(movie review written in 1997)
Jan De Bont's "Twister" may not be heavy on plot or contain the most wonderful dialogue ever heard, but I think that it certainly does the job providing some serious thrills. Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton play a former couple, both storm chasers, that find themselves reunited when a serious line of storms make themselves known. Soon, the two as well as their crew are chasing a line of deadly tornados. The two have come up with "Dorothy", a weather machine that, if sucked up by a tornado, will take accurate measurements and allow them to study the twister. Unfortunately, a competitor(Cary Elwes) is also racing to try an experimental machine of his own.
There are a few little problems that take away from the fun; Jamie Gertz plays Paxton's love interest, and she seems like an annoyance. We know that Paxton's character still has feelings for Hunt's Jo - the two have such enjoyable chemistry that their reunion is inevitable.
For every full-force scene where the twisters are coming after the duo, there are a few scenes that make for wonderfully effective chills: cinematographer Jack M. Green ("Speed 2") capturing Hunt and Paxton frozen in place as a twister comes out of the darkness to attack a drive-in movie theater as well as a few other scenes that are quite good.
"Twister" is a solid effects film, built to provide a couple of hours of entertainment. Logic occasionally gets thrown out the window, but we let it ride because of the solid performances from the two lead actors and some remarkable visual effects. Although director Jan De Bont stumbled with "The Haunting", both "Twister" (and especially "Speed") both are successful as big "event" pictures.
VIDEO: "Twister" is presented by Warner Brothers on Blu-Ray in 2.40:1 (1080p/VC-1). Is this a flawless presentation? No, it isn't. However, I have to say that this is - without hesitation - the very finest the film has looked on home video.
One of the most interesting aspects of this presentation is how the effects look. While the 1995 film's effects do look understandably a bit dated in spots in comparison to newer films, they actually appear better on the much sharper Blu-Ray than they did on the prior DVD releases. On the prior DVD releases, the tornados could look rather muddy and murky. This time around, the tornados (especially the earlier, smaller ones) are more clearly defined, with cloud swirls that are now more defined. Some slight grain is seen, but it's hardly noticable. No edge enhancement is seen, but a few minor specks on the print used were spotted.
Many scenes offered excellent detail and depth to the image, although some scattered scenes could look somewhat softer than the rest. Still, overall the presentation looks much more well-defined than it ever has on home video previously. Colors also seem wonderfully punchy and deep this time around, looking more vibrant and well-saturated than either of the two prior DVD releases.
I did dig out the 2004 Special Edition DVD release of the film and the differences were really rather amazing. Among other things, colors (in comparison) look flat on the previous DVD. The black color of the funnel clouds looks bolder and more ominous on this presentation, especially the F5 towards the end of the film, which had a somewhat brownish appearance in the prior DVD, but is a more accurate black this time around. The greens of the fields also look perked up this time around, as well. This is a surprising presentation that improves upon the DVD releases more than I'd expected and is much more accurate to how I remember the film looking theatrically.
SOUND: "Twister" is presented on Blu-Ray in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English). Despite the fact that sound design on films has advanced in the years since "Twister", the film's sound mix still holds up as magnificent demo material. The twister sequences are incredibly forceful, with aggressive surround use and monsterous low bass. The tornado sequences are still marvelously enveloping, with swirling debris and howling winds seemingly coming from all sides. Audio quality is fantastic, with powerful, well-recorded effects and clear dialogue. The film already sounded terrific on DVD, but the presentation on Blu-Ray manages to shake the foundations even a little harder and offer improved clarity and detail.<
EXTRAS: Commentary: This is a commentary track from director Jan De Bont and Special Effects Coordinator Stefen Fangmeier. De Bont is suprisingly animated, sharing elements of how the film's effects were produced energetically. As with any film like this, the main focus of the discussion is how the film's crew were able to achieve the special visual effects of the movie, from the Tornados on down to smaller elements that had to be brought in, such as what it was like to work with the wind machines.
There are also a number of other small topics covered by the two; De Bont chats a few times about the often-changing weather conditions in the Oklahoma locations, as well as what it was like to work with both the lead actors and many of the supporting cast.
Fangmeier is on-hand to provide additional details about how the effects were achieved, but also has quite a bit to share about the general production as well as expanding on the topics De Bont choses to cover; the two have a nice back and forth in their conversation. And, for a few moments here and there, the two simply sit back and enjoy the movie, providing some funny moments as the two joke about stories from the set and the film in general.
All in all, I really liked this commentary a lot. De Bont and Fangmeier talk throughout the entire film will only a few small pauses here and there in the commentary. They both provide not only an entertaining listen, but a lot of information about the effects that brought "Twister" to life. .
Music Video: Van Halen's "Human's Being".
Trailers: 2 trailers. While it's great to have the trailers included, they do look rather worn and as if they've seen better days.
Anatomy Of A Twister: A well-produced featurette that cuts interviews in with footage of the cast and crew on the set of the picture trying to re-create the experience of being in a tornado. The documentary takes us on a tour of not only the sets, but the making of the special effects as well the research that had to be done by the creators of the picture. In terms of effects, this provides a nice visual version of the discussion of effects that went on in the commentary, so we can actually see the work that took place. This documentary runs about 8 minutes and 30 seconds.
The Making Of "Twister": A documentary feature that seems more geared towards promoting the movie, with the actors talking about the story behind the film in a number of interviews. It's nice to hear the thoughts of the actors on their characters, but I found the stories and pictures from the set to be more fascinating. This documentary lasts a tiny bit under 14 minutes in length.
New on this edition are "Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited" and "Nature Tech: Tornadoes". The latter is an informative documentary on the forces behind twisters and the former is a "look back" documentary featuring new interviews with De Bont, Paxton and others. "Chasing the Storm" has a few good tidbits about effects and the experience of working on a film about tornados in a very active tornadic area, but it's really not the kind of documentary that one watches more than once.
Final Thoughts: Years later, "Twister" still remains a fun ride, with great action sequences and effects that actually don't seem as dated as other films from the time period. The Blu-Ray edition is a vast improvement in terms of image quality over the prior DVDs and also offers a stronger audio presentation, as well. The new extras aren't anything to write home about, but the upgrade in presentation alone makes this worthwhile for fans. Recommended.
The Film B