Like many others, I loved the 1996 film Twister, is now a classic of the “disaster porn” genre and has been in regular weekend and holiday rotation on broadcast and cable networks for nearly 30 years. We finally got a follow-up on twisters, directed by Lee Isaac Chung (in pain). Universal Pictures dropped the official Super Bowl trailer on Sunday.
(Some spoilers for the original film below.)
Twister rocked the 1996 box office, grossing $495 million worldwide and earning an Oscar nomination for special effects. Critics’ reactions were more mixed. The movie earned well-deserved praise for its special effects and entertainment value. Who can forget the flying cows, the jaw-dropping CGI twisters, and the classic scene when a tornado suddenly bursts through a drive-in movie screen right in the middle of The Shining One? But others criticized the thin character development and dismissed the film as “loud,” “dumb,” and “a triumph of storytelling technology and actor skill.”
Is the movie always ridiculously over-the-top (especially the final encounter with F5)? Yes indeed. Are the supporting characters one-note? True, especially Cary Elwes, the company’s underfunded rival scientist. But Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton have real chemistry as estranged storm-chasing spouses Jo and Bill; their relationship is the heart of the film and is clearly heard by the audience.
And yes, the science elements are exaggerated for the big screen, although the flying cows (plus pigs, horses, and various vehicles) are perfect during real tornadoes. The fictional sensing system DOROTHY was inspired by the instrument of the 1970s to measure the real-time conditions of tornadoes called TOTO (Totable Tornado Observatory). And many young people like the movie so much that they want to become tornado scientists themselves. The number of meteorological majors in the US grew by 10 percent in the 1990s, and the University of Oklahoma doubled its meteorology program. That’s pretty impressive for supposedly loud and dumb mindless entertainment.
Rumors are circulating in 2020 about a possible remake of the Twister, with Joseph Kosinski directing, but it was lost the following year. Hunt then proposed a sequel, writing and directing, but the studio rejected that idea. (Hunt apparently killed off his own character, Jo, in the draft script. Brave move.) Eventually the project became Twisters, centered on the daughter of Hunt and Paxton’s characters from the original. It’s now being called a standalone sequel, though, so that connection may have fallen by the wayside during development. According to the official premise:
[Daisy] Edgar-Jones stars as Kate Cooper, a former storm chaser haunted by a devastating encounter with a tornado during her college years who now studies storm patterns on safe screens in New York City. He is lured back to the open field by his friend, Javi (Anthony Ramos) to test the new tracking system. There, he crosses paths with Tyler Owens (Glen Powell), the charming and carefree social-media superstar who thrives on posting his storm-chasing adventures with his raunchy crew, the riskier the better. As hurricane season worsens, terrifying events never before seen are unleashed, and Kate, Tyler and their competing teams find themselves right in the paths of multiple storm systems that gathered in central Oklahoma for the fight of their lives.
The cast also includes Maura Tierney, Brandon Perea, Daryl McCormack, Sasha Lane, Kiernan Shipka, Nik Dodani, Harry Hadden-Paton, David Corenswet, Tunde Adebimpe, and Katy O’Brian.
The trailer itself is just a series of fantastically terrifying storm chasing sequences interspersed with a bit of human interaction, like some romantic sparks between Kate and Tyler the exhibitionist YouTuber ( at least Tyler seems to feel it). Screenwriter Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) consulted all kinds of scientific experts while working on the screenplay and the storyline included more causes and effects of climate change as it related to more frequent and violent weather—including tornadoes.
Twisters seems to have all the same essential elements of its predecessor, including the DOROTHY system—an unusual choice for something that’s meant to be a completely original story—but it still can’t help feeling that at best like a pale reflection. And the performances come out louder and louder, at least in the trailer. The cast was game enough, but yelled “Twins! We got TWINS!” when a tornado splits in two is less effective than Hunt’s Jo casually watching random livestock fly into their truck and cheerfully commenting, “Cow.” Even Bill’s citified fiancee (Jami Gertz) can only do a burning-eyed “I gotta go, we got cows” on her cell phone. Sometimes less is more.
Then again, the original 1996 trailer for Twister the charm, humor, and entertainment value of the film was not captured. We will have to wait and see if Chung can do it; he is a great director and an interesting choice to direct this particular project. And who knows? perhaps Twisters will inspire another new generation of storm chasers and climate scientists.
Twisters hits theaters on July 19, 2024.
Image listing via YouTube/Universal Pictures