Making the Grades
18 years ago I sat through Twister, a Warner Brothers movie that proved anything could be destroyed by a tornado and only Helen Hunt could emerge from an F5 storm with a nearly spotless white tank top.
This time around Warner is upping the ante with not one, but multiple twisters, all vying for the attention of a storm chaser named Pete (Matt Walsh) and his array of cameras mounted on a bulletproof tank-like vehicle. Called the Titus, this beast even has claws that dig into the ground to ensure the crew inside won’t be sent skyward. However whenever we hear a line like, “Where not going anywhere with those suckers dug in,” we suspect the Titus may sprout wings before the credits roll.
As is the case with most disaster films, this screenplay provides an ample selection of characters—storm-fodder, if you will.
Pete’s crew consists of Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), a meteorologist who sits in front of a raft of computer monitors, yet only seems able to parrot the weather announcer on the television. It’s been over a year since she led her boss to a profitable funnel cloud and, if she doesn’t deliver today, she’ll be looking for a new gig. The timid cameraman Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter) is destined to the same career forecast if he can’t get himself ready for combat.
Next are brothers Donnie and Trey (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress), high school students that are supposed to be video taping the graduation ceremonies later in the day. But Trey makes other plans with the doe-eyed Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey), another classmate in need of his camera skills to finish a homework assignment to be shot at an abandoned paper mill.
Then there is the boys’ father Gary (Richard Armitage). He is the school’s vice-principal and has been trying unsuccessfully to convince Principal Walker (Scott Lawrence) to cancel the upcoming festivities due to the ominous weather warnings.
Finally Donk and Reevis (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep) supply the script with comic relief in the style of the Jackass TV series. These two redneck stereotypes spend their time filming each other doing stupid stunts and uploading their efforts to YouTube. When the storm chasers drive by their home, the pair immediately jumps into their rickety pickup to join the fun.
By the time we meet everyone a good third of the film’s hour and a half running time has past. Now audiences finally get to see what they paid for. Massive funnel clouds fill the screen and soon trucks, buildings, trees, and people are flying through the air. Enormous amounts of property damage are portrayed. We can only assume many people are wounded or dead as well, however only a few injuries are shown—the worse being a bloody cut on a girl’s leg. Another man, trying to capture flames consuming a gas station with his camera, is sucked into a fiery cloud. Meanwhile, stress brings out frequent profanities, such as scatological curses, terms of deity and one crude term for sex.
Into the Storm delivers what you would expect—disaster on an epic scale. The effects are amazing, of course, and show off the technological advancements in moviemaking since Twister (although I still found that film more engaging). But the real “whether” that has yet to be predicted for this tale is whether or not audiences—especially those who live in storm ravaged areas—will want to pay money to see a fictional version of terrifying events that may have already struck too close to home.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Into the Storm.
This movie capitalizes on the fears of global warming. Learn more about the changing weather patterns on Earth here.
If you lived in an area that has recently been damaged by a tornado, how would you feel about this film? Would you find it more intense? Would you find it offensive? Do you feel it accurately depicts a real tornado experience?
Tornados are increasing in frequency, right? Wrong! The National Climate Data Center says the perception of increasing tornados is due to a number of factors, including more people living in remote areas where tornados would have previously gone unreported, and far better radar coverage of the continental U.S. This has led to an overall increase in reports, especially of the smallest tornados. Check this report that states, “...there has been little trend in the frequency of stronger tornadoes over the past 55 years.”
Warren Faidley is a professional storm chaser who offers tours for people who want to literally ride out a tornado. He operates a website called StormChaser.com on which you can view his photography.