From the director (Jan De Bont) of last year's best action movie,
SPEED, we have TWISTER about teams of risk taking meteorologists
chasing tornadoes. Surprisingly, TWISTER is one boring movie peppered
with some nifty effects. It was so bad that had it not been for
wanting to see all the special effects, I would have been ready to walk
out. Since the characters are not believable, you do not care if they
come into harm's way, and hence the special effects, although
technically impressive, are never frightening. As Melissa (Jami Gertz)
says in the show about another subject, "Funny thing is. I'm not that
upset." I felt that way about the tornadoes in the film.
TWISTER is actually three movies for the cost of one. First,
there is the love triangle between Bill Harding (Bill Paxton), his
about to be divorced wife Jo (Helen Hunt), and his new fiance Melissa.
Second, we have the race against the evil meteorologist team lead by
Jonas (Cary Elwes). Finally, there are the special tornado effects
demonstrations by Industrial Light and Magic.
The film starts with a big tornado in June 1969. This is time we
left our home in the tornado country shown in the film to go to grad
school at Berkeley in earthquake country. The film makes you think
that a lot of people living in the tornado belt have tornado shelters.
This is just not true. I saw one in my entire life, and that was at
someone's house who was afraid the Commies were going to drop the big
one on him. Also not considered in the film are the issue of warnings.
We got them all of the time. So what. What were we going to do?
Also, if you are warned all of the time, you soon learn to either
ignore it or just worry a lot. All of this notwithstanding, I was able
to suspend disbelief, but the film is so bad it didn't help.
Soon the movie switches to the present. A team of ragtag
meteorologists lead by Jo is trying to place a measuring device called,
what else, a Dorothy, in the middle of a tornado. They drive a bunch
of beat-up vehicles that look like they will fall apart at any moment.
Their pompous rival, Jonas, has stolen all of their ideas, and with
corporate sponsorship, the latest in technology, and a big fleet of
sinister jet black vehicles, is ready to smash Jo's group to get his
measuring device up first. The subplot has Jo's soon to be ex-husband
and ex-partner Bill coming along one more time for the ride. Bill
brings along his new fiance Melissa.
Jo tells us that the "biggest series of storms in twelve years is
coming". The original script by Michael Crichton is ridiculous. He
should stick to books. Jonas tells Bill, "Today we're going to make
history, so stick around. The days of dirt sniffing are over." Beside
the trite lines, the movie telegraphs every punch for some reason.
Aren't they supposed to be trying to scare us? Consider just one
example. For some reason the tornado chasers decide to stop at a
drive-in movie to get a cup of coffee while the drive-in is playing the
horror classic THE SHINING. What do you think will happen? The setup
is so contrived.
Look, the special effects are just that, special in this movie.
They are technically brilliant, but without a good script and
characters that come alive, after a while I found the effects
repetitious and boring. Technically brilliant certainly, but stuck in
a lifeless movie.
Other than the technically impressive special effects, I liked
seeing Hunt and Paxton. Hunt is so smart, tough, and sensual all at
once. Paxton is a great minor actor I have enjoyed for a long time.
As much as I was glad to see them again, I never found their characters
in the movie believable. The show is funny in parts as when a large
cow keeps flying by them as in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Finally, kudos for
the nice computer graphics. Realistic without being overdone.
TWISTER runs 1:45. It is rated PG-13. There is no sex, no
nudity, almost no bad language and no violence other than the natural
violence caused by tornadoes. The shots of the tornadoes trivializes
the human suffering and dwells mostly with flying objects and property
damage. The film would be fine for any kid over say 8. There is no
show; there are only special effects, and these are not enough for me
to recommend this disappointing film. To be fair, I should point out
that my wife liked the film. The large audience where I saw it was
pretty subdued, so I do not know how much most people will like it. I
give the film * 1/2, but only for the special effects.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes