The disaster genre has been a place of somewhat disposable comfort cinema for movie goers since the early 1970s, with the release of Earthquake. The film would set into motion the big ensemble casts, massive destruction, and human drama that many of us would come to associate the genre with, something that director Roland Emmerich would become best known for his many takes on the genre from Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012. For whatever reason, audiences have latched onto the genre, mostly because it offers some over the top fun and adventure, usually with rather likable, albeit one dimensional, characters. But unfortunately, for Warner Brother’s pictures, their new film into the genre, Into the Storm, will not be remembered in the pantheons of great disaster films. Instead, it’ll likely go down as one of the most boring, dull, and lifeless films of the genre.
The film is about as cliche as they come, with a very frustrating and boring script that really makes sitting through the film feel like a chore. John Swetnam, the film’s writer, has crafted such a generic script, it feels like it came off an assembly line. The story follows a father named Gary (Richard Armitage), who in the middle of a freak storm teams with a team of storm trackers to save his son, Donnie (Max Deacon). The film literally goes through every trop you can possibly fall into, making for an unpleasant viewing experience.
What makes things worse is the film is done in a found footage style, which makes the already chaotic film even more jarring. The opening alone is almost unwatchable, and actually adds nothing to the film, and in a way doesn’t make sense to the overall narrative. But the worse offense of the film is for being found footage, there’s times where there’s no understanding of how the movie is being shot, because no one could be shooting certain scenes we’re witnessing. It’s a slap in the face to audiences, with the filmmakers hoping we don’t notice. If you’re going to go the found footage route, you need to make sure you do it correctly, don’t take liberties and hope for the best. Movies like Chronicle and Cloverfield at least leave us in the point of view of the characters, but this never once happens here. It jumps around so often, it’s hard to keep up with what’s happening, and it really only does the first person view when it’s convenient.
The characters are incredibly paper thing, making them bland and useless, giving them no weight or anything to attach on to. Armitage’s character Gary is the brooding father, whose family has been torn apart by divorce, and his sons are rebellious towards him. We’ve seen these characters a hundred times before, and there’s nothing new added to them at all. Then there’s Sarah Wayne Callies’ Allison, the storm tracker with the heart of gold, and a longing to see her daughter who she has been away from so long. It causes the film to have cloying moments of forced emotion, to the point she and her daughter have a fight, and Allison turns to the camera and asks, “Did you get that?” These characters don’t do anything to break the mold, and worse, the actors can’t handle the stilted dialogue and make them likable. The fact that they fall through the tropes often, you unfortunately find yourself rolling your eyes at the things they’re saying and doing, instead of being worried about what peril they may be in. They just feel incredibly fake, with no real drive or personality, which really hurts the overall film.
The film’s biggest offense though, through everything, is the fact that even amidst the disaster, is that it’s just flat out boring. It’s too bad, really, because even with the paper thin plot and characters, the storm scenes could have made the film at least fun to watch, but there’s no drama here. Instead, it’s just loud, chaotic, boring, and just lifeless in the way it’s handled. There’s only one really cool moment, that’s over far too soon, that involves a fire tornado, and it’s a rather frightening and intense image. But outside of that, the film just falls flat. Even the final tornado doesn’t really seem that scary, and we know how this ends, with the survivors safe, back with their families and loved ones, and that sucks all the drama and tension straight out of the film.
Into the Storm is a messy, frustrating experience. Told through the lends of found footage, the disaster film falters due to a boring script, one dimensional characters, and bad acting across the board. Even when the storm finally hits, the film never picks up, and comes off as boring. Disaster films are a dime a dozen, and unfortunately that falls under that batch of the genre. This is a film that could have been special, but instead, it’ll be forgotten quickly. Director Steven Quale has good intentions, but it never comes to fruition, and in the end it’s just another disaster film, which is the worst thing that could happens.