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Review: Into The Storm

There is one aspect of director Steven Quale’s Into the Storm which works extremely well, and that is the storm. The look of the storm, the set, the visual effects all work to near-perfection, and perhaps this speaks to Quale’s background as a second unit director, (he was also the visual effects supervisor on James Cameron’s Avatar, and worked with Cameron multiple times).

However, like many James Cameron projects, the script and characterization is a disaster, and not in the sense of a “disaster movie”. John Swetner, the writer of this film, is double-dipping this weekend, as Step Up: All In, another franchise not known for its memorable writing, is also released.

The characters of Into The Storm are basically variations on tired themes, and, what’s worse, Quale and Swetnam inject a strange framing and narrative device to feature them, relying on characters filming the action as it happens, but of course, in perfect representation (no shaky cam here). This method allows for the characters to be introduced via writing their names and occupations on the bottom of the screen, a lazy filmmaking technique if there ever was one. Why not actually present the characters through genuine storytelling and conflict?

There is Richard Armitage from The Hobbit as Gary Morris, the vice-principal of the local school and stern dad to nerdy Donnie (Max Deacon) and wisecracking Trey (Nathan Kress from iCarly). Donnie spends most of Into the Storm making goo-goo eyes at Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam-Carey) who displays not much in terms of a personality except for a love of the environment.

Though other characters make fun of her for this, the great irony of the perfect storm is never brought up. In fact, very little, if any, climate science is actually mentioned in the film. The audience never actually learns why this giant storm is taking place, or where, or how their fictional town never actually saw it coming.

Further adding to the array of ‘ideas’ of characters are Allison Stone (played by Prison Break’s Sarah Wayne Callies), a storm expert who basically spends the film looking at weather maps and saying “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”. She is like a bizarro Brody from Jaws, in that she never actually comes up with a way to prevent the oncoming storm. Her boss is Pete (Matt Walsh), a storm chaser who is obsessed with capturing the perfect footage, along with Jacob and Daryl (Jeremy Sumpter and Arlen Escarpeta), who add little of substance to the film.

Perhaps the most surprising element of Into the Storm is the word that comes to mind to describe the movie: chaste. Donnie manages to work up the courage to talk to Kaitlyn on the day of the big storm, (along with the school’s graduation). He takes her to film her application for a summer internship, and they get stuck in an abandoned paper mill. There is a spark of romance, but they basically cinch their burgeoning sense of trust and affection through chaste hugs. The film also teases a romance between workaholic mom Allison and widowed father Gary, culminating in an accidental lingering handhold, which also amounts to nothing.

This sense of chasteness, moreover, extends to the film’s endless moralizing. Essentially, the treacherous and cowardly characters all get swept up into the storm, while the good ones, the ones not afraid to live in the here and the now and seize every moment, manage to resist the biblical storm’s allure. #yotornadolo

But hey, the tornado that alights and spreads fire is pretty freakin’ awesome.

[star v=3]