Directed by: Bradford May
Starring: James van der Beek, Treat Williams, Marisol Nichols, Teri Polo, David James Elliott, Luke Perry, John Larroquette
If a movie is called The Storm, and is sold with an image showing Manhattan about to be drowned by a huge wall of water, you could certainly be forgiven for believing it was a disaster movie. But buyer beware: The Storm is basically a techno-thriller toying with the idea of weather manipulation, where the main threats to Our Hero’s life are uzi-wielding thugs, not tornados or tsunamis. It rains a lot, though. In fact, The Storm is one of the wettest movies I’ve seen this side of Hard Rain — and The Storm is almost twice as long, so you do the math.
James van der Beek plays Dr. Jonathan Kirk, a brilliant scientist with the Atmospheric Research Institute who is involved in a project to control the weather. Dr. Kirk’s altruistic goal is to find a way to limit droughts and thus famine. His boss, one Robert Terrell (Treat Williams), isn’t driven by quite as noble ideals, though. Terrell is involved with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who wants to use weather manipulation for strategic military purposes.
Electromagnetic disturbances surrounding the experiments make Dr. Kirk argue that the team needs to slow down and make sure there are no ill side-effects to the technology being used. Terrell on the other hand pushes for even more advanced tests, and Dr. Kirk quits the project, leaving a less principled colleague to do Terrell’s bidding. Dr. Kirk gets in touch with the media, intending to expose Terrell’s operation, but soon finds himself being framed for murder. As the continuing experiments play havoc with the global weather, and massive hurricanes move in on the United States, the one person who might come up with a solution finds himself on the run from both Terrell’s henchmen and the LAPD…
The Storm was originally broadcast as a two-part miniseries, and the main problem is that the rather predictable plot isn’t enough to fill out a 160-minute running time. There’s a lot of running around chasing each other, and quite a few murders along the way, while a couple of static sub-plots are tacked on to provide some emotional grounding. That doesn’t really succeed, though, because those characters — a paramedic and his pregnant wife, and a meteorologist and his bartending ex-girlfriend — are given little to do beyond speaking banalities about life and love.
Personally, I waited for the disasters to actually start happening. However, for about 120 of these 160 minutes there’s mostly heavy clouds and incessant rain. A little freak twister killing a homeless man and hoisting him into a tree is a sad event but doesn’t quite qualify as a disaster. A tornado ripping through Anchorage, Alaska, might do the trick — if we had gotten to see more than a fleeting second of it. We are told, through innumerable news reports, that all kinds of shit is happening around the globe, but we get to witness very little of it.
Things do pick up a bit in the disaster department during the last half-hour or so, as the massive hurricane that has been looming off the west coast for the entire film finally hits Los Angeles. The paramedic’s pregnant wife gets trapped in a flooded basement, and the bartender’s co-worker gets brained by an airborne car bumper. That’s about as good as it gets. Then Dr. Kirk manages to patch up the ”hole in the ionosphere” that was the cause of all the crazy weather and can focus on hitting on the LAPD detective that was chasing him.
The Storm is a reasonably slick production and features a bunch of recognizable actors, so the end result is watchable though never very fun and much too long. The visual effects are on the cheap side and mostly limited to churning clouds and the mysterious beams that Dr. Kirk and his colleagues aim into the sky.