DIRECTOR: Jan de Bont
May Contain Spoilers!
1996 was a year in which tornadoes seemed to be as popular as little green men. Three years after Jurassic Park (1993) had demonstrated the true power of computer generated imagery, the director of Speed, Jan de Bont was back, this time showing us what an on-screen tornado should really look like. On this point, he succeeded, but that’s about it.
Considering the talent involved in this film, it’s a surprise that the results are less than satisfactory, with Michael Crichton screenwriting and Steven Spielberg serving as producer. The first major error was to cast Bill Paxton, who was mainly known at this time as the co-star of every James Cameron film, and Helen Hunt who was probably best known for her role in U.S. sitcom, Mad About You. Now, since then, Hunt has become a movie star of sorts but Paxton is just a solid co-star and not a leading man.
But interestingly, a few familiar faces turn up as part of the motley crew of storm chasers, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, and considering his status now, he seems out-of-place playing a hyper active pot head here. The “Story” goes something like this…
Paxton is a legendary storm chaser and is giving it all up to marry Reproductive Therapist Melissa (Jami Gertz) and must meet up with his ex-wife (Hunt) to sign the divorce papers. But he is soon caught up in the chase as they are attempting to deploy a sensor into a twister in order to study them. Hopefully they can improve the warning systems a save lives.
The plot is thin, the drama is movie of week and the characters are as wooden as the towns which are destroyed in some of the most spectacular storm footage shot up until that time. This is a prime example of a contrived script, where the real motivation and selling point is right in front of you. This is about showing the destructive power of tornadoes and having a great time doing it.
The plot is just a way of framing it but maybe if they had cast the key roles better, spent a little more time polishing the script and steering away from the idea that this sensor was going to save the world, then maybe this would be a classic. Instead, we have some brilliant action, storms and effects and some decent music by Mark Mancina but a story which is basically rubbish.