Premieres: Review of Lee Isaac Chung’s Twisters

One of the supposed attractions of TORNADOS It was, at least for me, the decision to choose Lee Isaac Chung, director of to the paina family and intimate drama that, beyond its rural locations and the evident sensitivity to nature of its author, has little or nothing to do with a blockbuster about violent hurricanes and the people who, for various reasons, dedicate themselves to chasing them. The crossing was risky but could have yielded some particular result. But this is not the case. Chung may be the director, yes, but TWISTERS It feels like a very generic action spectacle, an overly prototypical example of the genre.

For some it may be good news – the crossover between director indie and the box office tank has left irreparable damage, such as the recent ETERNALSby Chloe Zhao, and it’s not that to the pain was a masterpiece – but at the same time the whole thing is not very clear: any professional Hollywood director could have made more or less this same film, which is not so much a sequel to TWISTERfrom 1996, but a story that takes place in a similar universe. In this case: a plot that faces two teams that are dedicated to chasing tornadoes but with very different intentions and ways of doing it, which are not necessarily what they seem.

It all begins, as often happens in these cases, with a traumatic background. Kate Carter (Daisy Edgar-Jones, the British actress of NORMAL PEOPLE) and a group of college friends –one of them, her boyfriend– chase tornadoes in Oklahoma with the intention of neutralizing them through a complex system that is not worth explaining here and that only those who are dedicated to the subject will be able to understand by watching the film. The truth is that things go wrong: the tornado is much bigger and more destructive than they supposed and the results are tragic, leading Kate to leave that world.

Five years later the girl works as a meteorologist in New York and Javi (pronounced “have» and played by Anthony Ramos), a survivor of that lost battle against nature. Despite her reluctance, Javi convinces Kate to go back to chasing tornadoes, since he now works with a team of scientists and military technology that allows them to extract a lot of information from each of these formations in order to prevent or stop them from acting. Worried more than anything about proving her scientific thesis and, secondarily, to prevent tornadoes from destroying towns and cities, Kate decides to join the adventure.

Back in Oklahoma – a state overwhelmed by this type of brutal weather events – Kate, Javi and company come across another group that is there looking for tornadoes but with another objective. They are Tyler Owens (the omnipresent Glen Powell) and his crewa much more anarchic and commercial group (which includes Sasha Lane, the also musician Tunde Adebimpe and Brandon Perea) and who only seems interested in filming themselves for the million followers they have on their YouTube channel: something like influencers from this strange habit of chasing tornadoes. They are so famous that they bring with them an English journalist (Harry Hadden-Paton) who is writing a story about their adventures.

There will clearly be tension between the sides, various disputes, and you only have to have seen three movies to realize that Kate and Tyler are two different sides of the same coin. With different styles and, in principle, objectives, both are obsessive students of tornadoes. Tyler (played by Powell as a prototypical modern cowboy, halfway between a country singer and a marine with a smile and perfect muscles) seeks them out more for the adrenaline that the phenomenon generates, while Kate is more concerned about doing something to stop them from destroying everything in their path. In the middle, meanwhile, there will be others whose intentions are a little more perverse.

In the middle of this simple story are the tornadoes themselves, a half dozen or more strong weather events of a destructive nature that seem to have decided to come out all at once almost at the same time. It is curious that their ferocity seems to come as a surprise to the inhabitants of the area who, again and again, go about their normal activities (massive rodeos, street fairs, baseball games) without imagining that minutes later they will be devastated by the tornadoes. In fact, they don’t even seem to have taken any building precautions in this regard. But if the plot requires people to be a little silly and things to happen in an excessively capricious way, well, for that there are high-budget action and spectacle films. And the film, beyond its nods to classic Amblin products from the ’80s and ’90s, is not much more than that.

Don’t expect too much logic here: everything happens because it has to happen and so that the characters can cross paths, reveal their true intentions and, with a bit of luck, become aware of the seriousness of the situation. Perhaps so as not to upset the less “socially engaged” audience that the producers hope to attract – the film has a lineage all-american which is on the verge of the manners of the muscular cinema of the 1980s–, the schematic script by Mark L. Smith (THE REVENANT, MIDNIGHT SKY) barely mentions climate change, implying only that these things happen more often than before but not much more than that.

What the film does show is its destructive nature, and that is its strongest angle, since it puts the towns that are devastated by these events in the foreground. The problem is that all its human and even social side is used only as context and in a generic way, more to paint the contradictions of the characters than to make a real comment on the destruction of the cities and the potential commercial exploitation of these natural disasters. If Chung was hired for his “humanist” side, the film retains little of all that. The script sweeps everything away in its wake, as if the plot itself were another tornado.

There’s no doubt TORNADOS It is visually spectacular and far surpasses what could be done with digital effects back in 1996, but the truth is that back then those effects were new and surprising, whereas today they are commonplace in any Hollywood blockbuster. Beyond its obvious limitations, the film will surely unnerve any viewer who manages to cross the bar of suspension of disbelief – the limit is very high since almost nothing can withstand a logical look, no matter how many scientific terms are used to give everything an aura of seriousness – and at times it will distress an audience that notices how the weather becomes more and more unpredictable day by day. Sometimes all you need to do is go outside or check the temperature on your cell phone to get scared about what is coming.

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