When Dr Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) was a girl, she was woken from her sleep one night by her parents who took her to the tornado shelter they had in their back yard: there was a huge storm approaching. As it hit them, her father tried and failed to keep the door to the shelter closed but it broke free in the tempest and took him with it... she never saw him alive again. Now, nearly thirty years later, Jo is a hunter of tornadoes, researching them to increase the potential of early warning systems of such conditions. There is one thing she hasn't counted on during her latest excursion, and that's her estranged husband Bill (Bill Paxton) turning up.
Not a favourite with the critics, Twister was a big hit with audiences in the nineteen-nineties and there are still those who look back on its adventures in extreme weather with fondness, presumably the type of people who like to watch those cheaply assembled documentaries on the same subject which seem to air on a loop on selected television channels. It was created by bestselling writer Michael Crichton, riding high on the success of his Jurassic Park blockbuster that made him a name to conjure with all over again, along with co-scripter Anne-Marie Martin who was best known as Dori Doreau in eighties sitcom Sledge Hammer! and er, Crichton's wife at the time; this remains her sole writing credit.
As with much of Crichton's fiction, this was designed to popularise a section of science only did not include the sci-fi he was best known for, as this was fairly fact based (apart from the absurdity of catching four twisters in 24 hours). It's no surprise the stuff with the research is the best bit, mainly because so much of it features the extensive special effects sequences that were the main attraction for audiences. Who among them was left unmoved by the destruction on display, presented as both terrible and fantastic at the same time? That's what they had paid to see, and they got it in spades, each time increasing the amount of devastation to keep us engrossed.
It was part of that whole nineties blockbuster maxim that the more destruction you showed, the bigger the profits would be, and for the most part this was pretty accurate. Only the coldest-hearted cynic would not marvel at the Industrial Light and Magic-created storms here, which incorporated not only the four ancient elements of fire, earth, air and water into its twisters (the fire coming from an exploding tanker), but also a flying cow into the bargain, surely just the thing every tornado movie really needs. It even moos as it sails by. Not forgetting the references to The Wizard of Oz, which had its own dramatic wind problem (how about some flying monkeys for that airborne bovine, then?). However, there was a downside to all this cinematic thrill-seeking.
And that became apparent when the characters opened their mouths to speak, because if there was a smugger bunch of meteorologists on film, we had yet to meet them. Well, actually there was, and they were the ridiculously-conceived evil meteorologists, led by Cary Elwes's Jonas, who were - brace yourselves - not in this for the love of science, but the love of the money it brought them! The cads! This did not sit well with our heroes, as they were nature's sons and daughters every one, and getting in touch with the planet is what evidently drove them to follow high winds around the country. Also along for the ride and seeing her hopes of getting hitched to Billl disappear is Melissa (Jami Gertz), who of course is treated like an utter fool for preferring to be a marriage counselor when there's science to hold the attention. But really this is not the story of relationships, it's the story of effects extravaganzas, and all the business with the romance and reconciling with absent fathers doesn't half drag this down. Egregious product placement, too. Music by Mark Mancina.