Feeding off the end of the world weather craze created after super storm Sandy and others that shook America to its core, “Into the Storm” attempts to create fictional melodrama out of Mother Nature’s most dangerous spiraling monsters: tornadoes. Unfortunately, the only damage this disaster picture leaves in its wake is to the filmmakers and cast behind this awful “Twister” wannabe.
Directed by Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) and going off of a script written by John Swetnam (Step Up: All In), “Into the Storm” takes viewers on a trip to America’s heartland and thrusts them smack in the middle of Tornado Ally. For the meteorologically disinclined, this means Oklahoma.
The day after a tornado claims the lives of four teenagers in the Sooner State, an elite group of storm chasers consisting of veteran leader Pete (Matt Walsh), workaholic meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), and camera operators Daryl (Arlen Escarpeta) and Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter) arrive on scene in the hopes of capturing enough footage to create an Oscar worthy documentary. As their travels take them to the small town of Silverton, the audience also meets an entire cast of high school students celebrating the end of the school year. In fact, it’s graduation day at Silverton High, and widowed vice principal Gary Fuller (Richard Armitage) has tasked his two sons Trey (Nathan Kress) and Donnie (Max Deacon) with creating a video time capsule for the occasion. It’s only a matter of time before both the Fullers and the Storm Chasers are fighting for their lives against Mother Nature.
Nothing more than a hackneyed “Twister” for the “trending” obsessed YouTube generation, “Into the Storm” slogs along without any real sense of driving force. Trey, who ditches the grad ceremony in favor of helping his crush Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey) tape an internship video, creates minor drama after one of the many mega tornadoes traps the pair in an abandoned warehouse. Yet, even with two teenagers in peril, Quale and Swetnam undoubtedly care more about the mayhem behind the storms than the people that must survive them.
The cinematography—from Brian Pearson (I, Robot)—appears to be just as confused. Opening with a first-person POV incorporating on-the-fly camera footage from Donnie and Trey’s time capsule project, this found footage style filmmaking is quickly tossed in favor of a traditional storytelling approach. This 50/50 mash-up only creates a sense that Quale doesn’t possess the directorial chops to find ways to make “found footage” work 100% of the time. In essence, he’s simply too lazy—or rushed—to commit fully to one style of filmmaking, so he takes a much more convenient route in doing a bit of both. Swetnam’s screenplay doesn’t do Quale any favors either. While it might be too much to ask for poetically crafted characters in a summer disaster flick, the hollow gang of misfits we are forced to endure for 90 minutes, and the even worse dialogue they sputter from their mouths, is nothing short of cringe worthy.
Thankfully, there are some good actors featured in “Into the Storm.” From AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Sarah Wayne Callies does her best to find her voice as the scientific single mother Allison. Richard Armitage (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) is pretty good as well as single father Gary. Yet, the pair seem to be spending the entire movie struggling to do more than is asked of them acting wise. In the end, all involved are nothing more than living, breathing props used to be thrown around by gigantic on-set wind machines.
The only highlight of the film is the sheer overly glorified spectacle brought about by the CGI effects. There’s nothing like an enormous swirling cyclone out to obliterate everything in its path to get the audience’s adrenaline pumping. It’s certainly a headache to wade through all of the poor dialogue to get to these scenes, but if nothing else is gleaned from this exercise in meteorological idiocy, the awesome special effects prove that even the worst films have some sort of redeeming quality to them. As for the rest of the film, “Into the Storm” gets buried in its own rubble of horrible filmmaking.
Leave it to two filmmakers whose biggest hits have been in the form of B-grade sequels to much more successful film franchises to create a disaster movie of such epic grandiosity, it cannot help but come off as being farcical. At its core, “Into the Storm” is nothing more than a popcorn thriller with above average special effects, and a cast of characters with about as much characterization as the hellacious twisters threatening their lives.
By David Morris
Running Time: 89 minutes
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references