Twister (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Jun 30, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Twister (4K UHD Review)


Jan de Bont

Release Date(s)

1996 (July 9, 2024)


Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures (Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A+
  • Extras Grade: B-

Twister (4K Ultra HD)




“Is there an F5? What would that be like?”

“The Finger of God.”

From Jan de Bont, the director of Speed, comes yet another hyper-kinetic ride into the heart of chaos... Twister. The film stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as Jo and Bill Harding, a pair of soon-to-be-divorced meteorologists and storm chasers, who follow thunderstorms around the Midwest in the hopes of studying tornadoes to better understand and predict them. Over time, their marriage has gone south and Bill has moved on, leaving the thrill of the chase behind to settle down. That means a job as a TV weatherman and a new therapist fiancée (Melissa, played by Jami Gertz). But Bill needs Jo to sign their divorce papers before he can fully begin this new life, so he drags Melissa out into the Oklahoma countryside to get Jo to sign on the dotted line.

Once there, Bill is reunited with all his old storm-chasing buddies and gets a surprise—a project he originally conceived of has come to fruition. Nicknamed “Dorothy,” it’s an instrument package designed to study the inside of a twister by sending little sensors up into the funnel. There’s just one problem—you need to place the device in the path of a twister, and that means getting dangerously close. Before Bill can get Jo’s signature, the team gets a lead on a storm brewing nearby and they’re off in a motley caravan of vehicles in pursuit. Although he’d never admit it, Bill is thrilled at the opportunity to go on one last chase and see his idea realized. But another team of storm chasers is also in the hunt. Led by a former colleague (played by Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride) with corporate funding, they’re also trying to prove the Dorothy concept, using Bill’s stolen idea. Complicating things further, this is no ordinary day of thunderstorms—brewing over the heartland of America is a super storm of greater destructive power than anyone has seen in years.

Twister is one of those so-called “guilty pleasure” films that you experience absolutely no guilt enjoying. Sure, it’s got implausibility in spades and plot holes you could sail an aircraft carrier through. There are a plethora of continuity errors in its 113 minutes (like constantly changing sky conditions from shot to shot—though the new 4K grading helps a lot). And much of the dialogue in Michael Crichton and Anne-Marie Martin’s screenplay is either flat or way too on the nose. Sometimes, these lines are so bad they make the performances seem painfully awkward. The whole relationship between Bill and his new love, in fact, falls horribly flat. And the rivalry subplot between the two storm-chasing teams is ridiculous. (“They’re just a bunch of corporate kiss-butts, man!”) The vast majority of this film’s problems could have been fixed by a simple script polish. But all that aside, De Bont keeps the action moving swiftly. The geeky supporting cast includes Alan Ruck (Succession) and a young Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), and they’re all solid across the board. The film’s then-groundbreaking visual effects, produced by ILM, hold up surprisingly well too. And anyone who’s actually lived in Tornado Alley, and experienced real twisters and the damage they cause, will know that this Twister’s depiction of the danger is pretty convincing.

Twister was shot on 35 mm photochemical film by cinematographer Jack N. Green (Unforgiven, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Serenity) using Arriflex 35-III, Bell & Howell Eyemo, and Panavision Panaflex Gold and Platinum cameras, with Panavision C- and E-Series anamorphic lenses. Some TV news footage was also shot in Super 16, while visual effects plates were in VistaVision. CG visual effects were produced in 1280x1024 resolution and printed back out to intermediate stock. The film was then finished at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio for theaters. For its release on Ultra HD, Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging has scanned the original camera negative and master interpositive elements in native 4K, then completed a digital restoration and high dynamic range grade (HDR10 only) in a process supervised and approved by De Bont. Original negative elements look fantastic, with tremendous detail in evidence and lovely refined texturing. Visual effects footage is obviously much softer, while titles and transitions run through an optical printer exhibit the usual generation loss. Grain is light in the live-action footage, but heavier in the VFX (probably by design to help hide the CG). Note that the grain actually freezes briefly in one of the opening sequence shots of the thunderstorm, as lightning flashes occur, but that’s baked into the original effects (and not a remastering issue).

