An Honest Review Of Twister, The 1996 Weather-Thriller


I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist by any means, but I’m almost 100% certain that there is no such thing as Bill Paxton. Let me backtrack: I was perusing the $5 movie section of Target the other day, belly full of Pizza Hut and head full of dreams, when I picked up the 1996 film Twister. For those of you who forgot the movie’s premise and/or have a hard time deciphering over-explanatory movie titles (i.e. Volcano, Anaconda, Space Jam), Twister is a fun little flick about a ragtag hodgepodge of storm chasing ruffians who encounter a series of deadly tornadoes. These storm chasers are lead by the two weather fanatics, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, who — not only chase down storms — but each other’s hearts in the process through really uncomfortable sexual tension. They’ve devised a system to measure the inside of a funnel cloud to further improve warnings and help the 60 or so people killed by tornadoes each year[1].

The movie starts off with a flashback. We see young Helen Hunt getting carted into the basement by her mother and father as a deadly tornado approaches. Helen’s country bumpkin father decides he’s stronger than mother goddamn nature and tries to hold the cellar door shut, only to be eaten by the notorious F-5 tornado. Oh, that’s why there’s a flashback — someone’s interest in a weather phenomenon has to be given a backstory. Regardless, her unnecessary character motive becomes established: she wants to fight tornadoes for essentially the same reasons Batman wants to fight the Joker: JUSTICE. We whip back to present day, where Bill Paxton has returned to storm chasing after an under-explained and seemingly incredibly short-lived hiatus. Through the power of deduction and, again, uncomfortable sexual tension, we learn Helen Hunt and Paxton were once married and chased tornadoes together — probably while uncomfortably sexual.

So throughout the movie, we see these two characters chase twisters, supported by a gaggle of characters so ancillary, that they could have been computer generated. Though, it goes without saying that the best of said gaggle is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who probably chose to act in this movie by accident or while under the influence of something illegal. Fun fact: in one scene, he lifts his leg up while sitting down, exposing his entire genitalia. This scene was edited out of the DVD/VHS versions[2]. Bummer city.

Anyway, let’s backtrack again and talk about Bill Paxton. William Archibald Paxton was born May 17, 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas. According to IMDB, his nicknames are “Wild Bill” and “Knuckles”. If people think I’m making this up, I urge you to fact-check[3]. Paxton has been in over fifty movies and just recently appeared in Hatfield & McCoys, where he landed an honest-to-god leading role. Maybe his parents were rich Saudi oil tycoons, maybe he hands out his headshot with $100 bills stapled to the back, maybe I have bad taste — but I don’t think the guy knows what acting is. Watching Wild Bill act is like listening to static on the radio at full blast. Every line is delivered with the exact same bland tone and intensity — which can only be described as a Kinsey 1, if the Kinsey scale rated boringness instead of gayness. So my theory is pretty simple. Again, not a conspiracy theorist or nutbar by any means, but Bill Paxton is a Japanese-made Robot that has mastered every aspect of human behavior except voice control. And this robot wanted to ACT. Needless to say, his Japanese creators must have been so proud of their bastard robot son.

Anyway, as if the storyline of Helen Hunt and Knuckles chasing their feelings for each other alongside twisters wasn’t enough, the writers of this movie decided to add bad guys. Villains. A cavalry of evil storm chasers who “sold out” because of their corporate sponsorship and generally angry looking faces. They chase tornadoes with threatening black RVs, make fun of the “good” storm chasers, and are lead by Cary Elwes before he sawed his leg off.

I guess my main issue with the antagonist in Twister is that there is already an antagonist → the twister. I suppose it’s the 90s bloodlust that all audience members felt back then, where they wanted to see every villain get their comeuppance regardless of their moral compass. Cary Elwes and his evil partner (the angry boss from Fight Club) thus die at the end of the movie. I’m not going to be a big man and pretend I watched the entirety of Twister, but from what I remember after seeing this movie in the theaters at age nine, a giant tree trunk smashes their heads in. Or maybe they get shanked by a low-level twister looking to move up. Can’t remember. One of my final points about this movie is that — hey — these guys aren’t bad. So they have corporate sponsorship and fancier equipment… that warrants these two guys getting their asses creamed at the end of the movie? Like, they just really had to die? Hm, like I said before, you can’t kill a tornado. Though, if you could, robot-Bill-Paxton would be the cyborg for the job. That’s literally fighting fire with fire. Literally figurative fire.

All in all, Twister left me sort of confused. It wasn’t the over-the-top story, it wasn’t the bad CGI, it wasn’t even the story Philip Seymour Hoffman tells about Bill Paxton’s character, where he drunkenly stumbles out of a truck naked and throws a bottle of Jack Daniels at a tornado (seriously… this seriously happens), it was the feeling of satisfaction America had with this film. It made $494,471,524 in theaters — I had to Google how much that actually is. Look, I hate nature as much as the next guy, but — America, you’re never to defeat planet earth. Sure you can flagrantly spray aerosol cans until you’re dripping with satisfaction, you can even punch a hurricane in its smarmy face, but you can’t kill a tornado. It all comes back to that flashback with Helen Hunt. We’re all sorry that tornado took your pa… but it’s just like what Bill Paxton said to her: “killing yourself won’t bring your father back.” This movie really should have been called “Cellar” and centered around a ragtag group of repairmen who chase down faulty cellar doors and fix them so all these rednecks will stop dying.

That’s what you get when you look through the $5 bin at Target — to think, I put down The Sandlot and picked up this movie instead.

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image – Twister