Review: Into the Storm makes up for in action what it lacks in science


A scene from Into the Storm. (New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures)

Into the Storm is a summer action film with riveting severe weather twists and turns. It builds on former disaster movie successes, adding on state-of-the-art special effects. While the film’s tornado sequences are thrilling, the science falters – a distraction for anyone who knows a bit about weather.

Into the Storm, which opens in theaters today, starts like many other natural disaster movies do, with unsuspecting groups of small-town residents going about their days, oblivious to the looming threat. For some reason, all weather-related movies involve the idea that “they had no warning.” At the very least, rest assured that if an Into the Storm-scale outbreak happens, the National Weather Service will know about it in advance, and will warn you.

Most of the action is shot in first-person video. Everyone has a camera in this movie, from the scientists to the unwitting suburban family to the hillbilly daredevils-come-storm chasers. This results in a strange morph between home movie and grade-A cinematography. Think Cloverfield, but for tornadoes.

A scene from Into the Storm. (New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures)
(New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures)

If you’re going to see Into the Storm, it’s likely for one of these three reasons. 1. You loved Twister and you’re hoping they created a modern version with stunning graphics. 2. You’re a diehard weather geek and you wouldn’t miss a weather movie for the world. 3. You’re a fan of action and graphics and this looks like a good combination of both.

Comparison to Twister

In this meteorologist’s opinion, there is not a single natural disaster movie that compares to Twister’s brilliant 1996 depiction of severe weather in the Plains. The movie managed to get most of the science right, and at the time, the graphics were incredible.

Related: “We’ve got cows!” Discussing Warner Brothers 1996 Hollywood blockbuster hit, TWISTER.

Into the Storm tries to build on Twister’s successful recipe: there’s a group of storm chasers trying to make it big, while in the meantime a town full of people, some of whom we come to like, is about to get creamed. The main difference is that in Twister, the storm chasers were scientists trying to save lives by improving data for tornado research. In Into the Storm, the storm chasers are videographers trying to catch the next viral tornado video, who happen to enlist the support of a meteorologist to help them find a storm. This lack of virtuous motive plays a large role in the character dynamics, but also leaves you wondering who to root for. And of course, in both movies, there are many, many tornadoes.

Will weather geeks be pleased?

The weather science was lacking. Jargon was there, but tended to be misused. There was a brief, painfully loose connection made to climate change in which the main scientist character (Sarah Wayne Callies) suggests that “changes” are altering severe weather around the world, and that some day these storms could be possible in places like Chicago. To be clear, tornadoes already can and do happen in Chicago (including the F4 that rolled through Chicago’s south side in 1967).

In particular, radar images will probably send meteorology buffs up a wall. It wouldn’t have been hard to procure actual radar images from actual outbreaks, but instead they used what looked like hand-drawn graphics that, most of the time, looped backwards instead of forwards.

And of course, the characters get away with being extremely close to many tornadoes without getting hurt, when in most cases, debris from the twisters would be deadly at those ranges.


A scene from Into the Storm. (New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures)

Action and graphics

This is where Into the Storm succeeds the most. The graphics are great.

The tornadoes are life-like and strike fear into your heart as they barrel down Main Street. The final, massive tornado was probably the best, graphically, and its action was reminiscent of the final scenes in Twister.

Into the Storm doesn’t disappoint in that there’s more close-up twister footage than any other weather movie. Characters frequently need to hang on for dear life to prevent being blown away. Character development is difficult in a movie that’s raked with tornadoes, but you come to like the characters that have gotten sucked into this situation, and you root for their survival.

 

Other reviews from Capital Weather Gang contributors and friends

Of course, you don’t have to take my word on this. The Capital Weather Gang, several guests and 100 readers, courtesy of Warner Brothers, were treated  to an advanced screening of Into The Storm in July. Here are the reviews from some of the event attendees:

When a nighttime tornado wipes out a car of students in the opening scene, you know it’s going to be a wild ride. For the most part, Into the Storm delivers when it comes to your typical disaster-flick movie buff. As a die-hard weather geek who is also a storm chaser, I was mostly left wanting more of the “good stuff.”  Twister 2 this was not (hint, hint, anyone who wants to make Twister 2!).

The acting left a lot to be desired, as did the general story line. You might want to play the late-arrival game, as the second half delivered much more than the first. High point? Tornado graphics were good to excellent. Even if you have seen a tornado in person, many are believable, as is their damage potential and societal impact. We won’t get into how they form, what they turn into, etc. Hollywood! The finale, featuring a gigantic “wedge” tornado, definitely gets the hairs rising on your neck at times. There were funny moments as well, some perhaps unintentional. The duo of yocal fame-seeking chasers are sure to be a crowd favorite!

