We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.
Have you ever had a movie on your “to watch” list for so long that it effectively feels like a lingering home improvement project? One you mean to do and keep putting off, even though you know it would be great if you did it? Twister has been on my list since I was 11. That’s 20+ years for those of you who’d like to do the math. I remember wanting to see Twister when it was in the theater, but as it was difficult to persuade my mother to take me to anything other than a Disney movie, I missed it.
I never caught it on TV, though I did catch the similar Night of the Twisters TV movie, based on a book of the same name, and released about three months prior to Twister. I had always assumed the TV movie was capitalizing on the success of Twister, but apparently that was not the case. Though I’d imagine that the sheer number of times I caught Night of the Twisters in reruns might’ve had a little something to do with Twister’s success.
Either way, I never managed to catch Twister when it was in its heyday. Thanks to Netflix and some admonition from fellow Fangirlish writer, Julie, I was able to cross one of the longest standing “to watch” films off my list this week. Check out the trailer for Twister and we’ll get started with #WayBackWednesday.
There is much to appreciate about Twister–a great story written by Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin, a thematically appropriate soundtrack, fun special effects, and an incredible cast make this a film that has staying power nearly 25 years later. Before this week, the closest experience I had to Twister was the Twister…Ride it Out ride at Universal Studios in Orlando on a high school band trip back in 2000.
Even then, I suppose it was more of a special effects “experience” or show than a ride. We got to see a twister created in front of our eyes, as well as a giant plastic cow that flew across the stage on wires. While it was pretty cool to see that, especially now that the ride was retired back in 2015, I’m glad to have full context for the film. If you’d like to “ride it out,” check out this video.
As for the film, the first surprise for me was just how good the special effects still looked after such a long time. While there are many practical effects in the film, the biggest surprise to me was just how good the tornadoes still look today. Reading up on the creation of the effects illustrated for me just how much care went into making this summer blockbuster.
Using a program called Dynamation, Industrial Light & Magic animator, Habib Zargarpour, created millions of tiny particles and programmed them to act in a rotation. I cannot fathom just how labor intensive that must have been. If you’d like to learn more about how the CGI for Twister was created, check out this article.
A good cast goes a long way. Featuring several notable cast members, including Jami Gertz, a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Cary Elwes, Alan Ruck, a young Jeremy Davies, and leads Helen Hunt and the late, great Bill Paxton, Twister brings star power with its cast list. While our crew of stormchasers have a great dynamic of humor and camaraderie, the chemistry between Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton make this film great. Their characters’ banter, their sincere care for each other, and shared passion to pursue the science of stormchasing give the film its staying power.
I was also impressed that a mid-late 90s film had such a predominant leading lady in an action/disaster movie. Helen Hunt’s Jo Harding has the cool confidence of Princess Leia combined with the wits and gumption of Ripley. It was a nice surprise that did much to endear the film to me.
One thing that I think the film does especially well is the way it utilizes music to enhance a scene. Twister has a great soundtrack, with fun cuts like “Respect the Wind” by Van Halen and “Twisted” by Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, but also with songs that play thematically with certain scenes. When we first see Bill and Jo together (Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt), Mark Knopfler’s “Darling Pretty” is playing in the background. The lines, “Heal me with a smile, darling pretty/Heal me with a smile and a heart of gold,” can be heard right as Jo looks up to smile at Bill.
Another scene that I feel does this well is where Jo goes to grab drinks in the diner and is confronted by Melissa (Jami Gertz) about her feelings for Bill and “No One Needs to Know” by Shania Twain is playing. There are several other instances throughout the film where the background music enhances a scene. It does so in a pleasantly subtle way without being too on the nose or detracting from the scene. It’s a difficult balance to strike and I can only think of a few films that do this as well as Twister.
If you’re looking for a fun summer blockbuster, look no further than Twister. It combines excitement, fantastic visual effects, perfect music, and a great cast to create a powerful and fun film that has held up over the years. Pop some corn, grab a drink, and enjoy Twister.
Twister is currently streaming on Netflix.