Before I begin with my thoughts on Into The Storm, you have to understand a few things about me. My go-to movies for rainy days, sick days, doing the ironing, etc. are Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III, Jaws, Twister, Volcano, and more recently Cabin in the Woods and World War Z.
I have been following the Jurassic World facebook page since I was around fan 671,357 of what is now close to five million. I was sorely tempted to get cable just so that I could see Sharknado 2: The Second One. In short, I have a thing for disaster movies, and am very forgiving of scientific inaccuracies in them.
Into The Storm is being described as a “found footage film,” which means it is loosely structured around film or digital recordings discovered by characters in the movie, who are missing or most likely dead. To my mind, Into The Storm does not hold to this idea as well as movies like Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project. The footage is not so much found as recorded intentionally for several different documentary projects that each character has in-line. Therefore, the footage we see serves precisely the purpose it was intended to, and I have a hard time thinking of that as “found footage.”
The use of various styles of digital recording in this movie is its strongest component. Into The Storm grasps and displays the use of videography, as we are seeing in the digital-age we currently live in. The movie tells the story using documentary makers, high school kids and youtubers, and it just about sums up life as we know it.
The most official footage in the movie comes from the storm chasers. A team, not led by Bill Paxton or Helen Hunt, is following storm systems around the country with highly sophisticated equipment. Their intent is to record the eye of a storm and thereby collect more precise data for future storm tracking.
They drive a tank-like vehicle called the Titus, which is followed by a standard blue van containing weather equipment. The Titus, on the other hand, is equipped with a 360 turret armed with video equipment rather than weapons, and a gyro-stabilized camera on the outside of the vehicle to capture more stable images. There are two camera men with hand held, but high end, cameras to record while on the move. These guys are also able to jump out of the Titus to capture footage at a moment’s notice.
The most used footage in the movie comes from the High School AV club, the members of which form the main thrust of the story. Jacob and his brother, Trey, are tasked with the responsibility of creating a video diary for the graduating class, at the request of their vice-principal-father (enter Richard Armitage).
Footage of this starts the movie, pushes it forward, and is the illustration of a broken relationship between father and sons. When Jacob skips out on graduation, for a girl, it is to help her shoot journalistic footage to create a video application for an internship. In a critical moment, Jacob uses this equipment to record heartfelt goodbyes to family members as the waters rise. When the storm hits during graduation, his brother (Trey) keeps filming as the crowds take refuge in the school. We are also given footage from school security cameras, which to my mind, is the only true found footage of the movie. When Trey encounters the Titus and its team, he is offered thousands of dollars for his footage of the storm, and is asked to keep the camera rolling.
It is the monetary impact of video footage, that prompts the third set of film makers in the movie. That of Donnie and Donk, amateur youtubers.
We are introduced to them during Donnie’s attempt to jump a flaming swimming pool. A video they hope will boost their youtube numbers, something they perceive as having the capacity to make them rich. They see the Titus drive by and speed off in pursuit. To them falls the role of Jester, and the comic relief for the movie. They also represent the many viral videos I have seen in the past few years. Donnie and Donk follow the storm, not because they want to collect data, not because they are trying to rescue someone (because they want to capture that hilarious/awesome/catchy video that will launch them into infamy and boost their bank balances).
These three types of video are played against each other, back and forth, as the storm progresses, grows, and destroys the small community.
The storm itself, is on occasion believable, and on occasion completely laughable. As a lover of disaster movies, it was a beautiful thing to watch, and had me alternately clawing the edges of my seat and laughing uncontrollably.
As a movie? Rotten Tomatoes describes it as “clumsily scripted and populated with forgettable characters,” and I’d say that’s a fair analogy. The quality of dialogue and story-line is inconsistent, and it has more than its fair share of cheese. Yet, from the perspective of a disaster movie junkie, it’s not too bad. It also gains points for the presence of Richard Armitage, even though he isn’t used to the best of his abilities.
It might not be on the rotation with Jurassic Park and Volcano, but it will probably win out over Sharknado every once in a while.
As a weather movie? Probably not very accurate, but pretty awesome to watch.
As a take on the role of video in society? Spot on.