By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

In 1996, director Jan de Bont served movie audiences an awe-inspiring, visual and aural cinematic experience called Twister. The film which stars Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman made for a fun and exciting trip to theaters, but certain has its share of laughable and ridiculous moments. Writing definitely isn’t Twister‘s strength, but then again, most people weren’t filling the seats for a literary masterwork and simply wanted wide-eyed thrills.  It is now 18 years later and a new storm-chasing movie called Into the Storm is back in theaters.  After sitting through the intense, exciting and often fun movie, I feel pretty much the same way as I did in 1996.  The special effects are amazing. The movie has its jaw-dropping scenes; however, things get rather silly and ludicrous.

Richard Armitage (The Hobbit Trilogy) stars as Gary Morris, a teacher and single dad preparing for a hectic high school graduation.  He gets more than he bargains for when a series of tornadoes strike his town and lay waste to the land.  Morris helps Principal Walker (Scott Lawrence) and other faculty get the graduation attendees to safety, but must venture out into the horrific weather conditions when he discovers his son Donnie (Max Deacon) and classmate Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey) are trapped in an old abandoned facility.  Meanwhile, a group of storm chasers led by Pete (Matt Walsh) and Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) attempt to follow the storm activity and capture the events on video for research and fame.

Directed by Steven Quale and written by John Swetnam, Into the Storm attempts a more serious take on tornadoes and storm chasing than Twister does.  The filmmakers place a stronger emphasis on the wreckage and carnage tornadoes can leave behind.  Quale’s combination of regular cinematography and hand-held, found footage makes it more relevant to current times. Granted, the whole found footage style is becoming more commonplace and stale. Still, the fact that Quale and Swetnam take the threat of tornadoes more seriously gives their film the gravity and fright that is missing from Twister.  At the same time, their inexplicable inclusion of two Jackass-inspired caricatures and their misadventures during the storm feels out of place, despite the fact that their humor does actually work on its own.

The film does deserve praise for its outstanding effects, editing, and sound.  The story may not be a huge improvement from 1996, but CGI storms and sound effects have come a long way.  This, combined with the darker and graver style of the film, had me on the edge of my seat and in sheer awe during the powerful storm scenes.  While Twister has its fun ups and downs  like a roller coaster ride, this movie feels more like a harrowing near-death experience.

That’s pretty much where the differences end. Both films have some silly writing and their share of ludicrous scenarios.  The characters aren’t particularly well developed or written, and their performances are all fine with no real standouts.  Again, people going to this movie probably aren’t expecting a film deserving of award nominations or critical acclaim, but simply want a thrill ride that entertains.

That is exactly what they will get with this movie.  My rating may only be 2.5 stars (out of 4), but I do actually recommend catching it in theaters.  The dark theatrical setting with the massive screen and the thunderous sound system makes for the best experience for this movie.  The fact that the writing and character development are lacking make this a matinee recommendation.


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