Welcome to “Trailer Tuesday” where I talk about trailers for upcoming movies.
Here on the Ship’s Log I usually feature trailers that strike my interest in some way, either by promoting a film that looks exciting to me or by using an interesting technique within the trailer itself. Sometimes, however, a trailer will leave me shaking my head, rolling my eyes, or snorting with derisive laughter. Take a look at this:
I’ve made my love of Twister pretty clear over the years, and could easily write about and discuss that film almost endlessly. It’s a constant viewing staple in my house, it was the first film I ever saw in a stadium seating movie theater (which was very exciting back in 1996, even if I had to sit in the top row and I felt like I was going to pass out from the heat in the new theater), and it made a huge impression on me. For my money, it has what I still consider to be the greatest visual effects ever put onscreen, but more than that it surrounded those effects with a compelling story and characters, told in an exciting and exciting fashion.
So needless to say, any tornado-related film is going to be a tough sell not only to me but to anyone who has seen Twister. The trailer for Into the Storm played in front of Edge of Tomorrow at my showing, and it actually starts in an intriguing way. Going from an image of a sunny day to a black screen with the word LISTEN while filling the darkness of the theater with the familiar sounds of a deadly storm complete with warning sirens is an extreme effective and evocative way to sell a storm movie. It conjures up memories of Twister of course, but even more than that it captures the fear and terror that these unpredictable and immensely powerful storms cause in us all. “This is the sound… you will never forget,” the screen tells us.
And then everything is ruined, as the rest of the trailer is filled with over-the-top visual effects that look absolutely ridiculous.
Twister had huge, impressive visual effects, including an F-5 tornado that was a mile wide at its base, but it was still grounded in a sense of realism. The filmmakers and the visual effects guys at ILM spent a great deal of time studying footage of actual tornadoes, particularly home movies, to capture both the look and behavior of tornadoes but also the experience of living through a tornado encounter. There was none of this:
Into the Storm was originally pitched as a found footage style film, which is very intriguing. Imagine the scene in Twister set in the drive-in movie, where very little is seen of the actual tornado, but stretched out for an entire film. That was Twister‘s most intense sequence (inspiring the attraction at Universal Studios), and the found footage style would work perfectly for that sort of film. Unfortunately it seems like that was ruled out in favor of 747s being hurled at the camera.
The movie stars Richard Armitage, but you wouldn’t know that from the trailer, because it does nothing to establish any sort of narrative. The main message of the trailer seems to be “Hey, remember that movie that lots of people like and is on cable almost every weekend? Well you’ll love this movie, because it’s full of tornadoes but this time they’re bigger and better!” Plot, characters and atmosphere are seemingly unimportant when pitted against computer generated destruction. Compare that to the original trailer for Twister, which focused entirely on atmosphere and emotion, with no visual effects until the final shot (which was created specifically for the trailer and is not featured in the film). This trailer was designed to evoke the fear and awe which tornadoes inspire and to provoke an emotional reaction, rather than simply show off its visuals.
But really, do you want to know the saddest part about the trailer for Into the Storm? They’ve gone to great lengths to show off their effects, but here 18 years after Twister and the 1996 film is still head and shoulders above the latest and greatest that dollars can buy.
What do you think? Does Into the Storm look interesting? How does it compare to Twister? Is subtlety a lost art? How does the poster below compare to the one for Twister? Is there any chance that Into the Storm can tell an interesting and new story without being overshadowed by a previous film? Is there a way they could have presented the movie without making it feel so derivative and shallow? Am I wrong for even comparing the two movies? Let me know in the comments!