“Twister” is a solid summer actioner full of great effects and a decently entertaining story. Thanks to the action-infused pace, the film still proves to be an inspiring force for all summer action films.
Twister (1996, DVD)
Directors: Jan De Bont
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg
Writers: Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin
Features: * Documentary * Commentary * Featurettes * Music Video * Trailers
Helen Hunt ... Dr. Jo Harding
Bill Paxton ... Bill Harding
Cary Elwes ... Dr. Jonas Miller
Jami Gertz ... Dr. Melissa Reeves
Philip Seymour Hoffman ... Dustin Davis
Lois Smith ... Meg Greene
Alan Ruck ... Robert 'Rabbit' Nurick
Sean Whalen ... Allan Sanders
Scott Thomson ... Jason 'Preacher' Rowe
Todd Field ... Tim 'Beltzer' Lewis
Joey Slotnick ... Joey
Wendle Josepher ... Haynes
Jeremy Davies ... Laurence
“Twister” holds a special place in summer moviegoer’s hearts because it was the follow-up to the CG-infused adventure “Jurassic Park” not to mention that it was the first of many disaster films that popped up in the late 90s. The film was co-written by Michael Crichton, produced by Steven Spielberg and it featured all-new CG effects that promised to dazzle and delight just as much as the rabid dinosaurs did in “Park.” To add to the buzz, the film was director Jan De Bont’s high octane follow-up to “Speed.”
It also marks the first time this type of CG-infused mania would become a major staple of summer mainstream cinema. After “Twister” everything would change. There wouldn’t be a summer without an CG laden picture. Today, putting CG in a film is hardly engaging. We’ve moved on to DLP high def digital screenings and 3-D to excite. But when “Twister” was released, CG was all the rave.
In many ways, “Twister” feels like a movie ride. It’s a concept piece built around difficult, complex CG effects. It’s a film designed to be a fun spectacle. No one really counted on the film actually being any good, but it was.
“Twister” follows a team of storm chasers, a culture I’ve grown to appreciate over the years. They are hoping to test a device that can better track tornados. Of course, because tornados aren’t villainous enough, they are met with corporate sponsored competition—a group of well funded scientists who have a similar, sleeker, better looking storm tracking device made with the latest, greatest technology.
It seems unclear if the producers and filmmakers were aware of the metaphorical irony of this story. In this particular summer, there was one major CG-laden spectacle going against a down-and-out model and matte film. The true irony is that the model and matte film, “Independence Day” outperformed “Twister” that summer, both domestically and overseas taking in almost double the amount (in total) on a smaller budget. The corporate sponsored beast, if you will, was taken down by the little guys.
Now that the dust has settled, both films can be properly looked at objectively. Thankfully, both still hold up well. In many ways, “Twister” is, marginally, the better film of the two features—from a purely story motivated turn. It’s got a more centralized story and driving force and it doesn’t have the cheeky illogical nature of “ID4.” It’s certainly entertaining too and well written with decent characters, performances and direction.
The film is designed like a fun ride, and even today, it works as high octane entertainment, thanks in large part to the colorful cast of characters and, yes, great effects. It’s hard to compare the two features, however, as both films are so vastly different.
That said, “Twister” is a bit darker in style and context than “ID4.” The film has a murky, country feel to it that may turn off some viewers. This just adds to the irony of the film as a metaphor considering how new and sleek the film was billed as.
As for the leads, Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt are great together and this marks one of the last times Bill Paxton is given the light of day in mainstream cinema. It’s sort of odd that Paxton was chosen as the film’s lead given his former B-actor status. “Apollo 13” did wonders for his career. As a fan of the classic character actor, seeing him in a lead role was almost surreal, like Sam Raimi directing “Spider-man.”
“Twister” is a solid summer actioner full of great effects and a decently entertaining story. The characters are fun, but the setting is decidedly murky. Thanks to the action-infused pace, the film still proves to be an inspiring force for all summer action films.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: A-
Film Value: B+
Warner presents “Twister” on DVD for the third time now, again digitally remastered. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.40:1. The transfer has been considerably cleaned from the last transfer. Gone are dust specks and light fuzz. Also gone are digital compression issues like artifacting that plagued all previous releases. Grain is still present as this was an era before effects got cleaned up before release. This was once a reference DVD title, shown at Best Buys across the nation, but today it’s merely another top notch catalog title. Nothing more, nothing less. I’d be curious to take a look at the Blu-ray edition of the film and see what improvement high def has made, if any, to this film.
The film is presented in a robust Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This track still remains reference material for many DVD enthusiasts and it doesn’t seem like the mix has seen much tweaking since the original DVD. Surround effects and always present and extremely powerful. Dialogue is a tad muffled, but overall, this is a solid audio presentation with little dating to it at all.
Still, I would have preferred to hear a DTS track (particularly a lossless track on Blu-ray) as this film was specifically designed for DTS at the time of its release. The previous DVD special edition had this track, but sadly it’s absent on this release.
This is the third DVD edition of “Twister” and the second special edition. Warner has been ported over all of the previous bonus material. This is the first two-disc special edition released of the film.
• Commentary – Featuring director Jan De Bont and his visual effects supervisor. It’s a fairly decent track, but a bit too technical in some spots, coming off a bit dryer than most would like.
• Trailers – You know the drill with this one. “Twister” did have a cool advertising campaign. It was fun, scary and somewhat mysterious.
• Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited – Basically a retrospective piece about the film and its cultural impact on mainstream summer actioners, featuring cast and crew.
• Featurettes: Anatomy of a Twister and HBO First Look – Two behind-the-scenes documentaries are fairly dated and not really info-packed. Still, they are worth a look for long-time fans though most will have already seen this material.
• Documentary: Nature Tech-Tornadoes – Basically this is a 45 minute documentary about tornadoes. It doesn’t really connect to the film itself, but rather the destructive force that’s villainized in the film. Interesting for fans of this sort of thing.
• Music Video: Van Halen’s “Humans Being” – You’ll either love it or hate it. Deep down, I still love it.
“Twister” is a solid film with a solid DVD presentation. The absence of a DTS track is the only mark against this otherwise fine presentation. It will always hold a special place in my heart as one of the first big summer CG action fests, as well one of Bill Paxton’s only major leading roles.
DVD Report Card:
Recommendation: Worth owning. High def owners might want to pick up the Blu-ray.
On DVD and Blu-ray: May 6th, 2007.
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----R. L. Shaffer