Thursday, August 7, 2014

Into The Storm Review

There’s nothing like a gigantic storm to put your life in perspective, huh? All those silly little problems we have—can I pay my bills on time? Will that cute girl at the Starbucks notice me—just get blown away in the event of a tornado.

That’s essentially what happens in “Into the Storm,” in which a tornado rolls on into an Oklahoma town and, well, does some major damage. Those wanting to see “Into the Storm” know more or less what to expect—a big dumb B weather disaster flick—and Steven Quale’s picture pretty much delivers. It’s like the “Step Up” movies, except instead of dancing there are storms. That being said, the movie is really really dumb because it insists on being from the point of view of human characters that we are supposed to care about. I’m all for a movie from the point of view of a storm. Just saying.

The first twenty or so minutes are utterly worthless exposition, in which we are introduced to a slew of characters and their stupid little problems. There has to be a better, fresher way to introduce characters in a disaster movie right? How about just throw us into the disaster immediately and introduce characters from there? I know why filmmakers do it the other way but all you’re doing is prolonging the stuff that we’ve come here to see. And it’s not as if these characters are all that deep either. Each one is given one or two traits to distinguish them from the others. For example, one of the characters is a storm chaser and only cares about getting storm footage for his TV show.  

Not only that, “Into the Storm” employs the “found footage” gimmick, which is already stale enough, but instead of staying with one character or one group of people as they document the storm, Quale jumps around between multiple parties and multiple cameras. All this does is make the already thinly sketched characters even more thinly sketched. And for whatever reason, he decides to add in dramatic music, shattering any sense of realism the “found footage” angle is supposed to create.

Right before you’re about to collapse from boredom at the lack of storm activity the clouds roll in, the hail starts to fall and the fun begins. One tornado blasts through the town doing a fair amount of damage; it puts a damper on a high school graduation. No! Not the high school graduation! This is supposed to be a joyous day!

But baby, we’re just getting started. Multiple tornados dance into town. At one point there are four wind-filled spirals raising hell on screen at the same time. To the movie’s credit the storm CGI looks very good and the carnage they inflict is extremely satisfying to watch. Buildings get shredded; cars and airplanes get lifted up into the air. At one point gasoline and a downed power line get mixed together to form a fire cylinder and near the end, two big tornados come together to a form an even bigger one. That’s right, fire-nado and mega-nado, just duking it out.

As awesome as the storm footage is though, “Into the Storm” is still a stupid film, where no-name characters go around saying and doing stupid things. At one point, while being stuck in a hole that’s slowly filling up with water, a young woman exclaims: “my phone’s not working!” as she holds her phone up in the air. Now keep in mind she couldn’t get service for around twenty minutes before so what makes her think her phone would work now? Especially since water is pouring in? The screenplay by John Swetnam is full of terrible, cliché dialogue. The question: “Are you seeing this?” is yelled again and again—has the answer ever been anything other than yes? —And at least five characters say how this is the biggest storm they’ve ever seen. Even the veteran storm chaser who only cares about getting storm footage, as well as the storm tracker who has “all the degrees.” So you know it’s serious.

The acting, across the board, is a sad state of affairs. To single out a few, Richard Armitage—who plays the vice principal of the school and the distant father of two teenage boys—takes himself way too seriously, like he’s going to get an Oscar nomination. Meanwhile Matt Walsh—as the veteran storm chaser who only cares about getting storm footage—fails miserably at playing a wiseass.

And yet, as much as I bash this picture, I can’t say I had a totally miserable time. Like I said before, the storm sequences are great and the human drama kept me laughing pretty much the entire way through. How much I was supposed to be laughing is up for debate. There are obvious moments of comic relief but there are just as many—if not more—moments of dramatic “tension” that had me on the floor in tears. If the movie was supposed to be one big joke on the audience I don’t think the cast members were in on it.

Whatever the intent is, I did manage to have some fun during “Into the Storm.” It’s a good movie to rent with a group of friends and knock back a few brews in the process.


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