Somewhere, a few years back, deep in the bowels of the City of Angels, the following conversation happened:
“People will see a local disaster film, right?”
“Yeah, sure, you mean like Oklahoma or whatever?”
“Boom! And we don’t need any recognizable actors, do we?”
“Nah. Whatever. Just line the wind tunnels up.”
“Don’t worry about it. Storm chaser or something.”
“Cool. Will do. Also, I’m going to need $50 million dollars for that production.”
And they were off! As the great man George Michael said, all they had to do at that point was take those lies … and make them true (somehow). Fast forward to today, where Into the Storm is a disaster. Er, no, it’s a gasbag. Uh, wait, it’s the perfect storm of mediocre! Ugh. I can’t escape these catch phrases. I’m gusty and blustering with ’em.
Pete (Matt Walsh) is an MF’ing storm chaser (Bostonites would pronounce it “stoooam chasa”). This guy chases storms like you and I chase Oreo Doublestuffs, he eats them up. Loves them. He’s a man who sees a storm on the horizon and pops serious wood. Now, you might remember Walsh as Wahlberg’s boss in Ted or the Doctor they bribe from The Hangover, or, more likely, you don’t remember him at all. I’m not a believer in the star system, or E! news, or Oprah’s secret, but this is quite a load for Walsh to carry – a meandering plot with CGI wind a’ blowing. The sum total of the character is 1) He’s making a documentary about tornadoes 2) He likes tornadoes.
There is some understanding that finding and filming these killer tornadoes will make Walsh super rich and successful, you know, like documentaries always do. With the advent of cameras on every device people own, it makes perfect sense that only one intrepid documentarian can bring this imagery to we, the people. Right, right. You say torNADo, I say torNAYdo.
Enter Papa Gary (Richard Armitage). I mean, don’t enter him, you don’t even know him, but enter him into your construct of the film you’re imagining in your head. He’s got two sons, and a dead wife. Random aside; how many movies go this route to impart instant sympathy? They just write one terribly cliched line, “He hasn’t been the same since his idiot mother died in that horrific hot air balloon accident” – then all of a sudden I’m supposed to drop my guard and want to hug some fool? First off, his mom didn’t even die to me, this is a movie, and you haven’t shown anything. At least do a silly flashback with her plummeting to her death, Cliffhanger style. Is that so much to ask? Then maybe you’ll get my sympathy, and maybe I’ll say, “Well, I’ll get why this dude doesn’t bungee jump or make balloon animals anymore.” This is handled with all the hamfistedness of a Jon Hamm handjob, it’s been done better in a 30-second “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoon.
Now that I’ve successfully become the SEO leader in sentences that feature beloved ’90s cartoon paired with Jon Hamm’s masturbatory predilections, let’s get back to Papa Gary and the sons. He’s the vice principal at his two teen boy’s high school, an institution where, I swear to God, an actor named Scott Lawrence is doing a dead-on impression of President Obama. It’s graduation day, and “older son” is supposed to film the ceremony. It’s not entirely clear if he’s also graduating too, but I’d wager he’s not as I never saw a cap and gown in the closet with all his sex toys. “Younger son” is the daredevil in the family, the ne’er-do-well, and he’s encouraging his older brother to finally hit on the “unapproachable high school girl”. This leads to older son heading out to the country with the girl, to film something, and also to create a “save us!” plot-line. Younger kid and dad remain at school for a “storm a comin’!” plot-line.
12 paragraphs in (if this hasn’t been heavily edited), how have we not talked about the tornadoes yet? It’s not really explained why these massive unheralded storms are haunting the town they live in (I want say it’s called “Silverton”). There’s a throwaway line (I guess most of this story is comprised of throwaway lines) about how we can expect these sorts of storms going forward because we did it to ourselves, but nothing really conclusive. Matt Walsh drives a truck-tank thing around, forming the pyramid of the triangular story (storm chaser, attempted love connection, graduation day). His documentary crew consists of a chase van too, where they’ve stacked in a Super Doppler and people who can react with wide eyes towards said Super Doppler. Actor Sarah Wayne Callies is the lead meteorologist on the team, it’s her job to get yelled at if they don’t find storms, and to have a cute baby daughter she can Skype with, further making us worry about her. Remember, all of us are equal, but moms who have a blonde five-year-old are even more equal. A romance between Meteorologist Sarah and Papa is hinted at but never executed, largely because they only had 85-minutes and the vast majority of the budget was earmarked for the computer guys.
Truthfully (I was lying for the first 36 paragraphs, unless it’s been heavily edited), I did enjoy the storms. Somehow, perhaps because of the degree of difficulty behind showing the umpteenth person about to be blown away by a ‘nado, these minutes make for compelling visuals. You begin to wonder precisely which characters will be allowed to blow away, and there’s a very special tornado that becomes a FIRE TORNADO. Safe to say fire tornadoes rule and should become your jam. Into the Storm also does a great job at showing different views of tornadoes, not just the Wizard of Oz one. We get to see them from above, behind, in huge landscape views and up close and personal. The colors are played around with as well, bright hues and dark windy grays, causing the storms end up with far more personality than the characters themselves.
That said, this film is garbage blowing in the wind. Though it gets slightly better when people and cars are being flipped around like rag dolls, it loses so much steam whenever docu-man screams, “Did you get the shot??!” or any of the tertiary people exclaim, “Hold on!” There’s also this syndrome where, when a tornado is imminent and inbound, people stop to stare at it, as if it was the new baby polar bear at the zoo. They have the self-preservation instincts of a panda on a rocket ship.
The absolute “localness” of everything happening here also allows the momentum to seep out, in the manner of an STD symptom. It becomes difficult to care about the President Obama principal when he actively flouts storm warnings. He does everything short of laughing, “well, what’s the worst that could happen?”, or “I challenge the god of storms to a fricking duel!!” You intrinsically know he’s going to get hit in the teeth with a storm, but you also want him to be. Hubris isn’t attractive on anyone besides Kate Upton. If you taunt the laws of natural order in the manner that he does, you’re bound to get a smackdown, the only sad part being it’s usually not a mortal one, given the PG-13 nature of everything presented here. The film, as you might expect based on the trailers, concept, cast, imagery, or overall marketing effort isn’t very good. The bright side is the dark storms, but they aren’t prevalent enough, and they keep getting interrupted by fools making bad choices. In the end, you should probably just go with a weekend of freedom instead of Into the Storm. Because, as that guy from Wham! once said, this doesn’t belong to you, and it don’t belong to me. Yeah, yeah!
Laremy has lived through hurricanes and earthquakes. He’s a hero.