Into the storm of bad writing
Into the Storm
Review by Daniel Rester
Weather destruction films can be exciting. The ridiculous Twister (1996) was a silly blast for its time, and even the bloated The Day After Tomorrow (2004) had some good thrills to offer. Then we get films like Into the Storm.
Storm is a found footage disaster film that doesn’t know which direction it wants to go, so it goes in multiple. This defeats any sort of comfortable filmmaking balance and makes our caring level minimal. Seriously, the story crossovers and filming techniques have the natural straight line of a spinning bus in a tornado.
First we get the obvious setup scene involving dumb teenagers getting killed by a tornado within minutes. Forget exposition and just jump right into rising action. Okay. This shows us the thrills before the logic, emotion, and characters of the story. It’s an opener that could work, and such a thing has paid off for other films. But then the other things never come, at least not in a satisfying manner.
We then get our various sets of characters, none of which ever become remotely interesting. Perhaps a slightly longer running time for character depth should have been considered. Or just cut out a bunch of the needless and annoying side players. Just a thought.
Anyways, we first get teenage brothers Donnie and Trey (Max deacon and Nathan Kress), both of whom are into video production. Their dad Gary (Richard Armitage, whose British accent comes and goes often), who is the vice principal of their school, has them making a time capsule video of students. Donnie is also in love with a pretty girl named Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey); it’s no surprise when the two of them get stuck in a building together. Only Kress brings any real personality to his character that we can latch on to, and even that is minimal.
Then we have the storm chasers, led by the determined Pete (Matt Walsh, who has some fun in this role as the do-anything-to-document-the-storm type). Most of them are throwaway cameramen who only get a few words in. The main person of this group is Allison, a data analyst played by The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies. This character is supposed to be one of the emotional pulls by having a daughter, but despite Callies’ efforts there just isn’t enough there to get invested.
The comic relief characters are supposed to be two rednecks (played by Jon Reep and Kyle Davis) who love filming themselves doing stunts. One of them even drives a vehicle into a flaming swimming pool in order to try and be a Youtube sensation. Then we get them acting like drunken fools during all of the storm stuff, most of which is meant to be funny but none of which really is. The best joke is that the two are named Reevis and Donk. Yes, I actually just said that.
All of these undeveloped people are tossed into story-less scenarios where people just evade big tornadoes. There is no real science or thought behind much of this, just screaming and wreckage. Allison at one point discusses the changing patterns and some relations to Katrina and Sandy, but these ideas are quickly abandoned.
Storm gives us the theme of peoples’ obsession with documenting things, though it isn’t given much weight. A lot of the characters do document things with cameras throughout, but nothing new is there in any form of commentary. But then we do get some heavy-handed commentary near the conclusion involving “living in the moment before you die.” This is meant to be touching. I found it to be more laughable.
Writer John Swetnam also surrounds these bland characters, situations, and themes with dialogue that ranges from banal to terrible. Director Steven Quale doesn’t make things better when he decides to abandon the found footage choice in favor of out-of-nowhere close-ups and wide shots. Stick to a style if you’re going with something.
I will admit I dug some of the special effects, with planes and buses getting tossed in the air at points. Some of the tornadoes themselves are well-designed, too. There is also a badass weather-filming vehicle called the Titus that resembles the Tumbler from Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. One shot involving this vehicle and Pete provides the film’s best moment.
Storm is an 89-minute time-waster in the end. Some small moments dazzle, but they are really few and far between. Most of the time it’s boring characters in big storms that don’t really excite. One of those people even gets caught in a firenado. Too bad we don’t care about the dude when it happens.
Score: 1 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: D).
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references).
Runtime: 1 hour and 29 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: August 8th, 2014.