Warner Bros. // 1996 // 113 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // May 23rd, 2008
Don't breathe. Don't look back. Go for a ride you'll never forget.
After several viewings in theaters and on DVD, I still think Jan de Bont's Twister rocks. It's a fast-paced action spectacle that fully utilizes the new special effects techniques of the '90s, offering eager audiences plenty of relentless eye candy and a horde of thrilling action sequences. I have to admit the film comes with some obvious flaws, but then again, nearly every action flick back then suffered from similar predicaments. The primary goal of Twister is to impress and entertain its viewers, and the film completes this mission brilliantly. Now the movie finally returns on DVD, looking better than ever and packing even more captivating extras.
Considering the film's age (yep, it's been twelve years) and its massive box-office success, I'm sure most of you have already seen it at least once, but for those who haven't had the chance and pleasure yet to check it out, here's what this epitome of silly, first-class entertainment is all about. Bill Paxton jumps into the role of Bill Harding, a TV weatherman who tracks down his wife Jo (Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets) to get her to sign their divorce papers. But when Bill discovers Jo and her team of storm chasers have finally managed to assemble Bill's lifelong project -- a measuring device intended to help develop a better storm warning system -- he's quickly pulled back into his old lifestyle, which consisted of chasing twisters and putting his life in danger. Much to the chagrin of his new fiancée Melissa (Jami Gertz), Bill and Jo embark on a perilous quest to find a monstrous twister and learn more about the dark side of nature.
Twister quickly became a massive success after it opened in theaters in 1996, grossing more than $490 million worldwide. Not only does the film deliver first-class special effects, but it also manages to fully entertain eager cinemagoers for almost two hours. I have to admit the main story line lacks substance, but the whole point of the film is to take its viewers on a roller coaster ride and push them straight into the middle of some of nature's most destructive forces. On a similar note, what else would you expect from an action spectacle written by Michael Crichton, executive produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Jan de Bont, helmer of the fast-paced blockbuster Speed? Twister is one of those flicks that don't take themselves too seriously. Clocking in at 113 minutes, Twisters supplies audiences with some stunning action sequences, usually involving Bill and Jo chasing down a big, nasty twister. The gorgeous visuals and the roaring sound of these beats leave viewers staring at the screen in awe, wondering what will happen next. The multiple storm formations look awesome for a film released in 1996.
Besides the constant action, you'll also stumble across some hilarious scenes involving Bill's team of crazy storm chasers. The solid team spirit surrounding each of these funny characters adds a little humor to the globally dark atmosphere of the film. Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Dustin provokes many laughs, exchanging some memorable conversations with Bill's stuck-up fiancée Melissa. You won't find that much subtlety in Twister. The story itself is simplistic and most characters remain rather shallow throughout, which explains why the dominating action makes up for most of these flaws.
The main characters are not necessarily compelling, but the actors do their best to come across as authentic as possible. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt prove to be a great team, and it's a pure pleasure to watch them follow the twisters with great enthusiasm and a fearless attitude. Acting honors also go to Cary Elwes, who perfectly portrays Bill's enemy Dr. Jonas Miller, a storm chaser who's mostly just in it for the money, and not for the science. Kudos also to Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Todd Field, Joey Slotnick, Wendle Josepher, and Jeremy Davies, who all deliver delightful performances as Bill and Jo's loyal followers.
Twister has seen several DVD releases now, but I have to admit the quality of the picture and sound just keeps getting better. Not counting the Blu-ray version, this two-disc edition provides the film with its sharpest look yet, offering a top-notch image quality that makes the tons of visual effects look even more gorgeous and impressive. The excellent audio transfer captivated me even more, with the strong sound of the roaring twisters turning the viewing into an even more realistic experience, provided you turn up your surround sound system.
As far as bonus material goes, the first disc includes a few trailers and the feature commentary by Jan de Bont and his visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier. The commentary is the same from the previous release, and de Bont and Fangmeier spend most of the time discussing the challenges of generating the film's great special effects. De Bont also talks about his actors and the main story line a bit, but the main focus here remains on the technical aspects of Twister, which is pretty insightful if you're particularly interested in cinematography and CGI.
Disc Two kicks off with "Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited," a highly informative 28-minute behind-the-scenes look with interviews from cast and crew members, who talks about everything from visual effects to the film's casting, the main characters and the nature of the plot. It's a fairly interesting piece because it includes a considerable amount of set footage and reveals important info Jan de Bont didn't touch on in his commentary. HBO's 13-minute documentary "The Making of Twister" centers on the techniques surrounding the principal photography of the film, which is a fine treat for fans who like to explore what goes on behind the cameras. On this second disc you'll also find a 45-minute special about twisters presented by The History Channel, as well as a music video and a short featurette entitled "Anatomy of a Twister." The special features section turns out to be quite helpful if you would like to learn more about the film and whole lot more about tornadoes.
The whole love story between Bill and Jo doesn't really fit in and is hardly credible, serving only as a way of slowing down the plot a little between the exciting action sequences. Still, as long as you're willing to go along with some of the cheesy dialogue, you'll still be able to fully enjoy the movie and, quite frankly, almost every action adventure during the '90s featured one of these silly love stories. Whether you pick Dante's Peak or Daylight, for instance, you'll always stumble across the two lead characters falling for each other under extreme conditions. This weakness quite simply doesn't ruin the film's marvelous entertainment, and that's all that matters.
Twister is a whole lot of fun, plain and simple. Despite a superficial story, the film achieves its goal and delivers top-notch action and excellent special effects. In the end, it is indeed a ride you'll never forget.
Review content copyright © 2008 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary by Jan De Bont and Stefan Fangmeier
* "Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited"
* "The History Channel Documentary Nature Tech: Tornadoes"
* "Anatomy of a Twister"
* "HBO First Look: The Making of Twister"
* Van Halen's "Humans Being" Music Video
* Theatrical Trailer
* Original DVD Verdict Review
* DVD Verdict Review - Twister (Blu-ray)