"I spent the last week filming time capsule videos about the future, and now it looks like I don't have one."
The found footage film has gone through a lot of changes since The Blair Witch Project more or less introduced it as a cheap, moneymaking genre film fifteen years ago. As audiences have theoretically gotten savvier about questioning how and why certain things were being filmed, filmmakers have in turn created an ever increasing number of boneheaded explanations. While some of these films have succeeded, Chronicle leaps immediately to mind, most are an abysmal failure mainly because they become so beholden to the concept that everything else becomes secondary. Writers are now so consumed by presenting reasons for the movie existing in the first place that character, plot, and virtually all the basic tenets of screenwriting go out the window.
The latest found footage film Into the Storm decided to spice up the genre by mashing it together with another genre film that has just as many well-worn tropes, the disaster film. Could it succeed despite the overwhelming odds against it, or would it be another in a long line of missed opportunities? Read on to find out...
The residents of the small town of Silverton, Oklahoma are prepping for high school graduation. Donnie (Max Deacon) has been tasked by his distant single father Gary (Richard Armitage), the vice principal of the high school, to create time capsule videos for all of the graduating seniors which they can view in 25 years. Donnie has an unrequited crush on Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey), the most popular girl in school who just so happens to need help creating a video to land that big summer internship. Donnie offers his services and pawns off graduation filming duties onto his younger brother Trey (Nathan Kress).
A group of storm chasers, led by Pete (Matt Walsh), are making a documentary about tornados, but have yet to encounter one. Pete blames PhD Meteorologist--and single mom away from her daughter for the first time in her life--Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) for being too scientific with the locations she's sending them to, and not using instinct enough to track the storms properly. Just as their funding gets cut, the group track the storm to Silverton, which at first seems as if it's going to be another dead zone. What no one in the town of Silverton is prepared for, however, is that the biggest storm in history is headed right toward them.
First things first, I really need to get this off of my chest before I go any further with this review, this is a god damned stupid movie. It might be one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen, and that is really saying something. The film mindlessly telegraphs everything that's going to happen, allowing anyone with even a cursory knowledge of poor screenwriting clichés to stay five steps ahead of every single character in the film. When Gary finds out that his son Trey is carrying a knife, even though he's not allowed to have one, he confiscates it from his son and puts it in his pocket because, well, he's going to need it later in the film. Just as Pete's about to fire Allison for her umpteenth bad judgment call, she turns out to be right on the money with her prediction. Will a casual mention by Donnie of childhood CPR lessons come in handy later in the film? Will the guy on the storm chaser team that almost quits because he fears for his life be the first to die? Will the most selfish character in the film be the one that makes the most selfless sacrifice at the end?
This is horseshit hack screenwriting 101 which is only further exacerbated by the fact that it's also forced to introduce characters that have access to cameras because they're going to need to cover every angle of the storm. Honestly I was shocked that Gary and Allison didn't end up together in the end, because it's basically the only trope the film manages to avoid, and then expects you to pat it on the back for dodging that one piece of flying debris. It's the kind of film that creates flawed characters solely to give them redemption arcs, and literally stops the action of the film cold to pay homage first to Twister then, bafflingly, to The Matrix Revolutions (which, like this film, are both Warner Bros. productions). It also takes itself so seriously that it doesn't even see the inherent comedy in having a cameraman chase his camera into the tornado, when five minutes earlier he was pissing his pants because he was afraid he was going to die while shooting the storm.
The visual effects are impressive, when they mercifully show up about thirty minutes into the movie, but they're not remotely worth sitting through such dross to get to. The film this seems to have the most in common with is 2010's Skyline, a film that was made by two visual effects supervisors who spent their lives watching sci-fi flicks and thought to themselves, we can make a better movie than these. If you've seen Skyline, you know how miserably they failed to do just that, and this film reeks of the same sense of unearned self-importance. If Michael Bay's career has proved nothing else, it's that the best visual effects in the world are utterly meaningless when they're in support of a story that's just not worth telling.
The actors are all fine, and do their jobs effectively, but none of them stand out. While the average person doesn't know who Matt Walsh is, I must admit I was a tad disappointed to see him playing such a humorless character when he's an hysterically funny and gifted comedic actor. Richard Armitage, freed from the confines of his Thorin Oakenshield makeup, is also serviceable, but looks distractingly like he could be Hugh Jackman's stunt double, and really doesn't give his character much time to transform into a decent guy, it just sort of happens all of a sudden. The atrocious script does him no favors, but it would have been nice to actually see an arc there rather than just a change of heart that's no more noteworthy than a light switch being flipped on.
Into the Storm is pure garbage. It's a film that falls victim to literally every cliché imaginable, except the one exception I already mentioned, and treats well worn territory like they're discovering the cure for cancer. It's one of those films where the opening scene lets you know exactly how ridiculous and clunky it's going to be, and if you're not on board by the time the title comes on screen, you're not likely to ever get on board. The found footage genre as a whole just needs to disappear. There's nothing left to discover, and even this film gives up on it at times, gaining camera angles and footage that was absolutely impossible given the number of people in the shot. It's a dumb film that has a blatant disregard for the intelligence of the average audience member, and those that can't recognize that they're being pandered to are likely the only ones that will get any enjoyment out of it.
GO Rating: 1/5
[Photos via BoxOfficeMojo]