But even for the VFX, the improvement offered by the expanded gamut of HDR is significant, with the grading actually helping some of those shots to look a little less like CG and a bit more natural (though to be fair, nothing can help that hapless flying cow). Blacks are inky and detailed, while the highlights are far more realistically luminous. The 10-bit color space finally captures all of the bold naturalism of the Oklahoma landscapes. The colors really pop in daylight scenes—skin tones, the orange stenciled paint on the side of Dorothy, Bill’s red truck, Jo’s yellow one. But the HDR really benefits the storm footage—in reality, thunderstorms tend to darken and alter the quality of the lighting rather dramatically over short periods of time, often turning the sky an eerie green color. The HDR grade renders these changing visual atmospherics perfectly in a way that simply wasn’t possible in theaters. This 4K image isn’t perfect, but it’s a major upgrade of the previous Blu-ray and it represents the best this film has ever looked before.

Primary audio on the 4K disc is available in a brand new English Dolby Atmos mix, and this too is a huge improvement over the previous 5.1. Sonic immersion is nigh perfect, with wind roaring all around the listening space. You can actually hear the tornados growling and shrieking around you as flying debris sweeps from channel to channel. The overheads lend every storm sequence a grand sense of height—this film’s F4s and F5s actually sound as big as they look now. Tonally, the mix is rich and muscular, with lively movement, and tremendous rumbling bass during the storm sequences. Yet the dialogue remains clean and well positioned, and the film’s score and musical tracks have pleasing fidelity. Alternate audio is available in French 5.1 Dolby Digital as well as Spanish 2.0 stereo Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles included in English SDH, French, and Spanish. It would actually be an understatement to say that Twister sounds better than ever on Ultra HD—this new Atmos mix really draws you into the visuals like never before. Call it reference quality for this particular film.

Warner’s new 4K release includes the film in 4K on UHD only (the 2008 Blu-ray release remains available separately). Note that a 4K Steelbook version is also available. Extras on the 4K disc include…

  • Audio Commentary by Jan de Bont and Stefan Fangmeier
  • The Legacy of Twister: Taken by the Wind (HD – 15:14)
  • Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited (SD – 29:00)
  • HBO First Look: The Making of Twister (SD – 14:04)
  • Anatomy of a Twister (SD – 8:34)
  • Van Halen’s “Humans Being” Music Video (SD – 3:37)

The audio commentary with de Bont and visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier first appeared on the film’s 2000 Special Edition DVD release (the original DVD was movie-only, but it was also the first title ever released on the format way back on March 25, 1997). The pair offers a steady stream of production anecdotes and behind-the-scenes insights on the making of the film, and manages to keep things lively and interesting throughout. Among the interesting revelations is that a young Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) did uncredited rewrites on the script.

Newly-produced for this 4K edition is The Legacy of Twister: Taken by the Wind, which features the director looking back. He specifically addresses the new 4K presentation, which he believes is better than the original theatrical release, as well as the benefits of HDR grading and Atmos. In terms of the production, he talks about the challenges of making each of the tornados look different, the need for the crew to chase real storms in remote parts of Oklahoma to get the right kind of skies (which also helped to keep nervous studio producers at bay), and the use of practical effects—wind, rain, hail, and debris—enhanced by CG. De Bont also remembers Paxton’s enthusiasm for the role and collaboration with Hunt, as well as the casting of Hoffman—the piece is dedicated to Paxton and Hoffman.

All of the other video-based features are legacy holdovers. They include a behind-the-scenes featurette added for the Blu-ray release, as well as the original DVD’s HBO First Look special and glossy Anatomy of a Twister EPK. You also get Van Halen’s music video for Humans Being, which features Sammy Hagar at the microphone—one of their last hits before Eddie’s ego exploded the band. There are a few things missing here however. The Blu-ray also included a 2003 History Channel special called Nature Tech: Tornadoes (SD – 45:18), as well as a pair of Theatrical Trailers (in SD – approx. 2 minutes each). So you may wish to hang onto that disc, especially since there’s no BD in this package. You do at least get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert. But surprisingly, there isn’t a promo for the forthcoming sequel anywhere to be found, which seems like a missed marketing opportunity.

For all of its flaws, Twister is still more than fun enough to make for an entertaining ride, even all these years later. The film has certainly inspired not only a sequel—Lee Isaac Chung’s Twisters (2024), which arrives in theaters on July 19—but an entire generation of real life young storm chasers (Google names like Josh Wurman, Sean Casey, Reed Timmer, and Joel Taylor) and even a popular Discovery Channel reality series. While the lack of a remastered Blu-ray in the packaging is disappointing, Warner’s new 4K Ultra HD release offers a significant A/V upgrade that should thrill most fans of the film.

- Bill Hunt

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