July 12, 2024

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‘Twister’ 4K UHD Blu-ray Review: Warner Home Video

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TwisterThe writer of Jurassic Park. The director of Speed. The star of Mad About You. The quaint Clinton-era notion that a major action blockbuster could be produced with, as the major antagonist, an atmospheric condition and not swarthy terrorists from the Middle East or France. Twister is so 1990s it hurts, but the pain isn’t as exquisite as revisiting a movie you once, for any number of pubescent reasons, loved as a child and now realize is a whirling roar of detritus.

When Twister came out, the traditional ’80s model blockbuster appeared to be on its last legs. Films like John McTiernan’s The Last Action Hero and Kevin Reynolds’s Waterworld made the idea of a central masculine anchor, be he mountainously monolithic or sensitively willowy, seem as ruinous as letting a young Turk hotshot direct your studio’s big epic did in the early ’80s during the aftermath of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate. (James Cameron would end up reversing this trend quickly enough with Titanic.)

So, Twister seemed like a film with an almost experimental lack of dramatic conflict. The barebones version of the storyline—or the one-sentence version of a plot that would already be oversold with three sentences—is that a group of storm chasers spend an unusually active day out in the wilds of Oklahoma and Kansas trying to hunt down a tornado so they can impregnate it with their little data-gathering science balls and study the mechanics of what makes the storms spin. Essentially, Twister is an anthology film, with each of the five storm sequences having its own unique tenor and with the connective tissue being treated as a total afterthought.

Ballsy but refreshing, right? But no matter how much Jan de Bont keeps his camera roving, and no matter how much superfluous technobabble Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin toss into the screenplay to indirectly remind the audience of the Jurassic Park mastermind’s Harvard pedigree, the DNA of the blockbuster isn’t so easily spliced and reconfigured.

Despite the sound crew operating by the logic that you can more easily hate something if it sounds alive (the altered recording of a camel’s moan was used to create the storm sounds), tornados aren’t inherently evil. And so, a band of corporate-funded sellouts posing as scientists are introduced to race against Jo (Helen Hunt) and her estranged husband Bill’s (Bill Paxton) motley band of Sherwood Forest potheads and meteorology school dropouts, having ripped off the design for Bill’s tornado instrument containing weather sensors. (If that’s not enough to make the rival storm chasers stand shoulder with the Iraqi terrorists and curvy corporate bitches of Twister’s brother action pictures, they also drive a caravan of jet-black minivans.)

Add to that a love triangle between Jo, Bill, and Bill’s fiancée, Melissa Reeves (Jami Gertz) and you’ve got enough artificial, test screening-generated “content” to blow down even Philip Seymour Hoffman’s reliably overzealous scene-hoggery as Dusty (né Dustin) Davis. When it sticks to kinetically portraying the sheer oddness of the tornadic phenomenon, Twister is a breeze. When it tries to recreate Howard Hawks, it falls gracelessly from the green sky.

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The 4K remastering process, which was overseen by Jan de Bont, reveals an image that looks brighter, more detailed, and more foreboding than any prior presentation of the film on home video. Image detail is generally superb, down to the lettering on concession items being fully visible during the drive-in theater tornado sequence. The only flaw is a noticeable lack of grain in the image, especially in close-ups of faces, where the digital smoothing is most noticeable.

By contrast, the Dolby Atmos mix is flawless, to the point that you don’t doubt that this is one of the most furiously mixed movies ever made. The renderings of the effects and score are stellar, and dialogue is clear throughout. During the booming tornado scenes, a full range of sound effects are audible, effecively conveying the whiplash of being caught in the eye of a storm.


Jan de Bont is no Werner Herzog, and neither does his commentary track with visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier come anywhere close to the majesty or candor to be found on a Herzog track. Short on gossip for a production that was rumored to be pretty grueling and at times dangerous and contentious, this is your standard commentary track, focused primarily on technical details and “how-we-did-it” insights. The only new extra is a featurette featuring de Bont talking about overseeing the restoration and how he thinks the film now looks and sounds better as a result. The remainder of the extras are ported over from previous releases, including an assortment of making-of featurettes and the Van Halen music video for “Humans Being.”


Jan de Bont’s Twister is so 1990s it hurts, but Warner Home Video’s 4K refurbish is well worth a listen in Dolby Atmos for those who enjoy having their living room ceilings blown clean off.


 Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Cary Elwes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lois Smith, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Scott Thomson, Todd Field, Jeremy Davies  Director: Jan de Bont  Screenwriter: Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin  Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment  Running Time: 113 min  Rating: PG-13  Year: 1996  Release Date: July 9, 2024  Buy: Video


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