Into the Storm movie review: all wet

Into the Storm red light

A movie to make you despair of the found-footage conceit (if you weren’t already). Suddenly Twister looks like Shakespeare.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Richard Armitage

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s like Roland Emmerich made a preposterous two-and-a-half-hour climate-change disaster flick — *cough* 2012 *cough* The Day After Tomorrow *cough* — and then someone went in and cut out most of the cheesy melodrama: the subsumed personal issues that come to the fore in the face of certain death, the contrived heat-of-the-moment romances, the triumph-of-the-human-spirit moments when the music swells and the tears are jerked. Whoever did such a thing probably thought they were doing us a favor, but it turns out: not so much. Because what we’re left with, in Into the Storm, may not be risible Mystery Science Theater-worthy crap, but it’s still pretty bad, and without any opportunities for us to laugh at it.

When a storm system like no one has ever seen before descends upon the town of Silverton, somewhere in America’s great flat middle bits, bringing with it wave after wave of tornadoes, a high-school assistant principal, Gary Fuller (Richard Armitage: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Captain America: The First Avenger), ends up scrambling to get his students to safety — on graduation day, no less, though at least two subplots about late-adolescent angst have been excised — while a group of stormchasers/documentary filmmakers, including meteorologist Allison Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies), try to get closer to the twisters. You can tell that tons of admittedly groanworthy stuff has been removed, because while John Swetnam’s script — so featherweight that a light breeze would scatter it — goes to great lengths to get the hot single-mom scientist and the hot widower school administrator into the same scenes, it then completely dispenses with the clearly implied notion of getting them together. Another example: Gary’s son, AV geek Donnie (Max Deacon: Summer in February, I, Anna), manages to be alone with his crush, Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey), during the storm by offering to help her with a video project for an internship application. This may be the one bit of high-school melodrama that couldn’t be excised, but they end up in an abandoned warehouse filled with toxic chemicals — she’s trying to raise awareness of the problem — yet when a twister hits, no Toxic Avenger-type scenario ensues. This will not do.

This is a movie to make you despair of the found-footage conceit, if you haven’t already gotten there, because Swetnam (Step Up 5: All In) and director Steven Quale (Aliens of the Deep) seem to think that the fact that this is all seen through cameras placed within the action is enough to make it compelling. It isn’t… and not even the two Darwin Award self-nominees (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep), who are determined to get close enough to the deadly storms with their cameras to rack up YouTube views, make it so. Imagine a couple of Shakespearean fools without any Shakespeare around them, but instead bland generic characters running around yelling “Hold on!” every few minutes. It’s not pretty.

You know what does look like Shakespeare suddenly? Twister. Someone should remaster it for IMAX. I’d pay to see that.

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