Twister Blu-ray Review
PictureWhen compared against newer films released in 1080p, Twister inevitably comes up short, but when pitched against its own earlier SD incarnation, you can easily the fresher, clearer and sharper image, the added detail and the enhanced vibrancy of the colours. Encoded via VC-1, the 2.40 print has no problems at all and looks just fine. The packaging even proclaims that this has been remastered - so there are no glitches, damage or grain.
Greens, reds and blues are significantly brighter and deeper than before - with the colours of the vans and trucks, the waterproof jackets and the red warning lights really standing out. Landscape textures and hues err on the gloomy side, but then they are predominantly victim to extreme bad weather, so this is perfectly acceptable. The darker, cloudier aspects of the image are reasonably well presented too, with lots of differing shades to the building cloud formations and vortexes of swirling dust. The flames of the tanker-drop explosion are wonderful and equally well-served by the acres of black smoke fringing them. Which brings me onto the contrast, which is good - with some nice shots detailing the relief of brightly tree-lined roads surrounded by glowering skies of heavy grey and black. Check out, especially, the shot of Paxton and Hunt in the maize-field as the big twister bears down on them. Speaking of blacks, the night-time scenes have an agreeable depth of shadow, interiors possess a fair degree of darkened corners and the storms, themselves, pack some robust darkness - though in the case of the twisters there is so much debris and dust filling the image that it can forgiven for looking quite grubby.
Detail is better than any version that I've seen before, though even now there are some backgrounds - foliage, buildings and horizons etc - that lose distinction and betray the fact that this transfer is not in the same league as a fresh release. However, faces have moments of pore-revealing clarity, hair strands are much more finely delineated and edges, whilst occasionally quite soft, are not too bothered by enhancement. The scatterings of those little sensors from the belly of an upturned Dorothy exhibit fine motion and nice detail. There are some neat reflections on the surfaces of cars that show up with clarity and eyes have that sparkle and make the image look alive. However, I wasn't particularly impressed with the three-dimensionality of the picture. There was ample opportunity for the image to pop from the screen with so many shots of distant twisters roving across the landscape and characters darting about here, there and everywhere, but the transfer doesn't really add a great deal of depth to them. It doesn't look flat, or overly softened, but I had hoped for more visual density. Things like the tanker flying towards them, the cow pirouetting through the air and the wooden rails from the horse paddock pinging away like arrows do look great, however.
But if there is one thing that had to pick on to say that was an irritation, it would have to be the skin-tones, which are definitely too pink and ruddy for my liking. But, on the whole, Twister looks better than before and is a definite visual upgrade.
SoundThe original DVD of Twister - one of the first (if not THE first) releases for the format - was a great showcase for surround sound and really made you realise just how worth it forking out on that amp and those speakers had been. Of course, that DD 5.1 track, which is also an option on this release, seems dated and lacking in both power and subtlety when heard today. Especially so when you compare it to the blistering TrueHD 5.1 track that now adorns the movie.
Although the mix relies heavily upon the deep bass and bombast of the tornadoes and the wreckage they cause, the effects and their accuracy around the set-up are still well-steered, detailed and dynamic, though not as clean, rib-crushingly strong or as precise as more recent fare. But this is no real gripe, as the overall sonic display is exuberant and wild and still presents your system with a powerful and immensely active workout. Buffeting winds course around the speakers, spinning about you and effortlessly placing you in the frightening path of the storms. The pressure in the room seems to go up as the storm-fronts move in, sound literally filling every inch of space. The things that get picked up - cows, cars, houses, etc - have a weight and a directional impact that is pleasing. There is a nice wide stereo spread across the front and the design boasts a reasonable depth that allows for distant squalls and activity to sound, well, distant - such as the rumbling of the heavens, debris hitting the deck a half-mile away etc. The components that went into creating the sound of the storms, the voices of the various twisters add a lot of detail to the mix and are certainly injected with more life and clarity than in the old DD 5.1. Things getting hurled and the vicious whipping of the wind now sound far more natural and authentic.
Subtleties like birdsong, clicking gadgets and gizmos are clear and well integrated. The squealing of tyres across the road genuinely cut through and sweep about the design. Dorothy's multitude of little sensors take flight into the eye of the storm with appreciable electronic flutterings that fill the soundscape. The bouncing and crashing of debris supplies little extras detail for the various shards and pieces that break away. However, during the big finale, I was a little disappointed that the vicious farm implements - scythes, axes and other wickedly sharp tools - that clatter about the barn didn't really resonate with as much clarity as I'd expected them to.
I felt that dialogue could have been a little better put across, though. It is always discernable but, at times, it sounds subdued amongst the other elements of the track - and not intentionally so. Conversations held in the front seats of vehicles tend to exhibit this most of all. Despite my concerns, mind you, this is not a major problem, and the track remains quite an invigorating experience.
