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Movie Review: Mother Nature deserves better lines

  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, right, in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

    This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, right, in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows clockwise from foreground, Max Deacon, Richard Armitage, and  Nathan Kress in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

    This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows clockwise from foreground, Max Deacon, Richard Armitage, and Nathan Kress in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, left, and Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

    This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, left, and Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

    This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, left, and Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

    This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, left, and Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

    This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows clockwise from foreground, Max Deacon, Richard Armitage, and  Nathan Kress in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

    This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows clockwise from foreground, Max Deacon, Richard Armitage, and Nathan Kress in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, right, in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment)
  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows clockwise from foreground, Max Deacon, Richard Armitage, and  Nathan Kress in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)
  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, left, and Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)
  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)
  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Richard Armitage, left, and Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)
  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment)
  • This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows clockwise from foreground, Max Deacon, Richard Armitage, and  Nathan Kress in a scene from "Into The Storm." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Entertainment, Ron Phillips)

Into the Storm is a movie that addresses the fearsome power of nature. Alas, it also addresses the fearsome power of a bad script to distract us from the fearsome power of nature.

Add to that a set of cardboard characters, and what you have is a movie that should have dispensed with the humans and dialogue altogether, and been a documentary. If, of course, the storms were real. Which they aren’t.

The film, directed by Steven Quale, runs only 89 minutes. And yet, despite the often engrossing special effects, it drags. It seems there are only so many times you can watch a funnel cloud bear down, while someone yells out: “We gotta get out of here. C’mon!”

The action takes place in one day in the small town of Silverton, somewhere in the heartland. Four high school students have just been killed in a tornado in Oklahoma, which is somewhere nearby.

And yet, Silverton’s high school is planning to go ahead with its outdoor graduation, despite the forecast. Maybe this is why Vice Principal Gary Fuller – Richard Armitage, the dwarf leader Thorin of the Hobbit movies – is frowning, a state in which he remains throughout the film (his Thorin, though shorter, was much more expressive.) He heads to school with his teenage sons, Donnie and Trey.

Meanwhile, a storm-tracking team is on the chase, led by a driven, self-centered documentary filmmaker, Pete (Matt Walsh). He’s spent years developing the perfect storm-tracking vehicle – the Titus, a war tank with giant claws that can bore into the ground amid high winds.

Pete’s main assistant is a no-nonsense meteorologist, Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), a single mom to a 5-year-old daughter, whom she’s left home for three months with Grandma. Gary, the vice principal, is also a single parent. But though an eventual romance is briefly hinted at between these attractive folks literally caught in a storm, the idea is dropped, like a piece of twisted wreckage from the sky. (John Swetnam wrote the screenplay.)

In any case, back to that graduation. Before the kids can toss their caps into the air, the storm hits – a series of tornadoes like no one has ever seen. Making things worse, Gary’s older son, Donnie, is missing – he’s ditched graduation to help a pretty girl make a video at an abandoned paper mill. They’ll soon be trapped by rising waters, and making goodbye videos to their parents.

Speaking of those videos: The movie uses a found-footage device to tell its story. These snippets of “real” video are supposed to lend a documentary-style feel, but they’re often ditched for conventional storytelling, rendering the whole idea ineffective.

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