21 August 2014 | bob-the-movie-man
A really good bad film
There are bad movies that are just intolerable to sit through. And then there's "Into the Storm".
Jan de Bont's 1996 "Twister" came into cinemas like – and excuse the pun – a blast of fresh air. Whilst "Into the Storm" is not exactly a remake (there are no cows present at all for example!), it shares many of the key characteristics that made Twister such a fun popcorn movie: a truly terrible script, some pretty awful acting in places, a predictable plot, and the occasional mind-bogglingly improbable scene, but all redeemed by some slam-dunk fantastic visual effects.
Firstly, the script. Sneak a shot glass and a flask into the cinema and play the new drinking game: a shot for every time anyone says "Are you alright?". You'll be legless before the first hour is up.
Secondly the acting. This is a cast where the most well-known faces are Richard Armitage (Thorin in the Hobbit films) and Matt Walsh (Mike McLintock in the excellent "Veep"). And I don't like to be harsh on a young cast of actors in the early dawn of their careers, but let's say that some of the cast were probably cast more for their looks than their acting talent. I also struggled with Armitage's single dad/school principal character who in certain scenes (particularly one in the front of the stormchaser's van) looks the spitting image of Leslie Nielsen's Dr Rumack from "Airplane". I almost expected him to go off into that character at any moment – – "No, the school won't be safe. And don't call me Shirley".
One of the youngsters that I think did make an impact was Nathan Kress in his movie debut as the younger son Trey.
The predictable plot. No spoilers, but there's a small town and lots of tornadoes: "bigger than any storm that's ever been" (since "Twister" anyway). The plot, as it is, centres around a failing documentary film crew trying to capture good footage before the tornado season is up: with backer's funding drying up, the pressure is on. Walsh plays the hard-pressed producer/director sparking off the Helen Hunt character Allison, played by the fetching Sarah Wayne Callies, a data-besotted scientist for who, it seems, science only works for when good luck is in her favour. Aside from the film crew, the remainder of the cast are the residents and schoolkids of the backwater Oklahoma town of Silverton, with the usual disaster movie will they/won't they (die) tensions as the tornadoes wreak their havoc. Humour is injected through a couple of rednecks intent on making their fortune through Jackass-style video clips on Youtube.
The improbable scenes. Again no spoilers, but one of the characters meets an end that is massively improbable, poetic, beautifully shot and ironic
. but also snort-worthily funny. And why suddenly does sleepy old Silverton suddenly reveal itself to have a MAJOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT with dozens of Jumbo jets waiting to be lifted into the skies? Whilst a memorable special effects scene, it makes absolutely no sense at all. It's almost as if the filmmakers got to the end of the film and found a million dollars of contingency funding they hadn't used: "What can we do with this? Oh, I know!". Bizarre.
And those effects! This is no "Sharknado"! The special effects are all top notch, including a spectacular scene where a twister gobbles up a petrol station and all of its burning fuel which is a masterclass in CGI. I have no idea where you would even start in developing that.
The director is James Cameron protégé Steven Quale (2nd unit on "Avatar" and "Titanic" and director of the passable "Final Destination V"). And all in all, I think he does a pretty good job. The film is massively helped by a sensible 90 minute running time, which is all the light plot could really sustain anyway. And it is a good decision to adopt (in part) a "Cloverfield" type of video blog format (part documentary footage; part high school 'video time capsule' interviews) that holds the interest well.
So, in summary, this is a terribly good bad film and well deserving of your summer popcorn money. Just about everyone came out of the cinema with a silly grin on their face. Nuff said.
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