When Jan de Bont’s Twister came storming along in 1996 it was the start of what special effects could really do with extreme weather. Fast forward to 2014 and Into the Storm picks up where that left off, about a group of storm chasers and scientists who see a tornado evolving and multiplying into something never seen before, with an unfortunate small Oklahoma town in its path. In other words, they may as well have just called it Twister 2: The Revenge.
There is no avoiding the main selling point; people will want to see this for the effects and, in that respect, it doesn’t disappoint. There are a few scenes which are certainly worth watching, such as the tornado laying siege to a high school, coincidentally on Graduation day, and the destruction of a bafflingly situated major international airport (considering this is set in a backwater American town). These scenes can’t, however, wash away the poor acting, dialogue and story. At least Twister had the luxury of Bill Paxton. Here the lead is British theatre actor Richard Armitage from The Hobbit, who is is so wooden you’d think he learnt his trade watching Orlando Bloom.
He plays single dad Gary, the town teacher who cannot do anything right in his fifteen-year-old son’s eyes, and who in turn is being bullied by his younger brother. This dysfunctional family makeup is supposed to be the human element to the story, and sure enough their problems create the clichéd emotional climax involving the spirit of family unity. With the storm-chasing group thrown into the mix, led by the Helen Hunt-clone scientist, Allison (The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callis), together they fight for survival against this unrelenting force.
A few other character fillers make up the focus of the story; the obligatory bad-come-good guy, some random hillbillies thrown in for extremely unnecessary comedy effect that fails miserably, and the panicky, lets-get-out-of-here, cannon fodder (who bizarrely gains courage to film the tornado up close and subsequently dies horribly). But really they are all here to facilitate the path of annihilation the storm takes, and it makes no difference if these characters ride out it out – the only reason to see this is for Mother Nature’s devastation, so it’s easy to find yourself rooting for the tornado to do its worst.
So while Into the Storm may aim to blow audiences away, it only leaves an intermittent puddle of excitement in its wake instead. This one is best saved for a rainy day.