the time, with plenty of other colorful words and phrases used too (including two you-might-miss-it uses of the "F" word). While blasphemy is hardly used in this movie (but still present), the profanity is frequent and unnecessary. I get that the filmmakers are trying to keep it realistic, and if that were true the language would be even worse, but it's still annoying from a viewer's perspective, especially when in entertainment (at least this viewer). There's lots of storm-related violence, with lots of devastation, and several characters are sucked up into tornadoes to die. One character even catches on fire in the process. The only blood seen in the movie is a cut on a girl's ankle, but other than that, the visual violence isn't particularly gruesome. Sexual content is kept to references - like kids hoping their future selves will have "hot" wives to "bang" and stupid stuff like that. At the beginning of the film, nearly every character is consumed by petty affairs. It's interesting to hear from a few of them after the events of the harrowing storms how they see things more differently and have a higher value on life itself. That may be the only redeemable takeaway from this movie.
When it comes to characters, story, and dialog, Into The Storm is pretty much what one might expect from such a disaster film. It's not a complete waste of time, and it does have its entertaining factor, but don't expect anything as memorable as Twister or any other number of big blockbuster thrill rides.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 11/16/14)
Into the Storm: Tornado Files (10:48) goes through the different types of tornadoes: Wedge, Cone, Rope, Fire, and Super Cell tornadoes. Through this, we see examples -- some real, but definitely the ones seen in the movie -- and see special effects passes of how they created the tornadoes in the finished film.
Titus: The Ultimate Storm Chasing Vehicle (8:23) is all about the storm chasers' tank as seen in the film. It's based on a real storm chaser tank called The Dominator 3. The "Titus" was built from scratch for the movie and proved to actually leak considerably during filming. This featurette also focuses on the tornado chasers themselves and the tech of The Dominator 3.
Fake Storms: Real Conditions (5:37) - The cast and crew talk about the intense simulated weather conditions presented during filming. Although each of these are really short, they're still pretty entertaining.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/16/14)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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