–Ian Livingston

I found the movie entertaining. It mixed fast-paced action, drama, with a touch of comedy. It was an edge-of-the-seat kind of movie. In addition, the characters were fairly likable and fun to watch.

The movie’s special effects were awesome even though they didn’t portray thunderstorms and tornadoes with much accuracy. Did anyone really expect a Hollywood tornado movie to be meteorologically accurate? Not really. Also, I liked how the small town of Silverton had a major airport that resembled Dallas, Texas. Jumbo jets look so cool getting lifted and flipped by tornadoes. All-in-all, I’d recommend the movie. It’s not perfect but it’s entertaining.

–Kevin Ambrose

Into the Storm was a classic summer blockbuster. You are not there to see Oscar-caliber acting, or even Two-and-a-half Men caliber acting but instead you are ready to suspend belief to watch things get destroyed and people talk in quips. And Into the Storm passes those tests with flying colors.

As for the science, Into the Storm has more in common with Sharknado than a Nova documentary. Into the Storm would make a great qualifying exam question for potential PhD students as there are a litany of scientific errors that can be chalked up to “artistic license”. Although, probably the most unrealistic aspect of the movie is that besides one other vehicle made up of two amateurs, there were no other chasers to be seen, in Oklahoma. If this was real life,the only thing more plentiful than the amount of tornadoes this one supercell spawned, would have been the number of chasers on the side of the road trying to get that shot of a lifetime.

–Tom DiLiberto

I thought much of the tornado footage was amazingly well done and relatively believable. Most everything else was pretty lame. Story line was weak, characters uninteresting and seemed like a ripoff of Twister. And of course from a meteorology standpoint several supercells in a day are not in the realm of possibilities. If you are going to go plenty of great footage to watch but you have to suffer through the non-storm intervals.

–David Streit

While watching Into the Storm I thought, “this isn’t bad, it’s a lot better than the 1996 movie Twister, but Buzz’s book would make a better movie.” Buzz’s book is Supercell by Buzz Bernard, a retired Weather Channel meteorologist who’s well into a second career writing thrillers. Supercell would be a better movie because, among other reasons, it has a bigger collection of well-drawn characters. What’s a movie without some bad guys? “Into the Storm” doesn’t have any evil characters, only basically good people who make bad decisions.

–Jack Williams

It’s not a great movie, it’s not a horrible movie, it’s in that middle zone. It gets points for intensity and being able to hold your attention for much of the film. You may jump a couple of times in your seat. The CGI, while admittedly quite impressive, makes the tornadoes look unrealistic. Honestly, Twister’s tornadoes looked more natural. And speaking of Twister, Into the Storm tries to be like a modern day spin (pun intended) on Twister. Watching them, you can see where ITS and Twister’s plot lines parallel each other. The perspective the movie is told from creates the feeling of chaos and while that feeds into the the plot, it can be disorienting at times.

Overall, it’s a re-imagining of Twister and I’m not sure it lives up to its predecessor. If you’re looking for something intense and filling a need for entertainment, you’ll find it. It’s destruction for destruction’s sake…with CGI tornadoes.

–Jordan Tessler

Watching the movie brought back my vivid memories of touring the unfathomable tornado damage in Joplin, Mo., after an EF-5 tornado devastated the town in 2011. The images of the destruction used in the movie show how powerful and terrifying tornadoes can be – evident by its destruction from leveled homes, twisted automobiles, and common objects that become lethal missiles. No matter how small or Hollywood-esque, all tornadoes can be deadly and destructive and everyone should be on alert when tornadoes are a threat in their area and take precautions to survive the storm.

–Chris Vaccaro

As disaster movies often underwhelm, I had low expectations heading Into The Storm.  And, true to form, the first half of the movie was excruciating to watch: the character development was weak, the dialog contrived and the action so grating and jarring that I was half-tempted to Exit The Storm. My senses numbed at the midway point, somehow the film steadily redeemed itself in the final hour.  The characters became more real and likable, and the action – growing ever-more dramatic – was suddenly captivating. Overall, Into the Storm is an exhausting but exhilarating ride. 2.5 out of 4 stars.

–Jason Samenow

Angela Fritz is an atmospheric scientist and The Post's deputy weather editor.
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