Film Review: Twisters; Thoughtful and bombastic legacy sequel is a true crowd-pleasing event

The natural disaster film received something of an elevation back in 1996 with the release of Twister.  With a high-calibre collection of talent on hand, both behind the scenes (it was produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Jan de Bont, off a screenplay penned by Jurassic Park scribe Michael Crichton) and in front of the camera (Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt, among many others, leading the charge), pioneering special effects, and placing intelligent characters in the space of the usual genre brawn, it shifted a certain perception as to what defines a cinematic action event.

After over two decades of chatter as to whether or not this world would (or could) be re-visited, filmmaker Joseph Kosinski (who singlehandedly saved cinema in 2022 with the release of Top Gun: Maverick) found a way to reignite the series in a manner that sets itself within the Twister universe, but operates as its own story, following a new generation of storm chasers motivated by their own morals and environmental mentality.

Twisters (a fitting title for a sequel-cum-reimagining that aims to be just that much bigger than its predecessor), like the original, looks to balance science fact with entertainment fiction, taking the research Crichton surveyed initially and blending it for a new wave of viewers who are, arguably, more environmentally aware than audiences some thirty years ago.  By no means does this add up to Twisters – which comes courtesy of Oscar-nominated Minari filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung and screenwriter Mark L. Smith (The Revenant, The Boys in the Boat) – preaching an overt message in any fashion, but through a more realistic approach of the characters taming the tornado, rather than straight up talking of “killing” a tornado, as well as Chung’s presentation of the lush Oklahoma landscape (the cinematography from Dan Mindel is stellar), we feel the importance of preservation just as much as the consistent rush of genre thrills the film’s 122 minutes provide.

Following a particularly brutal opening that speaks to the unmatched power of the titular weather cycle, the film’s main cheerleader for tornado taming, Kate Carter (Daisy Edgar-Jones, immensely likeable), currently working in New York as a storm tracker for the United States Weather Service, is convinced by former cohort Javi (Anthony Ramos) to get back into the field to test a new portable radar system that can better study how tornadoes form and more accurately, and quickly, predict when and where they might strike; a failed experiment from five years prior effectively taking her out of the field research scene.

Once she’s out on the open road Smith’s script revels in both Kate effortlessly slinking back into her ways of reading weather patterns and how it pertains to chasing the perfect storm, and contending with the larger-than-life presence that is Tyler Owens (Glen Powell, effortlessly continuing his dominance as cinema’s next movie-star-in-the-making).  Part cowboy, part social media sensation, all rugged charm, Tyler, a former rodeo cowboy turned “tornado wrangler”, is everything that Kate believes is wrong with public fanatical energy thinking it translates to genuine science.  Tyler and his team of “extreme meteorologists” (which include a livewire Brandon Perea, Sasha Lane, Katy O’Brien and Tunde Adebimpe) initially come off as greedy opportunists, merely on site to sell merchandise and perform viral stunts – like setting off fireworks within a tornado cycle – but as the story moves along, Tyler’s intentions reveal as something far more genuine, with he and Kate forming a bond that, whilst romantically coded, quite refreshingly bases itself in friendship and mutual respect first.

Much like the original film, the importance and vibrancy of the ensemble cast – there’s also Maura Tierney as Kate’s mother, future Superman, David Corenswet, as one of Javi’s more aggressive co-workers, and Daryl McCormack, Nik Dodani and Kiernan Shipka as Kate’s select crew – and a certain emotional resonance across the narrative help line the softer moments of reflection and post-destruction.  But this being a disaster film means it’s intelligent enough to know that, as well acted as it is and as gorgeously shot it is, audiences ultimately want to indulge in aforementioned destruction, and on that account Twisters is all too aware how to spread its carnage throughout.

Disaster films of this ilk have always had a certain violent streak in showing mother nature’s relentlessness and disregard for human life should it be in the path of destruction.  Twisters doesn’t shy away from such a temperament, but it does so in a way that never feels gratuitous.

Whilst last year’s one-two punch of Barbie and Oppenheimer may not have been recreated across this year’s current blockbuster season (though it seems the internet will do its best to make the forthcoming double bill of Gladiator II and Wicked a thing; “Gladicked”, anyone?) the “glenergy” of Powell and the natural feminine strength of Edgar-Jones’ leading is enough to mark audiences safe and catered for with Twisters.  Truly a crowd-pleasing event, Chung’s at once thoughtful and bombastic actioner is one that demands big screen attendance.


Twisters is now screening in Australian theatres.

Peter Gray

Seasoned film critic. Gives a great interview. Penchant for horror. Unashamed fan of Michelle Pfeiffer and Jason Momoa.