Blu-ray Review: Into the Storm

There’s something about modern CGI that makes the modern disaster film feel less realistic, despite looking much more intense, than disaster films of the past. While the technology has gotten significantly better over the years, admittedly, the spectacle has decreased because we miss the human factor. A disaster film now has a cast of veritable unknowns meshed with a $100 million plus budget that’s designed to have more time in post production than actual filming. It’s why the genre has had a hard time finding footing with a modern audience like it did during the heyday of the 1960s and 1970s. They can be marketed well enough to be successful, and to be profitable, but the disaster film doesn’t capture the imagination anymore because it doesn’t feel real anymore.

Lackluster actors reacting to what they’re being told will be added in doesn’t do much besides continue to preserve the case for watching a film in the theater, as opposed to at home on DVD. And that’s what Into the Storm is on Blu-ray: a case study on why a disaster film is more spectacle reserved for a one time showing in a movie theatre as opposed to spending time (and money) watching it on DVD.

Simple premise: two groups of people wind up needing to work together to survive the storm of the century. A team of storm chasers led by a documentary filmmaker Pete (Matt Walsh) and meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies). They’re in tornado alley in search of a “money shot” for the ages: footage from shot within the eye of the tornado. Gary (Richard Armitage) is debating whether to cancel graduation at the local high school where he’s a vice principal at due to bad weather reports. He winds up pushing away safety and shelter to save his sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress).

The film’s problem is twofold. The first is that this is spectacle first, story second, as it becomes a Terminator style chase film as both parties are always on the run from the tornado. As soon as safety appears to be at hand the weather attacks again until it culminates in a white knuckle finale. The problem is that the spectacle is weighted much more importantly than the story, which leaves you with a bunch of people no one really cares about being chased by computer generated spectacle. The film functions as a way to move them from set piece to set piece but we don’t care whether they live or not; they’re written just enough to not be one dimensional. It’s hard to care about people in the midst of a crisis when you have nothing more than a brief description and a character archetype.

The other is that this is a cast that’s not very good. The thing with a disaster film is that it’s understandable to not have a brilliant cast, and it’s ok to not have brilliant acting, but this is bad acting even for a genre film. It’s understandable, given that this is a CGI heavy film and from an acting standpoint it’s hard to act with just a green screen to react to, but this isn’t a film focused on making us care about the characters. Thus it’s understandable that most of the cast is mailing it in at worst, or just bad actors at best, but it’s noticeable in a film like this when people are particularly bad.

The film winds up on Blu-ray with its flaws much more prominently than in theatres. The spectacle is gone and this is utterly passable unless you have a TV that’s substantively large.

There’s a handful of EPK pieces but nothing of substance.

Warner Bros. presents Into the Storm. Directed by Steven Quale. Written by John Swetnam. Starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress, Alycia Debnam Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Jeremy Sumpte. Run Time: 89 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released: November 18, 2014.

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