ABOVE: Watch the trailer for Into The Storm.
TORONTO — The evening news comes to the big screen this weekend with Into The Storm, a disaster flick about a group of storm chasers and the people of a small town hoping to make it through a series of deadly tornadoes.
Shot two years ago in Michigan, Into The Storm stars Richard Armitage (The Hobbit), Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), Matt Walsh (Veep) and a bunch of unknown actors.
Directed by Steven Quale (Final Destination 5), it was written by John Swetnam (Step Up All In).
Will audiences throw caution to the wind and flock to Into The Storm or will they choose to be shell-shocked by a group of pubescent fighting turtles from the ’80s? Here’s what some reviewers are saying.
Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte Observer said to list all of the movie’s shortcomings “would require a book as long as Deuteronomy.”
“An example: It takes place in Silverton, a Midwestern city with two main streets. Yet at the climax, when the largest tornado in world history blows through, it snatches up the kinds of jet planes you’d find parked at an international airport,” he pointed out.
“I laughed, but not so hard that I missed the film’s biggest boner: The same 300 mph winds could not knock a walking man off his feet.”
Toppman conceded the special effects were impressive.
“The tornadoes do look and sound terrifying, and the film pitches them at us one after another,” he wrote. “One shot of a character sucked into a whirling pillar of fire stayed with me afterward. But complimenting a moronic, maudlin movie for that quality is like praising a snot sandwich because it comes on a fresh baguette.”
READ MORE: Bad timing for Into The Storm?
Scott Mendelson of Forbes agreed Into The Storm delivers on a technical level.
“You want big-screen images of insanely large-scale tornadoes and big-scale devastation and disaster carnage? Into the Storm gives you plenty of rock-solid disaster porn,” he said.
Mendelson was critical, though, of just about everything else in the movie.
“I wish it were a better film overall, with stronger character work for the tornado-chasers and less time watching a teen boy trying to ‘nice’ his way into his crush’s heart/pants,” he wrote.
Mendelson took issue with the “retrograde gender representation” — the few female characters there are in the movie are rescued by men — and wished there was more of a climate change message.
“But you’re free to ignore that and just watch tornadoes blow apart houses and schools for the visual wonder of it all.”
At The Herald of Everett, Washington, Robert Horton said the visual wonder is sadly interrupted by scenes of people talking — “although I use the terms ‘people’ and ‘talking’ loosely.”
He added: “When a movie makes you check your watch during the dialogue scenes, wondering when the next twister will hit, best not to look for the moral compass.”
At the Orlando Sentinel, Michael Phillips seemed to agree.
“There is a moment, an extended moment when Donnie’s (Max Deacon) stuck underneath rubble and the water’s gushing in, and it’s rising, and getting nearer and nearer his mouth, and he starts videotaping an alarmingly lengthy farewell to friends and family,” Phillips recapped.
“And the whole time you’re rooting for the water.”
Bob Bloom of the Lafayette Journal & Courier called Into The Storm “a clichéd affair that has about as much originality as a meteorologist delivering a forecast.”
He wrote: “All the characters and situations are stock, and … finding an original line of dialogue or thought in this movie is as difficult as using a butter knife to cut away a fallen tree blocking your driveway.”
At IGN, Matt Patches compared the movie to an EF-4 tornado — “not quite catastrophic, but every bit as painful in the moment.”
He opined that Into The Storm is “a swirling mess of disaster setups, half-baked characters and found footage logic-twisting” and added its “haphazard family drama wouldn’t be so excruciating if it weren’t hammered home.”
Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter heralded Into The Storm as “a formidable technical achievement” but lamented its “minimal story.”
(Farber erroneously claimed “we don’t get a reprise of the flying cow from Twister” — when, in fact, a cow flies across the street in the final storm scene.)
Farber confessed he had a certain “moral queasiness” about the movie.
“This film exploits horrendous, real-world suffering for the sake of a mindless thrill ride, and no matter how well executed the havoc may be, that leaves a sour aftertaste.”
Variety reviewer Scott Foundas noted the airborne cow and characters that are “so plastic you have to remind yourself this isn’t a sequel to The Lego Movie.”
Although impressed by the CGI effects, Foundas said the thrills become monotonous.
“By the time the film arrives at a climax that finds most of the cast waylaid in a storm drain, the effect is like sitting through all the cycles of some ultra-super-deluxe gas-station car wash,” he wrote.
At the Cleveland The Plain Dealer, Clint O’Connor opined Into The Storm — which he called a “slog of a film” — features “some of the worst performances of the year.”
He wrote: “Usually, in a multiple-character drama, there is at least one person we can cheer for, laugh at, be afraid of, or somehow identify with. But Into the Storm offers an array of forgettable cardboard characters. It is difficult to become invested in these people or see them as anything other than calamity props.”
O’Connor recognized most people buying tickets to Into The Storm are not seeking top-notch acting and he credited the film for delivering “some pulse-quickening intensity.”
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