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Into the Storm (Fantasia Review)

Into the Storm (Fantasia Review)
4 10

PLOT: A series of devastating tornados wreak havoc on a small town. In the midst of the mayhem, a local dad (Richard Armitage) teams up with a gang of storm chasers to find his lost son.

REVIEW: A lot of the press surrounding INTO THE STORM has been focused on how well the CGI came off in this mid-budget disaster pic, with everyone crediting director Steven Quale for doing big-time FX on a budget. Sure enough, the tornado sequences are dynamite. If you thought they looked good in TWISTER, you’ll be amazed at how good they look here, with tons of impressive action sequences bringing you right into the heart of the storm, with one memorable shot taking you “inside” a twister. Another, where a tornado catches fire, would have been impossible to pull off convincingly in '96, even with a budget three times this.

But, while the eye candy in without a doubt impressive, it’s clear that very little money was left over after the CGI to arrange for a solid script or anything more than a TV-movie level cast. Granted - disaster movies coast on melodrama. All the great ones, like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, THE TOWERING INFERNO, EARTHQUAKE, and even the nineties ones like TWISTER and DANTE’S PEAK had heavy doses of sentimentality. That’s part of their charm, watching a disparate band of people face the elements and emerge better from having overcome adversity. Yet, you never for a second identify with or feel for anyone in INTO THE STORM.

Part of the blame has to go to the B-movie cast. It’s not that anyone’s especially awful, but nobody is well known, with the most identifiable cast members being THE WALKING DEAD’s Sarah Wayne Callies and THE HOBBIT’s Richard Armitage (although he’s unrecognizable outside his dwarf makeup). They’re both fine, but a proper disaster movie needs people that are larger-than-life, like Charlton Heston in EARTHQUAKE, Paul Newman & Steve McQueen in TOWERING INFERNO, or Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin in AIRPORT. Everyone here feels anonymous, and you really won’t care if their characters make it or not. Armitage doesn’t really come off as strong leading man material, and he struggles mightily hiding his UK accent, seeming like a weird choice to be playing a small-town vice-principal/family man. Callies fares better, although she feels an awful lot like a retread of Helen Hunt’s character in TWISTER. Matt Walsh plays the storm chaser boss who initially seems heartless, but if you don’t think he’s going to suddenly turn noble by the conclusion you haven’t seen many disaster pics. Of the leads, Walsh probably distinguishes himself the most, but it’s still a pretty forgettable part.

The fact that INTO THE STORM runs a scant eighty-nine minutes probably doesn’t help matters as there’s not really any time to develop the characters. Still, given how cardboard thin the characters are, and how dumb the movie gets at times (especially cringe-worthy are the JACKASS-wannabe’s who are supposed to be the comic relief), the fact that it’s short is probably a good thing.

Still, if you’re dead-set on watching CGI tornadoes, INTO THE STORM is probably right up your alley. But, you really shouldn’t go in expecting anything more than eye candy. SHARKNADO probably has more entertainment value with an only marginally dumber script.

Extra Tidbit: The press screening was in 2D. This is one film 3D might improve.

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