ExtrasThere's some good stuff here, folks. And it is great to discover that Warner have actually added more to the BD release than was available on the already entertaining SD package.
De Bont's commentary covers all bases, and he and visual effects supervisor Stefan Fangmeier enjoy recalling their experiences making the movie and their own personal discoveries regarding twisters and how to recreate them. There are plenty of anecdotes throughout the chat - such as the town that actually allowed them to demolish some of its houses - and the commentary feels unforced and relevant.
What follows next are three featurettes that cover much the same ground as one another. Two of them are EPKs made at the time of the film's release and one of them, the first in the line-up, is a new feature entitled Chasing The Storm: Twister Revisited. The best of the three, this let's us hear extensively from De Bont and Paxton, as well as a few of the production team, as they recall what it took to get the film made. Lasting for 28.58 mins, this features lots of great production stills and some fantastic behind the scenes footage of stunts and FX being put together as well as some between-takes stuff. Nice quote from Paxton who remembers how frantic De Bont that the actor's initially short hair should grow in time for the shoot as he wanted it to blow in the wind. There is, of course, a lot of the inevitable back-slapping going on and a rather corny coda from Paxton that feels egged-on by the documentary-maker - who is actually the very estimable and prolific Laurent Bouzerau - but, on the whole, this a very decent little look back at what was obviously a very enjoyable experience.
The Making Of Twister (13.51 mins) is one of those HBO First Look affairs and features a typically ominous-yet-kinda-sleepy voiceover. At least we get to hear from more of the cast this time out, as they were obviously caught on-set to air their highly positive views on the production. Again, much of this stuff has been covered in the first feature - although it must be said that this contains better and more extensive footage of the hail storm road-chase and the final scene of Bill and Jo getting turned upside down.
Then again, in the third of the trilogy, Anatomy Of A Twister (8.31 mins), we get yet more coverage of practically the same elements as before. This time out the featurette is a more jovial, upbeat and faster take ... and we also get to hear from executive producer and Spielberg associate Kathleen Kennedy. Taken as a whole, these three features paint a decent and fairly comprehensive look at the making of the film.
The real meat of the matter comes next in the form of a 45-minute original documentary from The History Channel's Nature Tech series - this on focussing, of course, upon Tornadoes. This is great stuff that provides a lot of information on the reality behind De Bont's movie, although the film is never actually mentioned. We learn how tornadoes are formed - or, at least, as much as science knows about how they are formed - and we are treated to a history of how radar has evolved over the years. The Doppler Radar and the Fujitsu Scale - which references the power of a twister by direct correlation to the amount of damage it has caused - are given a thorough exploration and we meet the staff of the Storm Prediction Centre in Oklahoma. But by far the most exciting elements of the documentary are the awesome film clips of twisters in action and the often terrifying accounts of the people who have found themselves in the path of one. A true-life disaster is recounted on-location by those who went through it and there is ample proof that America's early warning systems do actually save lives. A great moment shows the staff of a TV weather station evacuating their building as the storm funnel is sitting directly above its roof. Good CG slices through the storms and depictions of how Doppler radar works, and some cool film of the fun that can be had using the Debris Impact Canon (which is used to examine how tough a wall should be to withstand the hurled objects from a twister) round out the documentary. There even appears to be the decidedly 80's taint of Wang Chung on the incidental music playing on occasion in the background, although this film actually hails from 2003.
Finally we get two theatrical trailers and a music video for Van Halen's Humans Being. To be honest, it is doubtful that a film such as this actually needs anything more than this to bolster it - therefore Twister comes out of this quite well with a package that tells you all you need to know about the production of the film and an engrossing documentary about the real thing thrown in.
VerdictHokum ... but of the top drawer, slam-dunking, sheer guilty-pleasure variety. Twister may dance to a rather formulaic tune - central couple overcome differences whilst combating the real reason why you're watching the movie - but there is a terrific energy to the action scenes and a genuine spark of warmth and sheer enthusiasm to the production that glosses over much of the screenplay's shortcomings. The sound design and the effects are still stunning even today and the film gets enormous mileage out of its genuine location work and hyper-kinetic road-chase momentum. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for this film, but there is no denying that it is an accomplished piece of purely cinematic mayhem.
Whilst the BD image may not be quite as grand as you may have hoped, the audio is appreciably upgraded and packs a mighty wallop where it counts. And with some informative extras to get your teeth into, this is one storm that takes a while a blow out. Hardly high art, Twister is glorious chaos, nonetheless. Fans will lap it up, I'm sure. Those teetering on the brink could do far worse than this and therefore I can do little else but recommend it for a whirlwind workout for your speakers, if for nothing else. Great fun all round.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.97
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