Overview: A series of freak tornadoes is documented by high-school students and storm-chasers. Warner Bros., 2014, Rated PG-13, 89 Minutes
Into The Snore: Do you remember the episode of The Office where they have to figure out how to spend a surplus so they can justify keeping the same budget? One must imagine that similar events were taking place at Warner Bros. when this film was green-lit. It’s one thing for a film to lack passion, but Into the Storm hardly feels finished. Every inch of this film is slapdash and hastily assembled, as if the studio challenged the producers to complete the entire film in three weeks. Then again, that restriction may have led to some enthusiasm for the filmmaking process, and not the careless mess we ended up with.
Into The Chore: That apathy extends to the script as well. There’s probably a good 25 minutes of pure tornado destruction in here, which leaves a whole hour spent with the characters. You can feel the filmmakers’ resentment at having to tell a story about people and their relationships. The film is populated by stock characters, and their interactions are all drawn straight from Screenwriting for Dummies. There’s a Stern Father, a Shy But Sensitive Teen, a Boisterous Younger Brother, a Wacky Redneck, a Girl, and many others. Sometimes you wonder if the film is even aware of what it’s saying. The message of this movie, which I know because several characters say it out loud at the end, is “Live for today, because you never know when a tornado is gonna kill you.” They probably meant this to be optimistic, but it comes across as nihilistic. Then there are scenes where it becomes a Weather Channel PSA, and the characters say things like, “Hopefully people will see this footage and realize how important disaster preparedness is.” You half-expect a web address to appear at the bottom of the screen encouraging families to “make a tornado plan.”
Into the Pun: This is a found-footage film, and it takes every possible opportunity to justify the aesthetic. The storm-chasers are making a documentary, students are making “video time capsules” and filming school projects, “Youtube Daredevils” are performing stunts. You get the idea. The problem is that every other aspect of the film undercuts the found-footage aspect. Every single camera produces identical footage, even when they’re supposedly GoPros or tiny things attached to truck wheels. And the quality of that footage is so high that you have to wonder why they bothered doing it at all, especially since the (admittedly impressive) special effects would have necessitated a high budget regardless. At times there are over-the-shoulder shots that are visibly impossible. That would be forgivable if the film didn’t eventually give up and include shots that clearly aren’t from any “real” camera. Again, it’s like they weren’t even trying.
Wrap-Up: Into the Storm is an embarrassing disaster that’s barely redeemed by its flashy effects.