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Viewer’s Collection – Week 1 of Ricky’s Picks: “Twister” (1996)

April 5, 2012

Let me first introduce our first contestant for Viewer’s Collection. Mr. Ricky Coker is a young man I attend the Palm Beach State Film Program with and if there’s one thing I can take away from him is he had a fondness for action movies. And in this first edition of my new column Viewer’s Collection we’ve got quite the selection of action favorites that Ricky has intrusted me in viewing and subsequently reviewing. So for this first week week we’re going to take a look at the Jan de Bont classic, “Twister”.

There was a phase in the mid 90s where [Steven] Spielberg was basically producing every big budget he could get his hands across, while sneakingly making his passion projects such as “Amistad” or “Saving Private Ryan”. “Twister” had a Spielberg movie written all over it, and yet he restrained himself from directing such a film; enter Jan de Bont. After coming off his high successful runaway hit, “Speed”, de Bont makes another hit in the form of “Twister”. It’s not necessarily inthralling as “Speed” was, but for any weather junkie or Bill Paxton fan, this was the movie for you. Disaster films were making a wild comeback, the summer of ’96 would forever be the owner of one of the BIGGEST disaster films of all time, I’ll give you a clue, it came out on the 4th of July. But, to kick off the summer season, “Twister” had that right approach to put viewers in for a ride of their life, in fact a few years later Universal released a sort of show/ride at their theme parks based on the hit film, but I’ll digress.

For television weatherman Bill Harding (Paxton) he is trying to get his tornado-hunter wife, Jo (Helen Hunt), to sign divorce papers so he can marry his girlfriend Melissa (Jami Gertz). But Mother Nature, in the form of a series of intense storms sweeping across Oklahoma, has other plans, by diverting an emotional storm, pitting them in a real life one. Soon the three have joined the team of stormchasers as they attempt to insert a revolutionary measuring device into the very heart of several extremely violent tornados, so that they can get a better understanding of how the storms work and when they can prevent damages for locals who live out in the Badlands of these monster storms.

To be perfectly blunt, these characters are boring. They’re cliched to say the least, Paxton’s girlfriend, played by Jami Gertz, gives a whole new meaning to the words ‘annoying bitch’. Paxton seems to be playing the same guy he’s played in countless other movies, in fact if I didn’t know better, I thought he was reprising his character from “The Abyss”. The only actor I can see following as a main protaganist had they done a spin-off was Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Dustin. In my eyes Hoffman can do no wrong. But, the main star of this film is the tornado, more importantly the effects. Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) was behind the magic of bringing the tornado sequences to life, and for back then the visuals were astounding and close to photorealistic in my minds eye. BUT, do they still hold up today? We’ve come a long way with visual effects design, ILM is in slow competition with the New Zealand based company WETA who brough Caesar to life in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, so do ILM’s effects hold up? Looking back at “Twister” I can see some faint signs of cheesey-ness to the visuals, however the sound design is pitch perfect, especially hearing it on a surround sound system, but the answer is yes & no. No, because, we’ve come so far since 1996, that was sixteen years ago! But, yes, in a way that it was the best ’96 had offered at that time, and you still remember the wonderment that the movie offered you, and there’s that hint of nostalgia.

It’s good to look back a movies such as “Twister”, I haven’t seen that film in maybe ten years, it holds up in small doses, the critic in me would like to tear it a new one, but for what it is, it’s a time capsule of my childhood and the love I have for the Summer Blockbuster. With 2012 promising to be a kill summer season, it’s almost poignent to look back at a summer that shared similar excitment for upcoming big movies.

Do you have any memories about this film? Do you agree or disagree with my take? Please, respond to me at



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