It’s the Dark Side of nature. Weather is ever changing on this planet but one must gaze upon the wonder of seeing a tornado, and in 1996, we were put in the front seat of chasing one down. From the director of Speed came an exciting special effects extravaganza forever known as Twister. Usually, movies that are over twenty years old show their age in special effects. Anyone recall The Lawnmower Man? So, after all this time, does Twister still impress, or has it fallen victim to advanced technology in the special effects department of today?
A storm is coming, the clouds are turning dark and the thunderstorm is just the start of it. The plot of Twister is sadly paper-thin but does feature a somewhat colorful cast of characters, albeit with a number of them being largely underdeveloped. The basic idea is that a series of storms are piling up in such a way that a record breaking of tornadoes could be touching down within the American Midwest. Bill Paxton is Bill “The Extreme” Harding, a recently divorced (or working on it is a better term) man who pays a visit to his soon to be ex-wife Jo Harding (Helen Hunt).This encounter happens prior to the announcement that this series mega storm of tornadoes are due to approach their location.
Along for the ride is Bill’s new wife Melissa (Jami Gertz) who is curious about a group of storm chasers, something she isn’t familiar with. Some of these chasers include Dusty (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Rabbit (Alan Ruck), Brian (Jeremy Davies) and Beltzer (Todd Field). Before all the chaos ensues, we are given a scene in which Jo and Bill explain to Melissa how their invention named Dorothy (an obvious reference to The Wizard of Oz) works. This device is an instrument that’s designed to study the components of a tornado, but it requires them to get in front of the damage path and leave Dorothy behind so that the twister can pick her up. This allows Dorothy to analyze the data inside the storm, which could provide an advanced warning system capable of alerting people ahead of time and get them to safety.
Then the movie begins to focus on the storm chasers rushing after the tornadoes that keep touching down. It’s a pretty simple idea. We’re introduced to the team, understand what their job is and now we just sit back and enjoy the show. One has to admit that Twister has aged very well and still looks quite impressive. The tornadoes look real and during the chase sequences, and I always felt as if I was in the front seat of their vehicles while hoping that the twister wouldn’t get me! Now, I will gladly admit that I love Twister because as an action movie, it delivers the goods. Director Jan De Bont, whose previous film was Speed, specializes in creating exciting action moments that make the audience hold their breath.
But there is a problem. No, not the acting, which isn’t that bad, nor is the action, as Twister is an exciting movie if you enjoy watching special effects. The problem is that there really isn’t much of a plot, and often times I wondered why the screenwriters chose to mix the stories of finalizing a divorce and chasing tornadoes, as it appears to add drama to a story that doesn’t necessarily need one. The audience is already interested in seeing twisters, just focus on that.
I’m not complaining too much, but after one watches Twister I doubt that anyone can really recite the actual plot of the film. You would think that the main antagonist of the film is nature herself but we also have another team that drives similar looking vehicles (all black in color) lead by Dr. Jonas Miler (Cary Elwes). Bill and Jo know this man professionally and just for the sake of plot, they are pitted into a scenario of trying to deploy their research device before his team does.
This is where the movie turns idiotic for me. In a movie where special effects are the show, especially a disaster film, Twister‘s plot is hardly memorable except for the twisters that fill the screen. Even other effect-heavy movies like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 have better plots and more memorable characters that I recall more than Twister. That isn’t to say that Twister is a bad movie, but it could’ve been better.
Screenwriters Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin (as well as an uncredited Joss Whedon) do a good job introducing the audience to storm chasing and how people risk their lives to study something so dangerous. In fact, Twister got me interested in studying the weather and researching all the storms that ravage this planet. But sadly, the addition of these unnecessary side plots is what ultimately sinks the film.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 Stars
Twister is best remembered for its groundbreaking special effects and, just like when we saw T2 for the first time, your jaw will hit the floor at the spectacle. Mark Mancina’s outstanding soundtrack is perhaps the best work of his career and Director Jan De Bont delivers excitement much like he did in Speed, but the payoff isn’t even close. Still, Twister is a wonderful piece of entertainment if you don’t put much thought into it. It’s not a perfect movie but, definitely an inspiring one for many who dare to explore the dark side of nature. I just hope that cow was ok!