Twister (1996) - Two-Disc Special Edition

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Drama
Warner Brothers || PG13 - 113 minutes - $20.98 || May 6, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-05-04


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Jan De Bont
Writer(s): Michael Crichton & Anne-Marie Martin (written by)
Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck


Theatrical Release Date: May 10, 1996


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Chasing the Storm: Revisiting Twister
  • The Making of Twister
  • Anatomy of Twister
  • Nature Tech: Tornadoes
  • Music Video
  • Game Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Can you believe it? 12 years ago Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures released a landmark film that broke ground on special effects wowing audiences around the world to the tune of nearly $500m worldwide. While today the special effects used in Twister is almost common place even on television, it was certainly something to behold. I remember back in May 1996 being in awe at the theater. That was then. Now with entire feature films being generated on green screens, I wondered how Twister would fare.

The so-called story is about Bill (Paxton) and Jo (Hunt) a couple about to get divorced with only the papers needed to be signed to complete the process. Bill finds Jo out in Oklahoma as she and her team of colorful characters set up for some tornado hunting where they can deploy their invention. Bill and Jo designed a machine that sends tiny pieces of equipment into the tornado where they can monitor and record data coming from the twister. Of course, we all know the couples aren’t through even with Bill’s new fiancée (Gertz) tagging along for the ride.

Twister was never about the story or the acting. Its sole purpose was to wow audiences and that it did... 12 years ago. Watching again after so many years (I probably last saw it 5-6 years ago), although the special effects are still mighty impressive, the story and performances are a glaring flaw in an otherwise semi-entertaining flick. Some of the writing is just laugh out loud funny and some of the situations just don’t make any sense at all.

Take for instance the beginning of the film. We’re looking back at a young Jo and her family running to the cellar as an F5 tornado bears over them. While mother and child are safely tucked further back in the cellar, old pa hangs on to the cellar door for dear life screaming all the while that he can’t hold on. What shall he do? Oh, how about LET GO! Even after the tornado sucks him out, wife and kid (and dog) are still safe despite the door now being wide open. If I were Jo, I’d hope any future offspring won’t inherit daddy’s brains...

The honor of the poor screenplay goes to Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin. Crichton’s contribution to the film industry has been, at best, blemished with so many bad movies like Congo, Sphere and Timeline. Some could argue that Jurassic Park cancels those out, but I’d say Jurassic Park III counters the original.

But I digress, leaving the spotty acting, terrible story and spotty acting aside, Twister still retains some entertainment value after all these years. Sure the special effects are not as awe-inspiring as they once were given new technology that advances every year, but there’s something to be said about the value of nostalgia.

Also cool is looking at some of the supporting cast members including a then unknown and now Oscar-winning actor in Philip Seymour Hoffman. The cast also includes Cary Elwes as a throwaway foil to Bill and Jo, Alan Ruck and filmmaker Todd Field (In the Bedroom).



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Warner Bros. has finally released a special edition to replace the awful snapper case. For those who still have the good ‘ole snapper release, fear not, those features have been ported over save for cast and crew biographies.

Disc 1:
Feature Commentary – Director Jan De Bont and Visual Effects Supervisor Stefan Fangmeier sit down for a nice and informative track, though at times they make these comments that make you go, sarcastically mind you, “No shit Sherlock”. Even though this is a good enough track, I wish a new was recorded with Bill Paxton and others, but oh well.

The rest of the disc only contains two theatrical trailers.

Disc 2:
Chasing the Storm: Revisiting Twister (28:55) – This is a fairly extensive new featurette with interviews from various members of the crew (Jan De Bont) and cast (i.e. only Bill Paxton). For some strange reason Helen Hunt is absent as are the rest of them. But the interviewees go into how massive of an undertaking the project was back in 1995/96 and how advance special effects have progressed over the years. This is also part ‘making-of’ and uses old on-set footage to show how certain scenes were shot.

The Making of Twister (13:50) – Despite this being an older ‘making-of’ featurette (I think made for HBO), it gives some good footage on how the film was made from the computer generated effects to on-set special effects.

Anatomy of Twister (8:31) – This is more of extension on the “Making of Twister” showing how the visual effects were done and how complex it was.

Nature Tech: Tornadoes (45:15) – Quite interesting but at the same time this extensive documentary on tornadoes gave me flashbacks to high school when the teacher would play a video recorded off of TV about the subject matter at hand. This originally aired on The History Channel and has a copyright notice from 2003 so it’s, all things considered, fairly recent.

There’s also a music video (3:34) by Van Halen and an odd video game trailer (1:44) for a game called “Flat Out Ultimate Carnage”. The game isn’t odd, but placing it on the DVD is...



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

It is advertised on the back cover that this disc has been remastered and comparing it my old copy, it certainly has. Now there are no longer the slight black bars on the sides and the picture itself isn’t nearly as dark and skin tones seem to be just right. I’ve compiled two comparison shots which you can view here and here (links open to new windows). All in all, this seems to be a very nice transfer.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the audio. While the Dolby Digital 5.1 is certainly serviceable, it wasn’t that impressive when playing on the surround sound system. Also, the original release had a DTS track that has been completely removed. Why? No clue since disc one on this set should’ve still had the necessary space. For this reason alone, I’m holding onto my old copy and just will combine the sets (and also since I would probably only get $2 for that DVD anyway).



.::OVERALL::.

Twister as a film hasn’t held up as well as I had hoped but the picture alone is worth the upgrade. I would’ve liked to have seen more in terms of new features (related directly to the film) such as a new commentary with Paxton, but as it stands it’s a good set worth the price which should run your around $10 new at some point.