Nutshell: I give Into the Storm a C. It’s a passing grade, but only just. I was pulled into the action and loved the FX, but couldn’t get past the fact that this was a run-run-run film with little to no character development past getting out of the storm. Which is understandable in a disaster movie, but still too basic a premise to get more than a simple nod of approval from me.
Movie Review: Into the Storm
TwitView: Cool FX! Lukewarm characters. Boom! C*
Into the Storm deals with a Big Bad tornado, what would be called an EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale (which in and of itself is fascinating stuff) Originally called a “Category 6” tornado film — a wording snafu as the Fujita scale goes from 0-5, making the sixth category E-5 — other titles were bandied about ‘til Into the Storm stuck. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of damage and destruction in this film. But Twister still stands as the #1 tornado film, thanks to it’s deeper look into the lives and motivations of it’s characters. Those things felt tacked on and hollow inInto the Storm.
Welcome to Kansas. Home of Dorothy, sunflowers and badass tornados. Into the Stormfocuses on that last one, in case you haven’t seen the “plane-nado” trailer that’s been in heavy rotation of late. But this film has no trailer park, but instead focuses on how the middle class struggles with having no cell phone reception…and no roof over their heads. Okay, there are a few yahoos here for comic relief, but mostly this deals with two groups; a local kid and his brother prepping for the year’s HS graduation ceremony that they’re filming for their Vice Principal dad, and the scientist stormchasers that are looking to make a ton of moneydocumentary of a superstorm.
The elder brother Donnie (Max Deacon) decides to ditch his filming responsibilities and instead help his crush Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey) re-film her summer eco-internship film, which got corrupted because technology sucks. So they head out to the abandoned, decrepit old paper mine to get footage. What could go wrong? Younger bro Trey (Nathan Kress) sticks with dad (Richard Armitage, taller and less hairy than he is in The Hobbit). Dad tries to talk the Principal out of holding the graduation ceremonies outside; looks like there’s a storm coming. But the Principal poo-poos him. What could go wrong? Meanwhile, storm-nerds Allison, Pete, Daryl, Jacob (Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Arlen Escarpeta and Jeremy Sumpter) desperately try to find a storm before their financial backing gets pulled. When Allison sees that a storm is building in Silverton Kansas, which is where the HS graduation/abandoned paper mill happen to be. But don’t worry, their TARDIS Titus tank of a car can lock down in winds up to 170 MPH; only E-5 tornados go faster than that. What could go wrong? Yop, you bet’cha.
Everybody bands together to avoid the super-storm that threatens to destroy the entire town. Well, everyone except the two drunk-ass yahoos who feel more like bits of real life thrown in. Because really, who hasn’t seen ijits doing stupid stuff on YouTube? Still, Kyle Davis and Jon Reep throw themselves into the roles of Donk and Reevis, the good ol’ boys that decide the best way to prepare for Tornado Apocalypse Now is to strap cameras onto their motorcycle helmets and get rip-roarin’ drunk. That plays out exactly as you’d expect, and their banter does liven up sections of the film that would be a bit too dour otherwise.
Does this stuff actually happen? Well, ask any Midwesterner. Or just Wiki E-5 tornadoes. Most recently there’s been an E-5 in Central Oklahoma, and an “outbreak sequence” in the Southern/Midwest US. And then there was the 2007 “outbreak” in Florida. So yeah, Into the Storm may have touched on those storms and built things up from there, though with tornadoes there isn’t much that needs to be made up. One particularly spectacular scene involves a tornado made up of fire, or “fire whirl”. So much Hollywood make-believe, or so I thought….
Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some CGI mass destruction as much as the next person. But without that connection to characters, disaster films feel like endurance tests where you see how much awesome you can absorb without spinning out yourownself. Did Sarah Wayne Callies, Richard Armitage and Matt Walsh turn in great, believable performances? Yes. But their characters didn’t “hook” me, and that’s poor editing/storyline choices rather than a failure of talent. Director Steven Quale blew me away with Final Destination 5, but even back then he skimped on characterization. Sad that in that regard he’s learned nothing in the last three years, though he’s still top-notch when it comes to bringing chaos to the big screen. Screenwriter John Swetnam probably put all his love and attention into his other project opening the same weekend; the art-house classic Step Up All In. At least it feels like it here.
With films like The Impossible, Aftershocks and hell yeah even 2012 and Day After Tomorrow, there’s more to disaster movies than demolishing shit. Get me to care about the characters beyond simply not wanting to see a human get kerblooied. But if I’m two beers (or half a bucket of popcorn) down? Into the Storm is a fine way to watch Hollywood spend money like water. Just dont’ expect more than eye-catching FX and you’ll be fine. I mean kinda fine. You might want to hide under your seat just in case.
* — this movie should not be confused with the award-winning TV miniseries of the same name starring Brendan Gleeson as Winston Churchill. Just so you know.