Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, as well as language
Written by John Swetnam
Directed by Steven Quale
Starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh and more
Grade: Zero stars
The only thing scary about “Into the Storm” is how bad it is.
Hollywood’s latest attempt at trying to resurrect the disaster film beyond the Syfy channel’s increasingly ridiculous mashups, “Into the Storm” achieves the terrible movie trifecta of appallingly bad writing, ham-fisted directing, and acting that looks like the worst of student films.
It makes “Twister” look like Shakespeare by comparison, with only the tornado managing to walk away with even a portion of its dignity intact.
There’s not much of a plot, other than “throw people in the way of randomly unpredictable and enormous tornadoes and watch them freak out.” Naturally, a family is in peril, along with an attractive young woman who is clearly shoehorned in just to fill a quota.
There’s also a documentary film crew involved, largely so filmmakers can pretend to use the found footage concept for as long as possible, but they abandon even that concept regularly to make sure they can get nice, wide shots of the mutant tornadoes destroying everything.
You’ll be grateful for those shots, because that’s the only time you won’t have to hear the wooden, flat dialogue. Every line sounds like a machine wrote it, a laundry list of emotional plot points stated in the most simplistic, blatant manner possible.
It’s the kind of dialogue you’d expect in a parody of a disaster movie, except that the movie appears to take it all completely seriously. William Shakespear-style dramatic line readings would only improve matters.
The story itself isn’t much better. The characters supposedly live in a place that gets enough tornados that they have a special shelter set aside, but when one comes they behave as if they’ve never seen one before in their lives.
Also, I don’t know enough about storm systems to know just how off the random, magical tornados really were, but I suspect it’s off enough to make meteorologists weep.
Then the director came along and, magically, managed to make the whole thing even worse. Director Steven Quale clearly has no idea how real people move or act in the slightest, guiding his performers into line readings and facial expressions that will undoubtedly make them cringe in shame if they’re ever foolish enough to try and watch the movie.
Also, he managed to turn two of what I’m pretty sure were supposed to be among the movie’s most dramatic moments into accidental comedy gold. I won’t spoil them - they’re among the very few pleasures the movie has to offer - but you’ll know them when you see them.
Between Swentam and Quale, the two men manage to completely drain whatever life or talent that might have existed in their actors. I was surprised that the studio wasn’t screaming Richard Armitage’s name to the heavens as part of the press materials, but now that I’ve seen it I suspect he threatened to sue if his name was publicized at all. The “Hobbit” movies are proof that Armitage can act - he’s Thorin, for those who don’t recognize the name - but here you’d think he’s never been in front of a camera in his life. Some of the other actors succeeded slightly better in making the dialogue sound like something a real person would say, but only slightly.
Given time, this movie might become a legendarily terrible film, joining bad-movie marathons and spawning drinking games. Until then, however, it’s better to avoid this particular disaster.