- Jun 13, 2002
Studio: Warner Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (Intense depiction of very bad weather.)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital French 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles: English; French
Time: 113 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/SL Blu-Ray disc.
Case Style: Keepcase
Theatrical Release Date: 1996
Blu Ray Release Date: May 6, 2008
About 30 years ago, young Jo Harding’s (Helen Hunt) father was killed when a F5 tornado (the worst tornado on the Fujita scale, which measures such things) tore through the family storm cellar. Due to this unfortunate incident, Jo has devoted her life to combating tornadoes by becoming a meteorologist and assembling a team of other like minded scientists. Her team, along with her soon-to-be ex-husband Bill (Bill Paxton) has developed a device which will shoot up little measuring balls to collect and transmit data on tornadoes. By utilizing this device, it would theoretically be possible to warn people of a tornado fifteen minutes prior to touchdown as opposed to the standard three or four minute warning they have now. Jo’s obsession has driven Bill from their marriage but not away from his love of chasing the storms. As he shows up with his fiancée to get the divorce papers signed, he is quickly swept back into the chase and back into arguments with Jo on their failed marriage. The crew has four of the measuring devices, comically named “Dorothy”, and one of them must get implemented properly. While the tornados continue to carve paths of destruction through the open plains, Jo and Bill must run from them while still trying to fix similar destruction in their relationship.
I remember seeing Twister theatrically in 1996 when the roll out of DVD was just a few months away. In listening to the insanely dynamic soundtrack in the theater, I couldn’t wait until this disc hit to try it out at home. Twelve years later, having not watched the whole movie in its entirety since I originally saw it, I realized that it’s still a great piece of demo material to show off your system. However, if you want a meaty story, good characters or award winning acting, you came to the wrong place. Regardless, there is still a place for this dumb disaster flick in terms of its technical merits, specifically, its use of CG effects to sell bigger than life events. CG was really catching on by ’96, and the effects in Twister hold up much better than, say, the ones in Mission: Impossible. There are the few scenes that look questionable, but overall it looks good.
I was also surprised to see what an interesting supporting cast had been assembled, including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Todd Field (who went on to direct two incredible pictures, In the Bedroom and Little Children), Jeremy Davies (currently spending time on Lost’s curious island), Alan Ruck and Cary Elwes among others. Once I saw Hunt among these other actors, I realized she was really good in Mad About You, but her transition to the big screen came off as simply boring. Her Jo seems very focused on the work, but take her away from that, either the character or the actress, and you’ll instantly be thinking of…anything else. Director Jan DeBont keeps our hearts racing due to the intensity of the storms and the brisk pace of the picture, not due to any overt emotions or chemistry between the actors.
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.
The Blu-Ray disc is in the VC-1 codec presented at 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The picture is colorful in a few of the sunny, daytime scenes, but overall, it is a dour and cloudy setting. The picture just can’t seem to do much with the grays and dark earth tones, and this isn’t a stab at the CG effects by any means. While the storms are powerful, they’re certainly not eye candy and their merit comes in the audio portion. Skin tones stray towards red and show some nice detail in the close-up’s. Black levels are deep and inky with good shadow delineation. Sharpness and detail were fair in the rest of the picture, but, and this may just be due to the drab colors, this aspect of the picture just comes off as dull. When you compare this new HD transfer to the 480p clips in some of the bonus material you begin to appreciate this transfer a bit more. It is clean of dirt, noise and debris which is especially hard to pick out in such a debris strewn subject matter of tornados. I noticed just a slight amount of edge enhancement, but it was not overbearing.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the Sony Playstation 3 to the Denon 3808CI.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track may quite literally blow the roof off your theater. It is perhaps the most active surround track I have ever heard. Even in the quiet moments of the story there are plenty of ambient environmental noises to process. Once the twisters hit, all 5.1 channels pump out massive amounts of sounds layered upon one another while providing a rock solid surround field leaving you clutching your seat. One of the bonus features covers the making of the CG tornados, but I think Warner’s did a great disservice to not highlight the sound design in its own piece, and it was similarly snubbed at award season. The LFE’s blend seamlessly with the other channels, dropping low enough to shake the room and send my dog running for cover. For as good as the twister effects are, when the picture resorts to humans talking, the ADR loops stick out like sore thumbs becoming noticeable to the point of annoyance.
Commentary by Director Jan De Bont and Visual Effects Supervisor Stefen Fangmeier: De Bont and Fangmeier take us from technical practical and CG effects, to story elements and other stories from the shoot to make up an engaging commentary.
Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited (28:58): This is a new piece done for this edition of the movie, but the only notable contributors are Paxton, De Bont and Fangmeier. Each of these contributors rehash much of what was said on the vintage pieces so I’m not seeing the real need to do another doc. They do seem to lighten up here a bit seeing the picture in retrospect.
HBO First Look: The Making of Twister (13:51):HBO’s usual EPK stuff contains a good amount of behind the scenes material showing the making of some of the bigger effects.
Anatomy of a Twister (8:31): They have computers that can make twisters look real in a movie. What’ll they think of next?
The History Channel documentary Nature Tech: Tornadoes (45:18): a nice companion piece to the fictional events of the feature. We’re all as humans awestruck to the power of tornadoes and other natural disasters, and this piece shows some of the real science involved. There are amazing pictures and footage of real tornadoes and their destruction to continue to humble us.
Van Halen video for Humans Being
Two theatrical trailers
In light of the devastation in the US and Myanmar due to tornadoes and cyclones, this title had more impact for me on this viewing seeing such terrible destruction on the evening news. The BD edition is a nice upgrade to its SD counterpart, with a slick new transfer and a thunderous Dolby TrueHD track. Don’t pay too much attention to the story and enjoy the entertainment provided.