20 Years On: “Twister”

Some films are just fun, and that’s all you need to know and understand. The how doesn’t really matter, because if you begin thinking too hard about it, you may find yourself rethinking the whole watching of the film at all. Granted, even with this idea at work, missing out on some films wouldn’t be a bad thing.

The Warner Bros. Pictures film “Twister” is oddly exciting given that there’s very little to work with or pull you in.

This action film stars Helen Hunt (“Ride”, “Decoding Annie Parker”), Bill Paxton (“Term Life”, “Texas Rising”), Cary Elwes (“Family Guy”, “The Art of More”), and Jami Gertz (“The Neighbors”, “Dealin’ with Idiots”).

The film is directed by Jan de Bont (“Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life”, “The Haunting (1999)”) and written by Michael Crichton (“ER”, “Rising Sun”) and Anne-Marie Martin.

The film originally opened on May 10, 1996. It would go on to be nominated for two Academy Awards, one BAFTA Award, and two Razzie Awards, winning one.

I’m not sure what made me want to see this film again, or write about it, let alone get excited about it, except for the fact that it’s now 20 years old. It’s a film I’ve seen a few times as I was growing up, but I don’t think it’s one that ever truly did anything for me. If it was on TV, yeah, I may have watched it or just put it on as background noise, but past that, not much effort was ever put in to see it agin. Until now it appears. In some ways I get why this may have not been a film that truly interested me, but now having seen it in its entirety, I get why it was a film that people seemed to like enough to make it a massive hit at the box office.

While it may have earned enough money, I’m still struggling as to why? Did the visuals contained in the tv spots and other marketing, that was used then, just that damn impressive? Sure Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) did the visuals, which I’ll get to in a moment, but there’s not much of a reason to see this film. There’s not really a story. It’s an incredibly thin story, which makes sense and is simple, maybe too simple, yet oddly exciting at all the right moments. For me, watching this film, and picking up on this quite quickly, made a bit of a difference. I was distracted by this fact, and kept looking for things that allowed for this film’s story to go from A to B to C. There really wasn’t much. I can say that by films end, I was thoroughly convinced I only got part of the film. Sometimes throwing the audience into a certain world, where there’s clearly been a lot already happening, works, other times, it’s just weird.

Fortunately, as this film didn’t try to give you much of a story, the visual effects created by ILM came in and wonderfully distracted me from this point. This film is really all about the effects and the sequences, which I’ll discuss below. ILM has always been a leader in effects, and here it shows what a film can look like when the effects are that good. There were a few moments when you could tell that time wasn’t being too kind, but they weren’t for very long or overly distracting. In this case, like with “Jumanji (1995)” and “Jurassic Park”, to name a few, it’s just interesting to focus on something like this, and think about where technology was at that time, and how it’s grown over the last 20 years. Once again I am going to be forever thankful for ILM, even if the company single handily gave this film the best things about the film.

And because the effects were so good, the various action sequences were able to come to life pretty well. Action, in this case, it’s not what I’d call action. Whatever you want to call it, it was pretty damn exciting! I wasn’t aware I was going to feel almost like I was there, or even just respond to the overall intensity level that was achieved. It may not be as high as with other films, action or not, but it was high enough that I couldn’t believe I was responding the way that I was. It certainly made this film more entertaining and worth it. For a film about tornadoes, I’m surprised to managed to achieve the excitement level it did. Maybe it’s just because they were executed in a bit of an over the top way, or something. I can’t even describe it. I mean, come on, there is a flying cow involved after all. And during these sequences, and a few other non-action-y places, there was some sort of humor present. See cow for reference. It just made the film a bit more dynamic and fun, especially since I didn’t hate how the humor came about or what it was that made me chuckle.

However, I can’t say the same about the character’s. It’s actually not that I found any of the characters annoying, although Gertz finished her arc as being just that, but there wasn’t anything that really had me caring. I could see the dramatic moments, and how the pasts of Hunt’s and Paxton’s characters drove some of the drama, but it wasn’t all that interesting. Again, by a certain point, all I cared about were the tornado sequences. The fluff in the middle, was just that. Fluff. In terms of likability, there were no problems. I actually found them all fun to watch, even if I think they got too excited about putting their lives at risk. When the characters spoke, I listened, and because I don’t know the difference, I believed everything they said. It sound correct and plausible to me! I guess with this element, I don’t need to think about how little actual plot there is. This is science! Okay, closest thing to it. Either way, I was on board with it!

Sometimes an action film doesn’t need to have massive and complicated action sequences to wow me. Simpler apparently does wonders. I usually complain a lot about a film not having much of a story, if any, and while it doesn’t fully please me this one doesn’t, I’m not bothered by it. There’s enough to show the writers cared about the characters, but they knew exactly what type of film they were aiming for. And I’d say they succeeded in delivering it.

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