I have spent my life laboriously doing nothing.
— Hugo Grotius (on his deathbed 1645)
Mysteriously-funded and irrationally-driven “storm-chasers” gad about the American midwest in TWISTER, trying to throw an aluminum thingy filled with little aluminum thingies into a tornado. They say it’s to research these natural disasters. Cue joke about this movie being natural disaster.
Leading the pants-wetting charge is Jo (Helen Hunt) with her team of nonces, including a young, beatnik Philip Seymour Hoffman. Along for the sodden ride is Jo’s estranged hubbie and ex-leader of the nonces, Bill (Bill Paxton), with his new psychologist boo, played with closed-kneed stoicism by Jami Gertz; with the talented Cary Elwes as a rival storm-chaser, relegated to Dick Dastardly sniggers.
The aluminum thingy collects data from tornadoes (euphemized as Twisters for street-cred), to save lives… while risking countless lives driving maniacally down small-town dirt roads, recklessly through cornfields and private property, through gullies where kids could be hiding, smashing through houses – all the while, their computers effectively pinpointing tornadoes, their intensity, girth, location, speed, direction, their credit reports and bra sizes, long before any visual sighting. Yet none of these nonces is astute enough to resolve their goal by simply requesting grants to buy these fancy hi-tech gadgets for threatened locales.
Directed by Jan de Bont (SPEED), written by made-for-filming novelist, Michael Crichton (JURASSIC PARK) and Anne-Marie Martin, the very fabric of TWISTER reeks like a rain gutter gone stagnant.
Seems these pervs get their thrills by facing extinction, the nonces relating an absolutely pointless anecdote about Bill standing his ground before a tornado, railing at it naked and drunk, earning him the nickname The Extreme. So it is no surprise when, during the course of gadding about the Midwest risking their necks for no reason, Bill becomes estranged with his psych chick, when he realizes she is not psycho enough; seems she’s not enticed with the prospect of gadding about the midwest risking her neck for no reason. The very society renowned for its profusion of unnecessary therapists – schizoid Americana – insistently derides Jami Gertz’s therapist, who leaves the party when Bill gravitates towards ex-wife Jo (far more psycho!) who reconciles with him amidst the tempest and looks much better in a wet t-shirt.
Jo is obsessed with twisters because her father was taken by one in the scary opening sequence. So chasing them is catharsis – ironically, girl, YOU need that therapist more than anyone! This valiant attempt at three dimensional character went balls-up as soon as De Bont opened The Hollywood Cliché Handbook (Disaster Movie Edition) – hoping against hope we wouldn’t notice Jo’s vocation is itself sorely one-dimensional.
Since when is a “storm-chaser” (whatever that means) more noble than a therapist? Gertz is portrayed as a sex-with-the-lights-out prude; in one scene, she is made to look like an anal pen-pusher with misplaced priorities, as she consoles a distraught divorcee over her cellphone – while the fools in the car with her are driving into the maw of a tornado!
Which begs the question: What, in fact, does a “storm-chaser” do? The grant-grabbing apologists pipe up: “They study tornadoes to aid predictability and consequently, survivability.” Which begs the corollary question: why don’t all those people in this film who live in a “tornado alley,” start the survival process by PICKING UP ALL THE LOOSE CRAP LITTERING THEIR YARDS? Their barn doors are practically falling off their hinges with rot, there are implements and tools scattered hither and thither – ironically, as if a twister has just slammed by! Jo’s aunt, Meg (Lois Smith), is out in her yard WELDING PIECES OF STEEL TOGETHER – definitely sensible recreation in a high-risk tornado area!; in effect, NO ONE seems to be taking any precautions for tornadoes anyway – what would a ten-minute warning benefit as opposed to a ten-SECOND warning?
And after all the cow-flying and tractor-slinging and wet t-shirts (and snippet of Deep Purple at THE CALIFORNIA JAM, with wrong Child in Time audio under the visuals – blasphemous swine!), when their last aluminum thingy (filled with Pepsi product-placement) is sucked into the vortex of a tornado, does the cheery, uplifting soundtrack mean the End Of Tornadoes? Is the world safe from natural disasters now that these intrepid swine risked their lives to throw extra aluminum debris into a twister (that probably came down somewhere and sliced a kid’s ear off)? Do we leave the theater knowing that when a twister hits us now, we can rest assured that it will damage exactly the same amount of stuff, but at least we had a warning?
Great! I could have taken my signed Pam and Tommy sex tape and all I got was my passport and Visa cards.
earth love disaster
We all know what constitutes Natural Disasters – quakes, fires, floods, tornadoes – but “disasters” for whom?
These “disasters” were occurring on this planet before mankind was a twinkle in the virgin Earth’s magma. Natural Disasters are Earth’s regulatory actions; EARTH is not harmed by these phenomena… WE are. So if you’re so Earth Friendly, why do you pray to your non-existent gods to please please please abstain from “regulatory actions” in your selfish little vicinity?
How do we ever exist if our luxuries are swept away?! Is this too callously capitalist? Consider: even when you escape with your life, it is still regarded as a Disaster. But if you cared nothing for capitalism, the possession of your life should warrant terming the event something less calamitous – “minor setback” mayhaps? But your sick society revolves around economic status, ergo Disaster.
But Earth goes on, regardless, shrugging off earthquakes and flash-fires and mythic floods like it has since its violent birth. Why carry on like sissies when Earth is simply doing its cosmic thing? You hypocritical greenies should be glad – you’ve been shriking about “taking back the planet” with your irrelevant plastic-collections and paper-recycling – well, the planet is just helping your puerile, ineffectual efforts with a slambang.
And the disaster movie genre rakes in millions on this drivel that is not really disastrous. And though these movies try focusing on “people at the heart of the story,” the viewing public is not nearly nuanced enough to appreciate introspection when they’ve paid to see MIND-BLOWING EFX.
In response to the success of TWISTER, a slew of Disaster Movies hits 1997: TURBULENCE (Jan), DANTE’S PEAK (Feb), ASTEROID: THE SKY IS FALLING (Feb), VOLCANO (Apr) and even TITANIC (Dec), not to mention the ten million COMET movies always orbiting television and movie screens on cyclic impact paths. Let’s not forget 1998’s two bloated entries, DEEP IMPACT and ARMAGEDDON…
Gertz actually spews the one sensible line in TWISTER: “You people are all crazy! Do you know that?!” No, they don’t – cos the Bad Machine doesn’t know it’s a bad machine. And the makers of this moronic maelstrom are part of the bad machine.
Michael Tunison speaks out in Entertainment Today: “The only thing that is going to stop this particular fad is a couple of real disasters… at the box office.”