See if you can identify this movie: After losing a parent to a freak tornado, a small town do-gooder teams up with the person they distrust the most as the unlikely pair tracks down the source of an upcoming calamity, all while being cockblocked every step of the way by a wealthy villain.
Warner Bros. Pictures
No, it's the other one.
Just weeks after the original happened to pop up on Netflix, Universal has announced that it's working on a reboot of Twister, the 1996 movie where storm chasers Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton battle the very concept of wind. Helming the project will be Joseph Kosinski, director of other 'boots like Tron: Legacy and Top Gun: Maverick -- a filmmaker in the same way someone who reheats restaurant leftovers is a chef. But Kosinski is well chosen to resurrect Twister, once hailed as sporting the most impressive FX in a disaster flick, having proven he can make money with his visually arresting blockbusters and achieve critical success with small emotional disaster dramas. A shame, then, that the key to Twister's success is neither.
Let's get this out of the way first: Twister is a bad movie. The characters are two dimensional, the action scenes are bland, and the plot is so lightweight it's a miracle it didn't get sucked up by the on-screen tornado. This was a big-budget project directed by Speed's Jan De Bont, written by Jurassic Park's Michael Crichton and produced by the genius who put Indiana Jones in a fridge to escape an A-bomb, Steven Spielberg. Yet even this Holy Trinity of 90s Blockbuster creatives couldn't get better reviews for their whirlwind action flick than Sharknado managed two decades later.
That's not to say Twister isn't a fun movie -- no movie that has a hungover Phillip Seymour Hoffman talk about "the Suck Zone" could be otherwise. It was also a successful movie, still one of the highest-grossing U.S. releases of all time. It's also a movie by beloved by many Gen X'ers, a kind of Stockholm Syndrome developed after watching it on cable every Friday night for two years straight. And it's not hard to see why it was successful: Twister is perhaps the quintessential '90s corny blockbuster, and not just because every character crashes into a cornfield at some point. It was the kind of big dumb disaster movie that worked because the safe interbellum audiences, like bored hillbillies, loved to see shit blow up in their backyard. (The only movie bigger than Twister in 1996? Independence Day).
But we're not in the nineties anymore, Toto. If we want to watch shit get wrecked in our backyard, we'll turn on the news. If we want to watch shit get wrecked in movies? Well, there's a reason superhero movies took over from disaster movies as the dominant blockbusters after 9/11. So the only way Twister could even work, ironically, is if it stripped everything that made it so bad it was good the first time around and behaved more like a modern blockbuster, one that motivates its wanton destruction with clear emotional stakes. And as much as I'd love to see a movie where reboot-Helen Hunt's character points at a tornado and screams, "That's the son of a bitch that killed my father," as the decades-old corpse of her dad floats by, Twister still shouldn't be swept into the present.
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Top Image: Universal Pictures.