20- “Twister” #52PickUp

In a whirlwind of middling special effects and blockbuster action, for this week’s #52PickUp, I watched the 1996 Man vs. Nature film:

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Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt star as romantically-separated storm chasers as the former chases the latter for her to sign the divorce papers (with his new wife in tow).

But as movies are wont to do, those plans turn south as Bill’s brainchild, the tornado analysis machine named Dorothy is revealed to him; fully realized. He can’t resist trying to get her to fly.

Helen Hunt’s character, Jo, is devoted to getting this machine to work, in an effort to provide a longer lead time for early warning systems, so that people can get to safety sooner. In the opening scene, when she was a kid, her father was sucked into an F5 tornado, the strongest on the scale of One to Five.

Now she leads a team of devoted whack jobs that hunt down tornados, trying to unlock their secrets.

They would call themselves “eccentric.”

When Bill comes back, it’s like a homecoming, even though he assures them “he’s not back.” As they continue to track down tornado after tornado, Bill’s wife, a psychiatrist, begins to go mad at the “storm chaser scene” and soon jets, leaving Bill with his still-estranged wife.

Needless to say Dorothy flies and the world is saved! Wait– Not that big of a scope. An oversized soda cooler shoots its Pepsi-laden load into the cyclone of a massive F5, giving the team decades worth of data to sift through. So… YAY, science!

This film was a smash hit at the box office when it was released; in fact, it was the second highest grossing film of 1996 behind Independence Day. It made $291 mil here and over $494 mil worldwide.

Twister was directed by Jan De Bont, whom also directed Speed and Speed 2: Cruise Control. BUT, he was the cinematographer of such amazing films such as Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, Basic Instinct, and so much more.

A weird tidbit is that the film was co-written by Michael Crichton (author of many books including  Jurassic Park), and his wife Anne-Marie Martin.

It was one of my first tastes in blockbuster films, and boy oh boy, did I like it.

This was also a geeky thing to be excited about… Studio Crossover!

Where/ when did I first see it?

I honestly cannot recall. I believe it was first seen on VHS when it was released in late 1996, early 1997. I wish I had viewed it on the big screen for it would have blown my mind as a child.

How does it hold up?

If you’ve seen this movie, it’s a pretty fun ride, and it was during the year that I really began to fall in love with movies. But overall, the film’s special effects don’t hold up.

You know, come to think of it, I’ve determined what worked in special effects during the 90s. The decade offered some cool effects, but only when it tried to do something that wasn’t a person or creature (with the exception of the aforementioned Jurassic Park).

Not bad. Looks way better in motion though.

The parts of Twister that don’t hold up, come from the houses, trucks, and cows flying about. Honestly, most of the tornados look well enough, it’s just the ancillary crap that really makes for a time capsule of awful VFX.

The movie features a then-unknown Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Joey Slotnick, one of those underrated characters actors you’ve seen in everything.

I was surprised when I heard the technique they employed for the truck cab scenes. To create the effect of a stormy exterior, they would shoot the film overexposed, at brighter levels, so that the exterior would appear to be darker.

What did I like about it and why?

Twister was a thrill ride, and it made science sound cool. When “Dorothy” finally made it up into the tornado, you were excited that they were able to gather all of that data, but sad when you realized this hasn’t been done already in real life.

The movie had some ok jokes, insane characters, and a “will they, won’t they” that was clearly strung out too long, just before the closing credits.

Lessons Learned?

  1. Bill Paxton should play a villain more often, he has a good crazy face.
  2. Don’t fuck with mother nature.
  3. If you haven’t seen it, give it a whirl– Oh dammit! I wasn’t even trying, I promise!

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Where can you see it?

Check out Twister on CanIStream.It?

-Jamie (@GuyOnAWire)

 BONUS: What I DIDN’T Like About it–

I remember faintly one time I was invited to a neighbor’s house. Their son was a year above me, and while we got along just fine, we really weren’t friends. At any rate, they asked me to come over and watch this very movie.

I had to bring my copy of Twister and watch it there… with the son, and the mother and father. The father worked for the Department of Human Services, so I imagine in retrospect that it was a way to ask me questions about my life since my parents divorced and temporarily lost custody of my brother and I.

That, or they were too cheap to buy the damned movie themselves. It was one of the more awkward movie-watching experiences in my life. Well, besides the last one.


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