“Twisters ”is hot, dumb, and fun — like a great summer movie should be

Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell, Anthony Ramos, and Mother Nature join forces for a thrilling and entertaining whirlwind.

No one really knows what causes tornadoes, or at least this is what I was told in the splendidly entertaining legacy-sequel Twisters. Glen Powell's self-styled "tornado wrangler" Tyler Owens, gazing in wonderment at a gathering storm, explains to the scribbling British reporter (Harry Hadden-Paton) embedded with him and his band of outlaw YouTubers that monitoring the science of moisture and wind shear only takes you so far, and after that it's an act of faith. The same could be said about making a Hollywood blockbuster. A producer puts all the elements in place — the director, the script, the performers, the marketing — and then it either takes flight or fizzles out. Box office returns remain to be seen, but as a movie, I'm happy to say that Twisters is just about as good as a summer movie gets.

Written by Mark L. Smith (The Revenant, The Boys in the Boat) from a "story by" Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy, Top Gun: Maverick) and directed by Lee Isaac Chung (more about this in a moment), Twisters is, of course, based on the IP of the 1996 storm-chasing action-adventure picture Twister. It's not really a sequel; it's not really a remake; it's just The Next Generation. Either way, one can't help but envision the legendary tale of James Cameron pitching his Alien sequel to uneasy producers by writing the word ALIENS on a piece of paper, then, with an added stroke, changing it to ALIEN$.

Indeed, this new film has an awareness of its own silliness, with several references to The Wizard of Oz and multiple reminders about "a once-in-a-generation outbreak of tornadoes!" from television meteorologists. There are trailer-ready zingers like a frenzied character screaming, "This theater wasn't built to withstand what's coming!" while at a cinema and a gal sassing, "This isn't my first rodeo" while at a rodeo, and, in both cases, the lines make absolute story sense. Twisters revels in a let's-not-take-this-too-seriously vibe, even though, of course, there are real stakes, what with trucks smashing into buildings and people occasionally being snatched by the Hand of God and hurled to a terrifying death.

<p>Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and Amblin Entertainment.</p> Glenn Powell as Tyler in 'Twisters'

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and Amblin Entertainment.

Glenn Powell as Tyler in 'Twisters'

Related: Anthony Ramos was going to try a Southern accent for Twisters — then Steven Spielberg stepped in

The movie opens during one such cyclone attack. A band of students is chasing a tornado to conduct an experiment that, if the data confirms their theories, could be developed into a tool that could tamp down dangerous weather in the future. They are led by Kate (Daisy Edgar-Jones), who is basically The Matrix's "The One" when it comes to weather. But there is a miscalculation and —whhhooooOOOOOAAAAAAH! There goes most of Kate's classmates, sucked up and spat out into the next county. Five years later, Kate is working for a weather tracking agency in New York City, a location filled with its share of danger, but compared to Oklahoma, precious few tornadoes.

The one survivor from her college experiment, Javi (Anthony Ramos), twists her arm to go back into the field when he explains that he's created some new gewgaws that, if triangulated properly around a tornado, could radically alter storm science and save lives. Kate says no, no, no, until she obviously says yes, and the action moves back to the heartland.

In the years since she's been gone, however, storm-chasing tourism has increased, with busloads of thrill-seekers hitting Oklahoma to witness killer weather with their own two eyes. They are encouraged by the aforementioned Tyler Owens and his group of yee-hawing maniacs, blasting "Ghost Riders in the Sky" as they livestream their antics, shooting off fireworks and acting like imbeciles, albeit handsome imbeciles. Javi and his serious-minded scientists tut-tut under their breath, and that includes Javi's business partner Scott, played by David Corenswet, amusing as a beefy stooge, therefore not offering much of a preview for his upcoming turn as Superman.

<p>Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and Amblin Entertainment</p> Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kate in 'Twisters'

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kate in 'Twisters'

Related: Exclusive Twisters Super Bowl trailer breakdown: The cast and director on sequel with 'loads of nods' to original

But there's a twist, naturally, in Twisters. (This isn't much of a spoiler; it's pretty obvious from the first images.) Javi's group may not be as altruistic as they first seem, and, by contrast, the camera-ready Tyler may not be all full of hot air either. This makes itself evident after a few tornado adventures, including one set during a flag-waving old-fashioned rodeo.

Twisters is directed by Lee Isaac Chung, whose most recent film is the character-driven minor masterpiece Minari, about a multigenerational group of South Korean immigrants to the American Midwest. There is nothing in that movie, which was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award and won Youn Yuh-jung a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, to suggest that Chung was going to pivot to special effects-driven action-adventure pictures. (He did, however, direct a season three episode of The Mandalorian.) But sometimes talent is talent, no matter the genre. Though Twisters' screenplay is silly, the characterization is played straight. The Kate-Tyler-Javi relationship triangle actually works, and that's due entirely to the performances. In lesser hands, this all could have slammed straight into the ground.

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Chung also has a clear affection for the Midwest. Kate, who vibrates with the elements on some weird molecular level, communes with the swaying wheat and bulbous clouds, and we're witness to it, but not visualized in an overly showy way. Chung could easily have gone for flashes inside Kate's mind, like how Christopher Nolan showed the sparking electrons in J. Robert Oppenheimer's head, but he wisely pulls back. The movie is preposterous enough on its own, and the landscape does the work for him. Doubly so during Kate and Tyler's first date to the rodeo, a corrective measure to show "the best" of the area after seeing the devastation caused by the ubiquitous storms.

<p>Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and Amblin Entertainment</p> Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell in 'Twisters'

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell in 'Twisters'

Related: Twister's Helen Hunt and Jan de Bont share memories from 'hard' shoot and hopes for movie's legacy

If there's a complaint I have about Twisters (aside from the general "just go with it" level of ridiculousness throughout), it's that the many terrific supporting actors don't get much time to shine. Tyler's posse includes Sasha Lane (Loki, American Honey), Katy O'Brian (The Mandalorian, Love Lies Bleeding), Brandon Perea (Nope), and others, and my guess is that a few group scenes got cut. Only Tunde Adebimpe's character as the gang's obsessive "weather weenie" (an actual term as per a friend of mine who studied meteorology in college) makes a real impression, especially in a scene during a pattern shift where he should be terrified for his life, but instead brightens to exclaim "I know what this is called!!" (He is witnessing the Fujiwhara effect, if curious.)

That's a grace note often missing from summer blockbusters but, thankfully, is found swirling all around Twisters. There's a ton of technobabble that you have to take on faith, but Jones and Powell do more than sell it; they make it compelling. By the end of the picture, you actually believe that, yes, these two might lead science into a future where it can kill tornadoes (did I mention this is dumb? It's dumb!) and that charging into a town about to get shellacked by a storm to help is the smart thing to do, even if all our heroes do is shout "everybody, get inside!"

But get inside you must: to a theater showing Twisters this summer. Grade: A-

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