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"Into the Storm" movie review
I was graciously given an invitation to pre-screen the film Into the Storm in St. Louis last week. This is the first weather expeditioning/tornado-themed Hollywood movie since Twister was released in 1996.
Even though I'm a storm observer - and therefore seemingly pre-biased against any Hollywood portrayal of our activity - I'm actually able to suspend my expectations of 100% realism and evaluate the film on its overall entertainment merits. For example, I'm generally a fan of "Twister" despite its sometimes laughable scientific blunders and plot deficiencies. With that in mind, here's my take on Into the Storm:
CGI: This is Into the Storm's high point. The small to medium-sized CGI tornadoes in the movie were mostly very well done and true-to-life, down to the smallest details - like the shape of the debris clouds, damage patterns and some non-laminar perturbations in the funnels. The multiple-tornadoes-at-once scenes took some creative liberties, but otherwise weren't bad enough to complain much about.
Ambience: Aside from a few scenes at the beginning, Into the Storm seemed to have a rather continuous "dark and overcast" mood to it that I didn't care much for, reminiscent of the dull, desaturated hues of "The Matrix". I know this movie wasn't supposed to be a Twister clone, but I felt that the overall tone was too serious - it didn't have the same balance of the 'fun' side of observing and upbeat musical score/soundtrack that Twister excelled in. The characters that tried to fill the more lighthearted/comedic role in Into the Storm were amusing, but this attempt fell short. None of the main observer characters looked like they enjoyed what they were doing, taking their positions way too seriously - which isn't something you find very often in real observing.
Plot/Characters: I didn't expect much in this department with an action-themed movie. Into the Storm's character development is on par with Twister's, that is to say, not really good, but not really important for the genre. The plot was equally predictable and forgettable. Some of the more emotionally-charged scenes/themes lingered uncomfortably and seemed out of place for an action film. Into the Storm could have taken a cue from Twister - give a short nod to the emotional/tear-jerker stuff, but quickly move on and get back to the action. I also felt that it took way too long for things to get going at the start of the film.
Science: Overall, I have surprisingly few complaints about the scientific accuracy of the film. As with Twister, mostly-forgiveable weather and observing terminology liberties and blunders are plentiful. My main "accuracy" issues were with the "extreme weather is getting more common because of global warming" statement, the (revisited) idea that tornadoes have calm hurricane-like eyes, and the idea that people can survive inside the core flow of a tornado unscathed from flying debris.
Thoughts/conclusions: Unfortunately, Into the Storm was a letdown. Its tones are too serious/sad/emotional for it to get anywhere near the fun, quotable semi-cult status that Twister managed in the weather expeditioning community. I can't remember a single memorable line in the film that stuck with me. I at least enjoy watching Twister again every once in a great while, as do many expeditioners I know. I have the Twister score CD and will break out that playlist on road trips on occasion. I doubt that either the score or DVD of Into the Storm - or even a second viewing of the film - will be in my future. I only hope that this movie doesn't take the "wind" out of the potential for Bill Paxton's much more interesting-sounding Twister 2. The good news? I doubt this movie will inspire as many newcomers to weather expeditioning as we've speculated it would.
My Rating: Despite CGI/realism being a respectable 4 out of 5, overall I give Into the Storm a 2 out of 5.
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