Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Into the Storm

Version I Watched: Theatrical version as it is still in theatres.

History: There are some details about the production but little of it is actually interesting. Basically it was a spec script that went around for a little while, it jumped from one name to another, one director to another, blah blah blah, not much else around it besides that.
The movie was made with a budget of $50 million and has so far made a worldwide gross of $53 million. So while the studios haven't lost anything they certainly won't make a major profit off it, either. As expected the movie received generally negative reviews. However all the positive comments are on the special effect, with quotes even as glowing as, "The special effects work is basically flawless, and you absolutely get what you arguably came to see... Into The Storm gives you plenty of rock-solid disaster porn."
It currently holds a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Personal History: First viewing but have been interested in intense storms since I was a kid. So in a way I have a history with movies like these. But I knew nothing about this title outside of what we saw in the trailer.

Review: Believe it or not I have a lot to say about this movie. I went in thinking it would be mindless tornado insanity for an hour an a half and I left with... like I said... quite a bit to say.

Despite how much I like to talk in depth with movies it is still a ton of fun to be straight up entertained. I think I let off some vibe that I'm always being critical or I'm pretentious when it comes to this stuff. I disagree. I feel I'm simply passionate and know a lot about the subject and that a lot of my favorites tend to be more obscure. Although if you look in my Top 10 Movies list you'll see most of them are highly rated by others, and at least half of them are very popular. Still despite that intense interest I still enjoy goofy fun movies.
Take this one for example.
When I first saw the trailer I thought it looked stupid. The more I saw that trailer or seeing it promoted online I saw it as stupid looking fun! Believe it or not I was getting pretty excited for this. Not overly excited. Simply a "this may not be so bad" excited. Of course when it came out I ignored the bad reviews I knew it would get. A couple weeks later I get around to seeing it.

And you know what? This movie definitely had potential. It just had a ton of problems I couldn't get around.

The style they went for was found footage ala Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity, and you know what I'm talking about. A style I'm definitely okay with because you can make a great movie on the cheap and still be effective. However this is where my first problem comes in. It calls itself a found footage movie but it doesn't actually try to be.
Over and over the movie can't decide whether or not it wants to be said found footage or to be a big budget storm themed blockbuster. That's because the style of the movie switches between those two without reason and you can't always tell. Especially since a lot of modern movies use the shaky, no tripod style it's hard to tell if it is doing it found footage style or not unless it's painfully obvious. Like when they flat out say they're filming, or a ridiculously well put together shot of the storms comes up like a lot of them toward the end.
This jumping back and forth for no reason makes the whole movie feel indecisive. Not to mention a jumbled mess.

Now I could comment on the script writing but that's not what I came to see. I came to see some twisters tear shit up! While it's true the script was very forgettable it is also true the twisters themselves provide some worthwhile excitement.
The best way to describe the approach to these tornadoes is they're the Michael Bay of tornadoes. Whenever they come on screen it is balls to the wall nuts. Starting with the baseball sized hail when the storms first start. Beyond this there's tornadoes literally ripping the town apart with the explosive intensity of an action movie. Hell, there's a tornado that catches fire and another that is so massive it picks up an entire airport without a problem! Not spoiling anything here by the way. What I just talked about is in, quite frankly, the pretty well put together teaser I first saw a few months ago.
Speaking of the teaser trailer... you can watch it here.
Looks pretty intense, right? And it is when the tornadoes actually hit. Only problem is this movie commits a sin too many movies like it do. It takes way too long to get to the action to focus on forgettable characters. Then when the action hits way too much of it is way too short. All because of it's inconsistent approach that proves the movie wasn't sure what it wanted to be.

In my experience I saw this movie could have been vastly improved if it went one of two ways:
First, this could have been to natural disaster movies what Crank was to action movies. Not a smart plot but pure adrenaline insanity plays out for an hour and a half. Sure it wouldn't be the most successful but it wouldn't have to be that expensive. Just make majority of it a special effects demo reel with slightly likable characters and the pure spectacle could sell it. Did you forget that Crank was successful enough to get a sequel?
The other direction could have made this the Paranormal Activity of natural disaster movies. If they stuck with the found footage style the whole time it could have been a tense experience. Just about everyone knows that terrified feeling of hiding in the basement during a bad storm. Hearing the sirens, wondering if this will be the day YOUR house is hit. It could work so well and be way more realistic and effective than any other movie like this. Show little of the tornadoes so it can keep the tension up, have a slow buildup with some intense scares at the end. Heck it could have been the same basic story rewritten then shot differently (cut out the rednecks) and there you have it.

While it may seem like a lot of this was bad it really wasn't. While the plot outside of "oh shit we gotta get to safety" was pretty stupid the action was intense and exciting. Seeing the tornadoes rip the town apart felt worth the wait. The storm gets so bad it can only be described as Biblical! But this was mostly a basic level of excitement. While it was cool to see what they did (like the fire tornado!) they didn't have a lot of weight and terror to them.
The only comparison I can make, really, is Twister. Somehow an eighteen year old movie with more primitive technology (but a bigger budget, mind you) made a more terrifying and convincing tornado experience. And this isn't just based on memory. I actually re-watched Twister not that long ago. As corny as it is it provides a lot of tension and excitement that still grabs a hold of me. Not in the same was when I was a kid but a positive experience none the less. Still I can't help but feel that's my nostalgia speaking and not my critical side.

Into The Storm is definitely a fun experience but only for a portion of the time. It doesn't have the weight of a more realistic disaster movie and it doesn't have as much intensity as a more action packed, over the top disaster movies. It's stuck somewhere in the middle which makes it an awkward experience. If you're into this sort of thing I'd say still check it out for the spectacle alone. Maybe get it from Redbox instead of theatres so you don't feel you wasted your money. But even that's hard to recommend because seeing it in theatres did make it exciting because of the environment. Again going back to Twister, seeing that cow fly across the big screen was amazing! On the small screen not as much.
I'll leave it up to you. What I can tell you is if you're on the fence then don't bother cause you'll probably not like it. But if you need to kill time and you have a rent one, get one free from Redbox you can do worse. Plenty of fun, plenty of excitement, just bummed it wasn't what it could have been.

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