Director-Jan de Bont
Starring-Bill Pullman, Helen Hunt
Scott’s Review #763
Reviewed May 25, 2018
Twister (1996) is a film that contains amazing and groundbreaking special effects- that blew people away (pun intended!) when released to the masses over twenty years ago. Moviegoers flocked to theaters everywhere to partake in the escapist summer feel good hit starring popular movie stars of the time. The film spawned amusement park rides and lots of other fun things during its run.
The visuals are what truly are to be enjoyed here and not the generic, tried and true subplots of romance, childhood trauma, and corporate greed that are mixed in. The film does not hold up well in present times as the dazzling effects now look rather dated when lined up again modern blockbusters. This results in Twister being reduced to “one of those 1990’s films”.
Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt star as American storm chasers, Bill and Jo, obsessed with their craft of tracking tornadoes throughout the United States mid-western region. Adding drama to the plot is that Bill and Jo are an estranged married couple in the midst of a divorce. Bill brings his new fiancee Melissa (Jami Gertz) along as numerous meteorologists converge to track storms using newly invented devices. Predictably, a series of vicious storms commence while Bill, Jo, and Melissa play out a love triangle.
Twister gets off to a fantastic start as a wicked storm kills then five year old Jo’s father, prompting her to pursue her career of choice. Jo has never gotten over her father’s death becoming fascinated by deadly storms. The effects of this initial storm are very well done as Jo’s father’s death scene is riveting- the poor man being sucked into the deadly cyclone is memorable. Regardless, this scene sets the tone for the ample effects to follow- most notably the terrifying sound of the swirling storm as farm tools and animals fly around onscreen.
After the initial introduction the rest of the film is mainly of the group driving around and encountering storms, with Bill and Jo taking center stage. As a child having spent many summers in the mid-west, sans tornadoes thankfully, I felt a sense of nostalgia watching the film. Assumptions being made that Twister was indeed filmed on location (with studio help), the authenticity is apparent. From the vastness of the plains to the dusty roads, cornfields, and small town U.S.A. I enjoyed the down home, slice of life feel.
The action and effects are lightning quick and quite realistic. As mentioned the sound effects are as strong as the visual effects and I never doubted for a second that the twisters had a realism to them. This successfully merges into the summer blockbuster that Twister’s producers undoubtedly were going for. Making a ton of money, the end result was clearly successful and inspired by Hollywood.
Despite the superlative special effects, though, this is really the only reason to watch Twister and seeing the film once is enough excitement. The writers (Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin) attempt to incorporate a romance into the story and this does nobody any good. This negative aspect is even more apparent since the chemistry between Paxton and Hunt is non-existent and Gertz’s Melissa is clearly meant to be the odd woman out all along.
A large amount of suspension of disbelief is necessary to “buy” various scenes. Ludicrous are countless scenes where characters either outrun the monstrous twisters or somehow the storms encircle them, but miraculously never touch them. When Jo, Bill, and Melissa’s truck is captured inside the funnel cloud the vehicle and its passengers somehow remain unharmed. And tornadoes do not simply come out of nowhere to attack without any indication on radar. But alas this is a disaster film and liberties must be taken.
The famous “cow scene”, notoriously used twice in the film seemed groundbreaking and cutting edge in 1996, but in 2018 now seems hokey and unnecessary. Times sure do change in cinema especially with technical effects and CGI growing each year.
Admittedly, the film does contain a good, all-american rockin’ summer tune by Van Halen named “Humans Being”, which always makes me think of summertime when I hear it. In fact the entire Twister soundtrack was an enormous success with radio airplay given and led to further successes for the film.
Perhaps now watched as a blast from the past or a revisit to some sort of nostalgic time for folks, Twister (1996) is a great example of a once popular popcorn movie falling into semi-obscurity. Given another twenty years the film will undoubtedly fall all the way. A nice film for the time it was, but little more years later.
Oscar Nominations: Best Sound, Best Visual Effects