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Twister

Don't breathe. Don't look back. The tornado's vision is based on movement.

An iconic film of 1996, at the height of the Disaster Movie revival. Twister tells the story of a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits who chase tornadoes for a living. The main duo are scientist Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) and her former husband Bill Harding (Bill Paxton). Among the many others is Dr. Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz), Harding's current fiancée, providing a Love Triangle of sorts. Also a tale of vengeance against the tornadoes that deprived a little girl of her father. Also a villainous evil team of tornado chasers that seek to beat Our Heroes to the punch at a scientific breakthrough.

Twister was popular not because of its groundbreaking or interesting plot. The love-story is hackneyed and loaded with instant characterization and tornadoes do not work that way. The real draw of Twister was its ground-breaking special effects featuring some of the most realistic and thrilling images of tornadoes ever created for film. This isn't The Wizard of Oz (though the film does feature a "Dorothy" in it...)

The film went on to become the number-two top grossing film of 1996 and its special effects won it numerous awards. While remembered these days with less fondness due to the lack of an interesting plot, it is credited for spawning a whole new generation of tornado chasers. Twister was also the first film ever released on DVD AND the last film put out on HD DVD in the U.S. (though the very last HD DVD worldwide was a German release of Death Proof).


Tropes:

  • Anachronism Stew: The first scene is set in 1969 and contains numerous errors of the time period.
  • Black Van: The corporate storm-chasers drive a fleet of black vehicles, presumably to show they're the bad guys.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Jonas.
  • Butt Monkey: Melissa
  • Car Meets House: In the final tornado chase sequence, Bill and Jo drive their truck through a house that had been torn off its foundations and rolled onto the road in front of them.
      • Bill: [as the house rolls in front of them with no time for them to evade]: I think we're going in!
      • Bill: [afterwards]: Maybe we should get off this road.
    • A tornado does this with a station wagon into the side of a a service center garage the protagonists are taking cover in.
  • Casual Danger Dialog
    • Jo: Can I drive?
    • Bill: No!
    • Jo: Then would you?
    • Bill [noticing truck has drifted off the road and is about to run into a parked combine harvester]: Whoa!
    • And of course, "We've got cows!"
  • Comedy of Remarriage: The main drama of the film is about how long it will take before Bill and Jo get back together - Bill arrives at the start of the film to collect the signed divorce papers from Jo and brings his fiance with him.
  • Cool Old Lady: Jo's Aunt Meg. Artist, inspiration to Jo, awesome cook, beef farmer, and has just enough Badass in her that she insists she'll drive herself to the hospital after a twister completely devastates her house and puts her car in a tree.
  • Dan Browned: Tornadoes do not work that way!
  • The Danza: Bill Paxton as Bill Harding.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: While the film opens with a tornado destroying a farm, much of the film is filler with the "kooky" team and the relationship drama instead of tornadoes destroying things. Hey, they only have so much money to spend on the effects.
  • Did Not Do the Research: One character says that the National Severe Storms Laboratory is predicting an F5. Tornadoes are not given a rating until the damage (if any) has been studied. You'd think a professional storm chaser would know that, but noooooo...
    • And this could have been avoided if they had included a comment saying that wind speeds associated with a certain category of tornado had been picked up in the various tornadoes that they mentioned the ranking of. While the wind speed isn't included as a factor in determining the tornado's classification, there are ranges of wind speed commonly associated with each category.
    • Somewhat averted with the interior of the funnel. There exist some accounts of people managing to see that interior of a tornado. Only "somewhat" averted in that the interior has been described as having an eerie glow with intense lightning providing the illumination. The movie's depiction only has occasional flashes of lightning.
    • The first scene in 1969 mentions that the storm might be a F5 which is amazing given that the Fujita Scale wasn't invented until 1971.
  • Disposable Fiance: Melissa.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: One of the most notorious offenders.
    • Though there are descriptions of the inflow jets, using layman's terms. The depictions, however, are still lacking.
    • Jonas' truck does get picked up, circles, and then gets hurled without ever actually touching the funnel cloud itself.
  • Drive-In Theater: The twister attacks one.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Jonas
  • Everything's Better with Cows: The iconic scene was so popular that the real-world NOAA named their cafeteria the Flying Cow Cafe after the film.
  • Evil Twin: Used as a joke when Bill's buddies are telling embarrassing stories to his fiance. He blames the stories on Evil Bill, who he killed.
  • Fake American: The very British Cary Elwes as the very southern Jonas, though he's supposed to be from the Midwest and his accent is hard to place.
  • Foe Yay: Jo and Jonas both have blond hair, and Jo can be a diminutive of Jonas. Let's face it, the fact Bill and Jo finally get back together after Jonas's death is no coincidence; he was more of a threat to their relationship than Melissa ever was. The only thing left to wonder is if the powers-that-be consciously realised what they were doing or not.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Bill Harding is only there in tornado-alley at the time because he came there to badger his wife Jo into finally signing the divorce papers. Subverted in that they wind up back together and never do get the papers signed.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • After one of the team points out to Jo they're near her Aunt Meg's house.

