Film review: Mother Nature’s power is unleashed in ‘Into the Storm’

Film review: Mother Nature’s power is unleashed in ‘Into the Storm’
“Into the Storm” pits Mother Nature against people. Photo by Ron Phillips

What the not half bad “Into the Storm” lacks in above-average storytelling and acting, it makes up for in visual turbulence and stylistic behind-the-camera flair.

With climate change and global warming becoming increasingly regular news topics — as if they hadn’t already years ago — I think it’s safe to say we can expect Hollywood to flood our multiplexes with so-called “cli-fi” movies.

For moviegoing audiences, that means the merger between entertainment and the Earth is pretty much inevitable, whether we like it or not.

Regardless of our opinion on the matter, we get to travel “Into the Storm.”

Within a short period of time, the town of Silverton is devastated by an unprecedented tornado onslaught.

Every man, woman and child is at the mercy of these deadly and unpredictable twisters, all the while the worst is preparing to unleash its fury.

Many people take shelter as some search for their missing loved ones, while others pursue the storm in the hope of capturing the wrath of Mother Nature.

What is immediately noticeable about “Into the Storm” is the fact that it is presented in a first-person POV style, courtesy of the cameras carried by several key characters.

This technique places the audience directly in the middle of the onscreen events, producing an immersive effect that makes the apprehension in the atmosphere feel all the more tangible, both before and after the torrential rain, winds, and debris start flying all over the place.

Through these various lenses, the film centers on professional storm chasers with differing ideas on how to handle the erratic crisis; two thrill-seekers bent on becoming Internet celebrities; a teenage boy who deals with not only asking a girl out but also struggling with his strained relationship with his father.

It’s a “day-in-the-life” scenario for these individuals, each one distinguished by a different pair of eyes and a motivation.

And when that creative shooting approach is paired up with one hell of a weather catastrophe that arrives fast and attacks with full force, the end result is massive.

Whoever signed on to be a part of director Steven Quale’s visual effects team should be proud of their efforts.

The CGI obeys one simple rule: the bigger the storm, the bigger the display.

Whether it involves multiple twisters shooting down from the sky or a fire tornado incinerating all in its path, the technical mastery is downright amazing. But it is not until the colossal EF5 tornado appears toward the climax that things get really monstrous, raising the wreckage level several notches higher as the deafening sounds of inclement weather intensify by the minute.

Normally this is where I’d criticize the emphasis placed on spectacle over soul, but, surprisingly, that doesn’t turn out to be the case here.

In fact, the immense visuals and furious sounds are interspersed among the lulls in the chaos in which the quiet character moments have room to breathe, establishing an effective balance between the contrasting elements.

Cast performances are relatively plain, and I wouldn’t expect them to be anything more when the main focus of “Into the Storm” is the tornadoes.

Having said that, the film does show an interest in seeing how different people react in the face of extreme danger, and the actors prove decent enough to ensure the ordinary folks they’re portraying matter.

But while the many personal angles from which “Into the Storm” experiences the tornado crisis are unquestionably eye-catching, the narrative is anything but.

The entire film centers on twisters and the people feeling their rage; there isn’t much story structure to speak of, let alone development.

Considering the 89-minute running time, this is no surprise, though I still think the director’s preference for a basic “here-and-now” plot could’ve been much more substantial.

All’s well that ends well for “Into the Storm,” which, notwithstanding its drawbacks, manages to be a reasonably entertaining disaster thriller.

It’s not my cup of tea, but I’m certain it’ll please anybody who enjoys seeing Mother Nature’s dark side wreak havoc on humanity.

 

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references.

Run time: 1 hour and 29 minutes

Playing: In general release

 

6 Comments
  1. Dan Bloom 12 months ago

    Noah, well said re “With climate change and global warming becoming increasingly regular news topics — as if they hadn’t already years ago — I think it’s safe to say we can expect Hollywood to flood our multiplexes with so-called “cli-fi” movies.”

    see http://korgw101.blogspot.com for more on this cli fi genre in Hollywood….

