There you go. I have exposed my soft underbelly. Go ahead and shoot your arrows now.
See, I live in the Midwest. Some might call where I live "tornado alley." I don't find tornadoes scary as much as I do fascinating. The idea that absolute horror can be created out of relatively nothing is something I find very interesting. And in return, tornadoes have always found me in interesting positions. When I was younger, I was called out of a movie theater several times because a tornado was reported just blocks away. We ended up watching the rest of the movie standing at the back of the theater. While waiting for my plane to arrive and whisk me away to Las Vegas, airport security announced that everyone needed to proceed to the basement parking garage. This was shortly after 9/11, so everyone decided to ignore the 70 mph winds and green skies outside, and wonder if it was a terrorist attack. And only a few years ago, I gave a presentation in a baseball suite while funnel clouds circled all around me. While the weatherman pointed out the clouds on TV, we could easily see them in real life across the stadium.
It's about this time every year that tornadoes show their ugly faces. In tornado warnings and tornado watches (I never remember which one is more serious.) Favorite TV shows are interrupted without warning and sometimes you have to open your front door and listen for the sirens because they're old and don't make the same blare they once did. And it's about this time every year that my wife and I watch Twister, and do so with extreme glee.
So let's explore the possible reasons why I might love this film. First, let's start with the story. The entire movie is centered around a group of people who run towards tornadoes while everyone else is running away. What's not to love about that? This is like the tornado marines. The few. The proud. The tornado marines.
There's the cast. It really is a brilliant cast, made up of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Todd Field and Jeremy Davies all in secondary roles. Unfortunately, they can't help that they're badly written. There's a reason why you haven't seen Hoffman reprise this "I'm the wacky comedy relief that serves no other purpose than to be the wacky comedy relief" role again.
Then there are the tornadoes themselves. There's the shy F2, the tenacious F3, the obnoxious F4 and the truly outrageous F5. They are huge and awesome, especially when they're tearing through drive-in theater screens showing The Shining.
But truth to tell, none of these reasons are really why I love this film. When my wife and I first saw Twister, it was the Spring of 1996. As we left the movie, we rushed home to our apartment because there were reports of tornadoes in the area. It was as if Jan DeBont paid millions for the best movie hype experience ever. Of course we lived on the fifth floor of an all brick building that used to be a box warehouse, so our fear/excitement subsided once we got home. But our entire experience was somehow enhanced by the thought of real-life tornadoes closing in all around. It would be like walking out of a screening of Terminator 2 and discovering that the world had indeed been taken over by machines in the past two hours. It was a perfect mix of fantasy and reality.
One wonders if there weren't tornadoes that night, would I still have enjoyed the film as much. As a film by itself, it certainly doesn't possess the characteristics that would keep it in constant rotation. It may be for no other reason than everytime I watch Twister it's like remembering every wacky encounter I've ever had with a tornado. Including one wonderful date-night with my wife.