 The team: We crave sustenance. Food. Food. Fooood! [chanting]

Jo: No. We are absolutely not going.

[next shot has them pulling up in front of Aunt Meg's house]

    • After Jo's truck ends up totalled on its roof after the first chase.

 Jo: It's a very pretty truck [about Bill's brand-spanking-new Dodge Ram]

Melissa: [oblivious] Thankyou!

Bill: Don't even think about it. [nods] No way.

[cut to Bill's truck with Dorothy installed in the back]

  • Hate Sink: You can't really boo a series of tornadoes, so that's what Jonas is there for, the smug idea-stealing corporate-funded bastard.
    • Jo tries, though. She feels that she's seen tornadoes "miss this house, and miss that house, and come after [people]!"
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Led by Patron Saint Bill Paxton
  • Large Ham: Cary Elwes hams up pretty much every scene he's in.
  • Love Cannot Overcome: Melissa breaks up with Bill before he goes chasing after the final tornado because, in her words, "I can't compete with this."
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Even though she and her dog have just been rescued from a house so badly damaged by an F4 tornado that the structure collapses shortly thereafter, and she herself has suffered numerous injuries related to same, Jo's aunt continues to insist that she can drive herself to the hospital right up until Rabbit informs her that her car is in a tree around the corner.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: The tractor tire flying at a windshield.
  • Naive Newcomer: Bill's current fiance, Dr. Melissa Reeves, acts in part as an excuse for explanations of general tornado knowledge.
  • Plot Induced Stupidity: The father in the opening scene. The winds are coming close to ripping the door off the storm cellar so instead of going with his wife and child to the obvious safety in the back of the underground storm cellar he tries to hold the door back, thus getting ripped away to his death and setting up Jo's backstory.
  • Product Placement: At time the movies feels like a two hour Chrysler commercial.
    • Dodge Ram -- when you absolutely, positively have to drive into a tornado.
    • Plus, when they give the Dorothy probes wings by using every aluminum can they can find, all of the cans are Pepsi.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Jonas' villainy is largely an Informed Trait. He does nothing legally wrong (unlike the heroes), and is only guilty of being a tremendous douche.
  • Relationship-Salvaging Disaster: Chasing storms brings Bill and Jo back together.
  • Running Gag: The device that the group came up with getting knocked over and its sensor bulbs getting spilled everywhere whenever they try to use it near a tornado.
  • Serious Business: Storm chasing, apparently.
  • Shout-Out: "It's the cone of silence!"
    • "That's no moon, it's a space station!!"
    • The tornado device is called "Dorothy". Of course, real scientists also do this kind of thing. Case in point, Dorothy is based on a real tornado device called TOTO
    • The flying cows that twist in distress as they're blown around may be a Shout-Out to a silly shot in The Wizard of Oz, in which a cow floats past that's just standing placidly in mid-air.
  • Smug Snake: Jonas.
  • Tagline: Originally it was going to be "It Sucks", but the potential for critical snark off the line made them change it to the less-catchy "The Fury Of Nature".
  • The Red Stapler: Sales of red Dodge Ram pickup trucks increased notably after this film's release.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Jonas, who pointedly ignores Jo and Bill's warning about his vehicle and the placement of the oncoming Twister just because they don't like each other. He even ignores his own driver who expresses the same concern and has even less motivation to see them both die a windy death.
    • Don't forget Jo's father at the start of the movie. You're safe in storm shelter, but you look at the door and see it rattling. What do you do? If you answered with stay the frell away, congratulations! You're smarter than he was. His wife and daughter do exactly this and live.
  • Villainy Free Villain: Jonas, for daring to accept funding for his experiments and implementing a tracking device he helped develop in the first place. Really, the only thing that makes him a villain is his rudeness. It becomes doubly silly when you realize that most storm chasers out there would kill to receive actual funding!
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