Friday, April 22, 2011

Movie Review: Tornado Alley in IMAX

Kind of ironic that I'm about to make this post with ongoing severe weather across portions of the Plains and Midwest (including the potential for tornadoes) but I figured I'd better do this now while the experience is fresh on my mind.

We went and saw the Tornado Alley film at our nearest IMAX theater today.  I wanted to take the whole family to see it on the original release date over spring break, but the IMAX theater in the city we were visiting was not a first release theater, so we had to put it off until we got back home (and about a month later).

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat:  If you are expecting this movie to be another episode of "Storm Chasers" on the Discovery Channel - save yourself some time, money and aggravation and don't go.  If, however, you are truly interested in learning how meteorologists research severe thunderstorms (tornado producing and non-tornado producing) in the field, then I think you'll enjoy it.

This movie is really a documentary about the Vortex 2 project from the spring of 2010.  Yes, Sean Casey and the TIV are included, but you won't have the "all severe weather, all the time" action that you typically see on the Storm Chasers series (which is heavily edited to include more severe weather action than most chasers will ever see in an entire season - much less on one chase).

I liked the movie overall, but found myself uncomfortable at times because you could literally feel the tension in the room from all of the folks that were getting bored with the explanation of how Vortex 2 worked, how they set up the intercept pods and other elements of the armada, etc.  They wanted action - BIG and FAST and NOW!!!!  

The film is narrated by Bill Paxton, star of the movie Twister from the 1990's.  As you would expect from an IMAX film, violent thunderstorms were seen and heard in all their (relative) glory, including vivid and brilliant cloud to ground lightning flashes, rumbling thunder, large hail, and of course, tornadoes.  You'll see several scenes with every type of tornado from small rope to large wedge.  Some are up close and personal, others are miles away.  Overall, I found this to be a very realistic presentation of what a chaser might expect to see if he or she were to chase in every potentially "significant" severe weather episode in a given season.  Some chases were complete busts and some were completely awesome.

I often found myself looking past what the filmmaker had framed up "front and center", and instead admiring the awesome storm structures that were present in the background.  There was some truly awesome filmography / videography in this movie to be sure.

At 43 minutes running time, I would have actually liked for the film to have been a bit longer.  (I don't think the adrenaline junky-only viewers could have handled it being any longer, however).

If you are a true weather buff, and certainly if you are a trained meteorologist, I firmly believe that you will like the movie.  If you are a severe weather adrenaline junky only, you will probably find several moments of pure enjoyment surrounded by long periods of complete boredom (wow, that sounds just like a real storm chase!)

Overall rating:  4 popcorn boxes out of 5 


Anonymous said...

Thank you for that balanced and thoughtful review. That's just the information I was looking for. My young son is interested in storms and meteorology, but I don't want him to come away from this movie experience and have PTS. I'll look forward to taking him to see it soon.

Rob In Texas said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and hope that you and your son enjoy the movie even better!