I Just Saw Tornado Flick Into the Storm and It Sucked (Get It?)

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 8 2014 3:07 PM

This Tornado Movie Really Sucks

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Probably the first public screening in Wisconsin!

For a movie that was highly anticipated among the weather nerd community as possibly the next Twister, Steven Quale’s Into the Storm was about as entertaining as watching a stack full of Twister DVDs slowly melt in the Oklahoma sun.

I broke down the science behind the film when the trailer was released about a month ago. That analysis holds up surprisingly well after seeing the whole thing.

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Where Into the Storm fails isn’t in the science, which is cringe-worthy in parts, but mostly OK enough—this isn’t a documentary. The problems are just that the characters are forgettable, the acting is horrid, there’s basically no plot, and it sends horrible messages. You know, the little things. Despite all the whiz-bang CGI, the movie was actually boring. I wanted to leave.

This is no Twister. Where Twister soared, in my opinion, was introducing some of the most fascinating aspects of meteorology to the general public via entertaining characters. And with a script by Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park), Twister made extreme weather sexy. That movie inspired a generation of meteorologists. (Many professors still refer to “the Twister effect” to explain a surge in enrollment in meteorology classes in the late 1990s.) But with its glorification of ptornography, Into the Storm will only inspire idiots.

Spoiler alerts!

The worst part? The only storm chaser in the movie who had a conscience and wanted to back out after he watched half the town get obliterated (but was convinced to hang in there by his boss because “next week you’ll get a pocket full of cash”) ended up getting burned alive in a fire tornado a few minutes later. Really?

Thanks to its flagrant and willful fawning over the worst of storm chaser culture—the real-life incident earlier this year with an Arkansas duo that called themselves “Hail’s Angels” comes to mind—the movie is almost a perfect example in every way of what not to do when a tornado hits. (And big tornado outbreaks are becoming more common in recent years, thanks perhaps to climate change.) Since it gets so much wrong on the public safety angle, Into the Storm could actually be dangerous—if not for the fact that very few people will see it (or take it seriously) because the movie is so bad.

When I exchanged messages with several meteorologist friends on Twitter earlier this week, the majority were excited about the movie’s potential, though a few had serious concerns about the glorification of death and destruction after the last few years of all-too-real tornado tragedies. Meteorologist and Missouri native Dave Snyder probably summed it up best: “After Joplin's aftermath, I don't really need to see that type of movie anymore.”

Despite my reservations, I was actually looking forward to the movie. I thought: “Hey, maybe they’ll do a great job in pointing out the idiotic mess storm chasing has become. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?” Well, I found out.

When I left for the theater, Into The Storm was racking up a nice round 10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. (It’s now somehow up to 17 percent.)

When I got to the theater, it was immediately obvious this wasn’t going to be pretty.

Once I got to my seat, since there were only 10 other people in the whole theater, I decided I might as well livetweet the whole movie. You can read the whole thing in a Storify here.

If for some reason you’re planning on seeing this movie, here’s some advice: Expect to be disappointed, and you won’t be disappointed.

After my 8 p.m. screening in Madison—likely the first public screening of the movie in Wisconsin, where we’ve had our own tornado problems this year—I randomly chose one of the 10 people who suffered through the film with me to chat with afterwards.

Kathy O’Leary, who came from a family of EMS personnel, was visibly upset as she began talking. She didn’t appreciate the movie’s focus on dueling storm chaser teams, who spent the bulk of the movie out-angling each other for the best shot and putting themselves and others at risk in the process. As I’ve written before, this is a real problem, and it’s getting worse. The only saving grace here is that the movie is so outlandish that I doubt anyone will take it seriously.

“The professor got killed, and the two idiots survived. And both of them were just in it for the cash. That sends the wrong message: ‘We’ll give you money for being stupid.’”

Her partner, Dave Weston, nodded in agreement. (And oh by the way, Weston works at the theater, so they didn’t have to pay to see it, either.)

Weston’s reaction? “At least there weren’t any sharks.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.

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