Twister Fact Check – Disasters of the Cinema


Hey guys Lance here for Bad Day HQ. Now I’m sure many of you know that we love
natural disaster and true crime, but you probably didn’t know we’re also huge fans of seeing
them portrayed in movies. Unfortunately most disaster films are…well… Disasters themselves. So this is a brand new series called ‘Disasters
of the Cinema’ where we’re going to dissect the best of the best all the way to the worst
of the worst of disaster movies, and what better place to start than the grandmother
of them all: ‘Twister’. Truth be told I was going to start with this
one just because it’s a certified classic that entertained me to no end as a child,
but it has extra significance now seeing as the world just lost the star of the movie,
the man himself Bill ‘Game Over Man’ Paxton. The man had an uncanny ability to play everything
from a creepy soldier to a creepy car salesman to a creepy polygamist husband. But magically unlike other creeps he still
had a way of making us love the little cretin. Rest in peace Private Hudson, you’re creeping
out angels in heaven now. And now without further ado, let’s take
a look at one of the biggest blockbusters of the 1990’s. Twister follows the story of two storm chasers. Bill ‘The Extreme’ Harding played by Bill
The More Extreme Paxton, and Helen Hunt. Wait Helen Hunt? What the hell ever happened to her…. Oh she’s a director now… good for her. Helen plays Dr.Jo Harding, Bill’s ex-wife
and new leader of the storm chasers. In their grisly crew is HOLY SHIT that’s
Philip Seymore Hoffman. I guess this video is a tribute to two great
actors we lost too early. Like most of his early roles Philip plays
an eccentric weirdo that goes by the handle ‘Dusty’. Now the real villain of the movie should technically
be the tornadoes, but just for good measure they throw in a team of evil scientists with
corporate sponsorship who are just in it for the money, not the science! You know Fern Gully type stuff. Luckily the message never gets lost in any
kind of overt hypocrisy. The Princess Bride’s Cary Elwes plays yet
another handsome villain and the leader of the corporate shills. This was one of the last physically demanding
roles he took before retiring to more classical drama. And of course the real star of the film is
Dorothy, an advanced scientific prototype that could revolutionize our understanding
of tornadoes forever. By putting a bunch of little sensors in small
robots the theory is that if they were picked up by a tornado they would be able to map
exactly how it works for the first time. Such research could boost their ability to
predict when one would strike, moving upwards from 3 minutes to 15. That may not sound like a lot but they seem
pretty stoked on the idea. So plot aside the big question we wanted to
ask is what did they get right? Is any of the movie based on actual science? Well the answer is a surprising kinda. There’s a lot of well researched references
in the film that must have made watching it on the big screen a real treat for storm chasers
and nerds alike. There’s also factual inaccuracies but they’re
on a much smaller scale than what is done correctly. We’d like to give a shout out to Dennis
Mersereau who wrote the original article on the science of twister that we’ll provide
a link to in the description. Starting first with what they got wrong: At the beginning of the film before getting
sucked out of the storm cellar Jo’s father says the storm could be an F5. Two problems with this, the Fujita scale was
invented in 1971 and this scene takes place in 1969. The second problem is Jo never grew up to
become tornado girl, on a merciless rampage to avenge her father by murdering tornadoes. In the same scene Gary England is shown to
be using the weather radar to alert citizens. This was also never invented until 1973. But this one doubles as something they got
right, as Gary England was the first person to use it on television. The sky ‘going green’ is a half truth. It doesn’t guarantee a tornado is about
to occur. It happens when there’s enormous amount
of hail and water in a storm, similar to how a deep lake can take on a greenish tint. Tornadoes don’t roar like lions. Unfortunately. That scene where Bill and Jo hide under a
bridge would result in a very short film, because doing so to escape a tornado would
be as effective as getting a blind person to teach you topography. Unfortunately you can’t know the strength
of a tornado just by looking at it, only by assessing the damage it creates after the
fact. Finally tornadoes doesn’t go through the
night endlessly, they typically wane through the evening and start back up again the following
afternoon. Now on to the good stuff. What they did not twist? The satellite mentioned at the beginning of
the movie GOES 8 was a real satellite used by NOAA from 1994 to 2004. A lot of technical mumbo jumbo like “the
cap is breaking”, “the wind shear is veering” is completely spot on. You probably have Michael Crichton to thank
for that. The good guys bad guys money subplot is convoluted
even by hollywood standards, but both kinds do exist. There are scientists who chase storms for
science and ones who do it for money but they don’t compete with each other. There’s also insane people who do it just
for fun. Still any excuse to feature Cary Elwes is
a good one. The eye of the tornado being clear is actually
completely true, which you can see in radar photo’s taken as far back as June 2nd 1995. Tornadoes suddenly changing direction and
endangering chasers is a real danger, one that unfortunately took the lives of several
people in 2013 at El Reno Oklahoma. But finally the coolest aspect they nailed
was the concept of Dorothy itself. It’s based on a real life project called
‘TOTO that was conducted by the National Severe Storms Laboratory in the 1980s. Unfortunately in real life, the project never
ended up working. As a bonus fact we also looked into one of
the creepiest myths about this movie. According to an urban legend a real tornado
hit a drive in theatre in Stoney Creek Ontario while the movie was playing. In reality it actually hit a drive-in theatre
in Thorold Ontario (I’m not sure why those two are confused) damaging a screen, however
the movie was not playing at the time. It had be scheduled to play later that night
but due to the storm never got screened. If you take away the predictable love triangle
and tacked on villains what you’re left with is a pretty solid action movie that still
holds up today. This is thanks in large part to their choice
to stick mainly with practical effects and limit the use of visible CGI to the tornadoes
themselves…and a cow or two. The concept being based on a real world experiment
combined with some new information about tornadoes that wouldn’t have been public knowledge
to the lament really helped elevate this otherwise paint by numbers affair. It also helped having Steven Spielberg pitch
the original script to Michael Crichton who rewrote it with his wife. All in all we’d have to give this movie
three and a half Grandma’s steaks out of give. Did we miss something? Sound off in the comments below and let us
know what you think of this new series and what movies we should tackle next!

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