I wonder if it’s a coincidence that my vertigo returned shortly after seeing the film?
For me, not hating it is actually saying quite a lot, because there is exactly one reason I went to see a tornado movie: RICHARD ARMITAGE. Except for a decade of graduate school divided between Southern Arizona and Eastern Pennsylvania, I have lived my whole life in the American Midwest, and I have seen my fair share of tornadoes…to the extent that for twenty years I had a tornado nightmare complete with a barrage of multiple tornadoes and struggling to move my wheelchair bound grandparents into the basement. I’m happy to report that viewing the film has not caused that to recur.
My teen aged son and I went to a matinee showing on Saturday during the Labor Day weekend. Not surprisingly, the local multiplex was virtually deserted…also not surprisingly, the popcorn and soda cost more than the film tickets. What was kind of surprising was the make up of the audience. In addition to one thirty-ish couple and one fifty-ish couple, my son noted,
“Look at all of the middle aged women in here!”
Curious…I’d estimate that the audience was indeed about 75% populated by women my age or a bit older. Certainly not what you’d expect to see a film that usually targets the 15-30 male variety of film viewer. So said the previews…ghastly! (Murderous dolls, etc) As such, I thought you might like to hear the impressions of a member of the target audience:
(I edited a tiny bit for clarity and toned down the saltier language 🙂 )
In case I am not the last person in the Armitageworld to have seen Into the Storm…there are SPOILERS below.
A Tale of Many Tropes…and Tornadoes Too!
I exited the theater last Saturday after watching Into the Storm having suffered no more than a mild panic attack, which I consider at least a small victory. Other important thoughts? It was alright.
The film opens on a lovely scene of a group of four Foolish White Teenagers™ failing to escape a deadly tornado somewhere in the Midwestern United States. The scene abruptly changes to Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ filming for a time capsule to be opened 25 years later. He is interrupted by Obviously Favored Son™, describing Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™’s object of desire, Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™. The two then go downstairs to meet Byronic Widowed Father™ who is working on some important task, and they are immediately dismissed. The film then continues for 30 minutes of the most excruciating list of tropes that I can’t even hope to list and respectively trademark before the actual action begins. More characters are introduced, including Token Black Character™, Supposedly Likable Independant Woman™, Asshole™, Naive Newcomer™, and No-line Wonder™, at which point I realized that the characters have little to no actual importance and the narrative is just a framing device for the panic inducing special effects. Wonderful.
Eventually the tornado happens. Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ has inconvenienced himself by doing a task to earn the favor of Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™. Simultaneously, the local Idyllic Oklahoma Town™ High School graduation ceremony is interrupted by the tornado. Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ and Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™ are trapped in an abandoned building due to Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™’s long list of hippie values and the coincidence of a f$%king tornado! Byronic Widowed Father™, driven entirely by his traditionally masculine character traits and pure testosterone, accompanies Obviously Favored Son™ to locate whatever kind of environmentally offensive building Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ and Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™ were trapped in, eventually meeting with professional storm chasers Token Black Character™, Supposedly Likable Independant Woman™, Asshole™, Naive Newcomer™, and No-line Wonder™. Byronic Widowed Father™ somehow manages to prevent Supposedly Likeable Independant Woman™ from being slurped up by gale force winds less than 300 feet away. Byronic Widowed Father™ and Supposedly Likable Independant Woman™ have the first of many moments of Dead Wife Sexual Tension™ before they all climb into the scientifically impossible tank thing that Asshole™ managed to build.
Most of the cast is procedurally picked off by the series of tornadoes roaming the state; the most gruesome award goes to Naive Newcomer™. He refuses to step away from filming a flaming tornado, and is of course dragged into it set on fire, and flung hundreds of feet into the air while being continually immolated while I almost faint from sheer terror. No-line Wonder™ somehow disappeared without any notice between meeting Byronic Widowed Father™ in the downtown area and the flaming tornado. Whatever.
The climax occurs after Byronic Widowed Father™ rescues Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ and Down-to-Earth Teenage Girl™ from drowning in the collapsed building of unimportance, when four tornadoes converge into one giant wall of death tornado. (At which point the other five middle aged women in the audience collectively gasped.) All the children who had remained at the school for safety are somehow encouraged by Byronic Widowed Father™ to leave the damned storm shelter and get on school buses and try to f$%king drive away. The last bus, of course, with the main cast in tow, is unable to continue after a tree blocks their path. The rest of the newly formed wall of death tornado occurs with the main cast safely in a sewage tunnel. They come out mostly unharmed, except for Asshole™ and an unnamed Hispanic woman.
Life goes on message.
Sarah MacLachlan music.
Heartfelt reunion of Byronic Widowed Father™ Lovable Teenage MacGuffin™ and Obviously Favored Son™.
Setting aside some basic things, like the entirety of the plot and characterization, it was pretty good. None of the performances were particularly outstanding, but the at least 10 instances of pant-s#$@ting terror were enough to make up for it. For what it is, Into the Storm does what it does well, and for that I appreciated it.
So says the sixteen year old – I grant you, his is probably not the typical take on the film from his set. Nevertheless, it is authentic, as he was whispering enough of this in my ear in the opening dialogue sections to earn us a stink eye from one of the middle aged women. (I mean seriously…are you hearing the same thing I am? Do you really think you’re missing something important here?) I have to agree with him that the opening 30 minutes are painful at times. After remarking, “Well look at the pecs on Freddy from I, Carly!” I settled back to pay attention and began actively wondering how it is possible that someone was presumably paid to write that dialogue.
However, once the action started rolling, I was reeled in for the most part. I thought that the desperation of a parent trying to reach a lost child – whatever the risk – was well played by Richard Armitage. At certain points, especially at the formation of the super funnel, I was actively nauseous, and I really thought I might cry. I was a bit panicky for sure. In retrospect, I realize that we were sitting in the optimal position in the theater for this effect. We were at the back of the theater, in the last row, with the short wall blocking off the opening of the entrance ramp at our feet. With a speaker directly above us and both of us with our feet on the wall, we were actually in a sort of vibration cage in the action segments…the ground (the wall) was literally shaking under our feet, enhancing the overall sensations caused by the special effects. It was pretty frightening. Mission accomplished there I’d say.
Final thoughts? Could this film have been better? Sure…it could have had a stronger script, more character development, etc…but let’s address the real elephant in the room. That suit!
I mean really! I get that the goal is to show the “everyman” quality of Gary Fuller, but honestly…that suit! That is not “everyman” unless it’s every man who left it hanging on the JC Penney rack! Just look at the rise on those trousers which are belted about an inch below his nipples – that suit is an affront to every chino and blue shirt wearing high school administrator in the Midwestern US of A! Don’t even get me started on those SHOES!