The disaster movies of the 1970s employed weird combinations of A-listers, aging prestige stars, character actors, earnest children and occasional novelty casting. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman shared the screen with Fred Astaire, O.J. Simpson, and Bobby from The Brady Bunch in The Towering Inferno. Everyone from Gloria Swanson and Charlton Heston to Jean Seberg, Dean Martin and Charo appeared in Airport films. Audiences knew these people. They were almost as big a draw as the disaster that would engulf them. There was investment in their well-being.
Into The Storm, on the other hand, entirely features character actors like Richard Armitage (The Hobbit), Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), and plenty of young newcomers. No household names. In a well-written film, that's potential cause for excitement. Nobody is off limits. The tornado can take anyone it wants. Here, it just means you don't care who lives or dies.
That means the real draw is special effects, and they've taken long, digital strides since 1996's Twister. Director Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) has a history with them and, alongside visual effects producer Randall Starr, has delivered a lot of close-ups and outlandish set pieces for his sexiest cast member, history's biggest-ever tornado, a doom vortex that eats children, redneck idiots, school buses, big buildings and commercial aircraft.
Some storm chasers pursue our hero into a small middle-American town on high school graduation day. And before the last building is flattened it will hit the area multiple times, mutate into a firenado, then mate and spawn into a supernado engulfing everything that is and is not bolted deeply into the earth.
The people run and hide, they stand and stare, they drive headlong into the windy menace, they scream or they stop to ruminate on the quality of their lives and the disappointment of existence. Then, best of all, because most of them are dull, selfish or stupid, they die in crazy ways. By the end the safe money is on the tornado and, as the lone well-developed character, audience sympathy rightly rests with its disaster-based agenda. Inconsequential humans are vacuumed into its maw like bland little meat snacks. They deserve it. They got in the way.