I was born and raised in Oklahoma, so I know from tornadoes. Like most native Oklahomans, I sport my junior-meteorologist badge and can tell you all about wall clouds, gust fronts, and that eerie green color the sky turns before things get really hairy.
When shots of spinning cyclones frequently interrupt your regular programming and you’ve walked through the jaw-dropping destruction caused by a tornado, it’s hard to be impressed with anything Hollywood can conjure up.
I remember when “Twister” came out right around the time I graduated from high school and the general consensus was it was goofy (Flying cows! “Evil” storm chasers!), but still fairly entertaining and harmless.
Never did I imagine the next time Hollywood made a tornado movie it would make “Twister” look like “Lawrence of Arabia.”
It’s not that “Into the Storm” is a terrible movie, as the scenes of tornado carnage are intense and impressive and the special effects are solid (although, for some reason, fake tornadoes have always looked pretty good, as the twister that sweeps Dorothy away to Oz is still more than passable 75 years later).
But any good disaster movie worth its salt will throw a decent enough cast on screen so that your eyes don’t glaze over when things aren’t going “boom” and you actually care whether or not our heroes are earthquaked, volcanoed or Poseidon-Adventured into oblivion.
Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt and the rest of the capably forgettable supporting cast (what’s up, Philip Seymour Hoffman!) weren’t exactly A-listers, but they had the chops to make you pay attention to the tiniest traces of plot that held “Twister” together.
“Into the Storm” has a barely-recognizable cast led by Richard Armitage (the dude who plays king-dwarf Thorin Oakenshield in “The Hobbit” movies) as an emotionless high-school assistant principal, comedic-actor Matt Walsh playing it straight as a documentarian hoping to video the inside of a tornado and Sarah Wayne Callies (last seen as zombie-bait on “The Walking Dead”) as his put-upon meteorologist. The thin talent bench drops off significantly from there.
As great as the special effects may be, if you aren’t buying the performances of the various high school students, idiot rednecks, and assorted weather chasers, then what you are left with is a glorified Weather Channel documentary.
“Into the Storm” was directed by Steven Quale, whose only previous major directorial credit was “Final Destination 5.” Quale frames most of the movie using the “found footage” technique with various cast members documenting tornado after tornado ravaging the fictional small town of Silverton, Okla. But then he abandons this device so regularly it kind of defeats the purpose. You’re either making a “found footage” movie or you’re not, dude. Pick a side.
So what’s the point of all this tornadic mayhem? Well, aside from some lip service to global climate change and valuing the precious fragility of life, it seems like we’re just here to watch tornadoes wreck stuff.
That’s all well and good as I like to see stuff get wrecked as much as the next man, but when real homes and lives get destroyed by tornadoes on a yearly basis, turning it into low-level entertainment borders on tackiness.
Maybe it would be best if all future wind-blown disaster movies only feature the dreaded sharknado because when you are shown a tornado full of sharks, it suddenly doesn’t matter how bad the movie is. Everybody wins with a sharknado.
“Into the Storm” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references.