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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Twister (1996)

#2 - 1996 Box Office: Gross $241,721,524

Don't Breathe. Don't Look Back.
Twister opens in 1969 as a family takes shelter from a coming F5 (worst of the worst) tornado.  The father, to protect his wife and young daughter Jo, attempts to keep the cellar door from blowing off, himself getting sucked out into oblivion.  Nearly 30 years later, we meet an older Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) and her husband Bill (Bill Paxton) who have separated.  Bill tries to get Jo to sign their divorce papers so he can marry his new therapist girlfriend (Jamie Gertz), but Jo (still in love with him) stalls. Jo leads a group of storm chasers (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Jeremy Davies, Todd Field, et al) who all attempt to use some of Bill's ideas to gather meteorological data from inside a tornado, hoping to create a better warning system for families like Jo's.  They hope to do this with "Dorothy," a device they hope to place in the path of a tornado which will transmit the data as it gets sucked up into it.  A better-funded group of scientists, led by Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes) has a very similar piece of machinery and plans to beat Jo and Bill to the data, earning a lot of money in the meantime.  However, Jonas' group doesn't have the instinct Jo and Bill have and are rarely in the right place at the right time.  Several tornadoes (even another F5) follow, blowing farm animals, gas trucks and entire houses around.  Will the excitement of chasing twisters reignite the passion Bill and Jo used to share?

Trivia (mostly courtesy of the IMDb)
  • Warner Bros. moved up the film's release date from May 17 to May 10 in order to give it two weekends before Mission: Impossible opened (M:I's opening weekend was about 10% higher than Twister's but ended up earning only $180,981,856 and placed 3rd for 1996)
  • "It sucks" was originally going to be used as one of the taglines for the film, but the producers felt that it worked too much to the advantage of disappointed audiences and critics
  • On March 26, 1997, it became one of the first movies to be released on DVD in the US. On May 27, 2008, it became one of the last movies to be released on HD-DVD
  • The drive-in is showing Psycho (a Universal release) and The Shining (a Warner Bros. release) because this film was a co-production between the two studios
  • Many of the news reports throughout the movie feature actual weathermen from Oklahoma news stations, including Gary England, chief meteorologist at KWTV in Oklahoma City.  The 1969 footage of Gary England giving the televised tornado warning to Jo's family was actual archived footage of him issuing a tornado warning, however, Gary England did not join KWTV until 1972
  • Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were both temporarily blinded by the bright lamps used to lower the exposure to make the sky behind the two actors look darker than it actually was
  • After filming in a ditch that contained bacteria, Hunt and Paxton both had to have hepatitis shots
  • The instrument the storm chasers use in the movie, called "Dorothy", is an homage to the device real tornado researchers placed in the paths of tornadoes in the 1980s: TOTO
  • On May 24, 1996, a tornado destroyed a drive-in theater in Canada which was scheduled to show the movie Twister in a real-life parallel to a scene in the film in which a tornado destroys a drive-in during a showing of The Shining
  • On May 10, 2010, a tornado struck Fairfax, Oklahoma, destroying the farmhouse where numerous scenes were shot 
It's starting to turn. / Where? I can't see it... / You will!
In my memory, I loved this film.  In fact, my old IMDb rating was 4.5 stars.  However, as I rewatched it, I grew tired of some of the craziness the story threw at me.  Most notably, I just laughed at our heroes running yards away from an F5 tornado which had winds ~300mph—there have been times I've been outside in gusts maybe up to 60mph and I've nearly fallen down, yet these two can dodge debris and come out unscathed?!  Also, the story gets a little Final Destination cliché-ish, throwing every possible problem at the characters—Want to drive away? Not if there's a tree under your axle! Wait, you get the truck off the tree and want to drive down this road? Not if the tornado throws every piece of farm machinery you've ever thought of at you (and yes, that includes a combine)! Want to take shelter in this barn? How about we throw every sharp tool (scythes, axes, machetes, etc.) in this barn instead?—it all got a little ridiculous.  The actual action scenes and the acting in the film are still pretty good, however (this is the director who got a believable performance out of Keanu Reeves in Speed), and the soundtrack is pretty awesome in a '90s-nostalgia sort of way. I'm not sure if my rating is a little too harsh (because it really disappointed me in the third act) or if this is a reasonable ranking for this summer blockbuster.  What do you think?

Ponch's Rating:

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