Starring: Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Jan de Bont
Running Time: 113 mins
Twister is an American film about a group of storm chasers who, in the midst of a devastating series of tornadoes in Oklahoma, bravely push into the eye of the storm in the name of research.
Frustratingly typical of a blockbuster in the late ’90s, Twister is a movie that goes all out with big visual effects and enormous spectacle, but forgets to tell a story to go along with that. Despite spirited performances from its A-list cast and a clear passion for its subject matter, this film is little more than a series of action scenes loosely strung together. Spectacular it may be, but captivating it isn’t.
Of course, if you’re looking for a big, easy-going action blockbuster, then Twister is a great choice. There’s very little in the way of character drama, and absolutely no challenging perspectives on the subject of the devastating power of storms in the US. As a result, you can turn your brain completely off and watch it for what it is: a big, dumb, hulking action movie.
But there’s one thing that separates Twister from the crowd of braindead ’90s blockbusters (Godzilla, Independence Day, Armageddon etc.), and that’s an unmistakable passion for its subject matter.
The film may completely lack emotional resonance in its portrayal of the devastating impact of storms, but it certainly gives an enthusiastic account of life as a storm chaser, pushing bravely into the belly of the beast in the name of research.
That enthusiasm is backed up by the ensemble cast, which features a collection of A-listers all giving energetic and enormously likeable performances. They’re not purely moronic action movie characters, and with a clear passion and interest for what they do, it’s a joy to spend two hours watching them at their best, with Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt and a young Philip Seymour Hoffman all delighting throughout.
As likeable and enthusiastic as the film is, however, it really lacks any genuine drama or even basic storytelling. Once the credits finished rolling, I thought back on what had actually happened in Twister, and apart from some big action sequences set in the middle of tornadoes, I really struggled to come up with anything.
That’s proof of the fact that the film really doesn’t try its hardest to tell an engaging or emotionally captivating story. The romantic element between its two leads is far too simplistic, and doesn’t offer the satisfying emotional payoff it’s aiming for, while the back stories of pretty much all the characters are far too weak to grab your attention from the start.
Of course, Twister isn’t meant to be a deeply moving character drama, but it does need something else other than big, visual effects-heavy action to keep you engaged over the course of its two hours.
As for those visual effects, the film looks spectacular throughout, with the storm sequences brilliantly capturing the intense and awe-inspiring power of extreme weather. It’s so good, in fact, that it even holds up to the standards of today, albeit with a few little weaknesses here and there.
But that visual spectacle is nothing without actual narrative depth. Those storm sequences are intense, but I never felt scared or fearful because I had so little connection to the characters. That means that, while Twister is a good, dumb blockbuster, it’s far from a masterpiece of storytelling, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.0 overall.