    Question: Recently, Dan, you have been changing your focus away from cli fi novels and their acceptance in the literary world to a new focus on the power of cli fi to impact Hollywood movies and therefore impact the world. Can you explain this change in focus?————————————– Dan Bloom: Yes, glad to. It seems that the entrenched powers in the literary world controlled by book editors and book reviewers at such publications as Publishers Weekly (Jim Milliot), The Washington Post Bookworld (Ron Charles), The Los Angeles Times Book Section (Carolyn Kellogg, Hector Tobar, David Ulin), the New York Times (Pamela Paul, Dwight Garner, Peter Lattman, Alexandra Alter), the Guardian (Claire Armitstead, Alison Flood) and the Financial Times (Pilita Clark) simply are not interested in the rise of the cli fi genre term among novelists and short story writers and seem to be bent on keeping the cli fi term out of their pages altogether. I am not sure why, but maybe it has to do with literary critics and book section editors feeling that literature is a sacred calling and only these editors — as gatekeepers — can decide what’s real and what’s not in the literary world. So be it. They are the gatekeepers and they are apparently not interersted in the rise of cli fi as a literary genre term.——————- Question: So?——————- Dan Bloom: In addition, there are dozens of people — mostly on blogs — arguing about what the cli fi genre term ”really” means (to them) and who can define it and which direction cli fi should go in, and while all viewpoints are valid and worth considering, this shoutfest of who’s right and who knows best is serving no real purpose. The more I thought about it, in terms of my PR efforts as a climate activist promoting cli fi as a wake up call genre, not a mere literary genre to pick apart and debate, the more I began to realize that the print novel is basically dead and has not power anymore to influence people or impact society. It’s just a bunch of gatekeepers on one hand, and dozens of novelists arguing over the own individual views of what cli fi should be. Neither the gatekeepers nor the blogging debaters help.—————- Question: And?———————– So I feel that in fact the real power of cli fi to change the world, to wake people up likes in Hollywood and world cinema, indie cinema as well. And Hollywood and the media covering Hollywood, much more than the entrenched literary world gatekeepers in New York and London and Washington and Los Angeles, are getting the cli fi message much better and much more directly than the print media gatekeepers. Hollywood and the media covering Hollywood has really embraced cli fi and that is where the real power now lies I feel. Novels about climate change can be called whatever people want to call them — sci fi, or speculative fiction, or eco-fiction or eco-fantasty or YA novels — and all those categories are good and cool, but they are not cli fi as the term was originally created and coined. So I noticed that in fact Hollywood was much more with it, in terms of “getting” the cli fi message. When TIME magazine did a big cli fi spread on summer cli fi movies in its May 19, 2014 issue what went worldwide with its readership, I noticed a sea change in the way the media was handling the new, mushrooming cli fi genre. After the TIME article by Lily Rothman, who took the time to interview me for her story by telephone from New York, the New York Times Room for Debate picked up the Hollywood angle for cli fi movies, talking about films such as SNOWPIERCER and INTO THE STORM, GODZILLA and NOAH and INTERSTELLAR. So I came to realize that Hollywood is where cli fi can have its biggest impact, since print novels are dead in the water and the few that do get published by the major publishers are reviewed only by the gatekeepers at the Times and the Post and the LAT and the Guardian. —————– QUESTION: Do you think the future of cli fi lies in Hollywood?————————— DAN BLOOM: Yes, definitely. From Mashable’s Andrew Freedman to the New York Post’s PAGE SIX gossip column, there was more ink about Hollywood and cli fi than anywhere else. The print novels industry is blind to cli fi. Books are dying. Few people read anymore, on a large scale. Novels have little impact anymore. Movies reign supreme, and this is where I want to take the cli fi genre now: Hollywood. Hollywood players get it, Hollywood media gets it, and even print media gets that books are dead and movies rule the day now. So I am following my gut instinct and my media radar and moving the cli fi genre into the realm of Hollywood film directors and producers and writers. There is a future for cli fi in Hollywood. There is no future for cli fi in novels. The gatekeepers won’t let it in, and the gatekeepers don’t want to be activists. Movie directors get it and they want to change the world. So that’s where cli fi has found its true home. And it’s good, this is a good development. I plan now to focus my PR campaigns for cli fi in the film world, and not just in the USA and but worldwide too. Cinema has the power to impact the world over important issues of climate change and global warming. Novels have no such power anymore. Sad, but true. And with the gatekeepers busy gatekeeping, and a dozen bloggers arguing over this and that, cli fi is going nowhere in the literary world. Speculative fiction and eco-fiction still have a place there, though, and good novelists will find readers in thsoe genres. They won’t find readers in the cli fi literary genre because the gatekeepers won’t let them in, and the aruments going around in circles merely cloud the big picture. So Hollywood is where it’s at.——————— QUESTION: You’re serious, aren’t you.——————————————————————————————————– Dan Bloom: Very serious. You know me, I take the cli fi genre very seriously, and I am committed to finding the best home for it. Hollywood is where cli fi belongs. The literary world does not care, and won’t let the people in who do care. Do the math: movies reach millions. Novels reach 3000 people, if that many. And the liteary gatekeepers make sure that nobody gets in they don’t approve of first.

  2. dan bloom 12 months ago

    Noah, well said re “With climate change and global warming becoming increasingly regular news topics — as if they hadn’t already years ago — I think it’s safe to say we can expect Hollywood to flood our multiplexes with so-called “cli-fi” movies.”

    see http://korgw101.blogspot.com for more on this cli fi genre in Hollywood….

  3. dan bloom 12 months ago

    Noah, well said re “With climate change and global warming becoming increasingly regular news topics — as if they hadn’t already years ago — I think it’s safe to say we can expect Hollywood to flood our multiplexes with so-called “cli-fi” movies.”

  4. dan bloom 12 months ago

    Noah, well said re “With climate change and global warming becoming increasingly regular news topics — as if they hadn’t already years ago — I think it’s safe to say we can expect Hollywood to flood our multiplexes with so-called “cli-fi” movies

  5. dan bloom 12 months ago

    Noah, well said re “With climate change and global warming becoming increasingly regular news topics — as if they hadn’t already years ago — I think it’s safe to say we can expect Hollywood to flood our multiplexes with so-called “cli-fi”

  6. dan bloom 12 months ago

    Does Into the Storm qualify as “Cli-Fi,” or “Climate Fiction?”

    SWC: The funny thing is, there were parts of the script, at the time that we were shooting it, that were fiction that have now actually come to pass, in terms of the strength of the tornados, the fire tornado sequences. Some other things. This is a very timely movie in a lot of ways. I think the climate conversation is one that’s really, I don’t want to say “heating up,” because that sounds like a terrible pun, but it’s something that’s very current and that’s on everybody’s, radar.

    AE: Radar.

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