Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell square up to impressive VFX in this sluggish sequel to the 1996 hit 


Source: Universal


Dir: Lee Isaac Chung. US. 2024. 122mins

The storms are more compelling than the people chasing them in Twisters, a sluggish disaster film that lacks the sexual chemistry and silly fun of the 1996 original. Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell play rival storm-chasers who risk their lives tracking the unpredictable patterns of tornadoes, but the stars fail to produce much spark. Meanwhile, director Lee Isaac Chung makes the mistake of taking this escapist fare too seriously, which results in a potential blockbuster that looks great on the big screen but rarely exhibits the unbridled gusto of the film’s mighty tempests.

Offers the simple but undeniable pleasures of the disaster genre

Opening on July 17 in the UK through Warner Bros. — and July 19 in the US through Universal — Twisters will hope to reach the commercial heights Twister enjoyed 28 years ago. (Back in 1996, it was the second-highest grossing film of the year in the States, behind Independence Day.) None of Twister’s stars return for what the studios are describing as a ’new chapter’, but the unchanged central concept should be more than enough enticement for audiences.

Five years ago, Kate (Edgar-Jones) was part of a storm-chasing club in Oklahoma — that is, until a violent twister killed her boyfriend and other members of her group. Now working a much safer job in front of a computer screen in New York for the National Weather Service, she has tried to put that tragedy behind her. But she is lured back home by a fellow survivor, Javi (Anthony Ramos), who believes he has figured out a way to more accurately measure tornadoes. Working together, and determined to help Oklahoma residents get advance warning before a twister hits, they encounter Tyler (Powell), a cocky so-called tornado wrangler who has become a YouTube sensation by documenting his storm-chasing antics online.

The 1996 film, directed by Jan de Bont, paired Helen Hunt and the late Bill Paxton as a former married couple who team up one last time to track the deadly tornadoes that are their shared obsession. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, as is the new film, Twister possessed a mixture of giddy thrills and hushed awe that was reminiscent of the Oscar-winning director’s best popcorn films — a lighthearted showmanship that is absent in the new picture.

Chung, who previously directed the intimate, Oscar-winning indie drama Minari, seeks to tell a slightly more sombre story than the one in Twister, albeit with generous helpings of spectacle. Indeed, when Twisters steps back and admires the awesome power of these tornadoes, the film offers the simple but undeniable pleasures of the disaster genre. If Twister’s effects were cutting-edge for its time, this new film demonstrates how much more sophisticated the technology has become nearly three decades later. Those towering, menacing funnel clouds are endlessly enrapturing.

Unfortunately, the flirty friction meant to develop between Kate (the all-business scientist) and Tyler (the strutting daredevil) never turns into anything especially memorable. Powell supplies the grinning, hunky charm we have come to expect after Hit Man and Anyone But You, but the character has little underneath the swagger — despite screenwriter Mark L Smith’s suggestions that, deep down, Tyler is a thoughtful, brainy individual. Edgar-Jones struggles to convince as someone, we are told repeatedly, who has ‘a gift’ for tracking the movement of storms, and her Kate doesn’t seem particularly remarkable or dynamic. Her smart-aleck retorts to Tyler’s come-ons have little pizzazz, and their initially prickly relationship — which eventually turns into one of mutual respect — is missing the crackle that might hint at possible romance.

As with Helen Hunt’s Twister character, Kate lives with demons — namely, the memory of the deaths of those she cared about. And while neither film could be accurately described as being incisive in plumbing the human psyche, Twisters wastes more time than its predecessor trying to get viewers to care about its protagonists’ cliched backstories. (Tyler has an equally bland troubled past, not to mention a glib catchphrase for confronting his traumas: “You don’t face your fears, you ride ‘em.”) 

Clearly, this emphasis on character psychology is meant to distinguish Twisters from the earlier film, which sported an unapologetically goofy streak while featuring sight gags like oblivious cows sucked into a tornado’s vortex. Twisters prefers a more sober approach, with Chung interested in the science of tornadoes — and how, after all these years, scientists remain mystified by exactly how they operate. As someone who grew up in treacherous ‘Tornado Alley’ in central USA, where both Twister and Twisters are set, he has a sympathetic appreciation of their ability to pulverise vulnerable communities. But Chung’s desire to add a touch of realism runs counter to what is, essentially, a low-nutrition entertainment about massive storms wreaking havoc on small towns and scooping up anything in their path. The more Twisters aims for gravitas, the more hot air it generates. 

Production company: Amblin Entertainment

International distribution: Warner Bros. Pictures / US distribution: Universal Pictures

Producers: Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley 

Screenplay: Mark L. Smith, story by Joseph Kosinski, based on characters created by Michael Crichton & Anne-Marie Martin

Cinematography: Dan Mindel

Production design: Patrick Sullivan

Editing: Terilyn A. Shropshire

Music: Benjamin Wallfisch

Main cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell, Anthony Ramos, Brandon Perea, Maura Tierney, Sasha Lane