Twisters review: Does this belated sequel blow? Quite the opposite!

Next year’s Jurassic Park reboot, starring Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Bailey, got an early bit of promotion last month, when Bailey’s personal trainer posted a video to his Instagram showing off how ripped the actor is getting for the film. Now, is that really what a dinosaur movie needs? A defence strategy of “throat-punch a velociraptor first, ask questions later?” Twisters, thankfully, is a sequel that actually remembers the capable, rational scientist heroes of its Nineties predecessor. It suggests Hollywood might finally come to its senses when privileging brawn (and always sexless brawn, at that) over genuine smarts and expertise.

Even the film’s resident cowboy, Glen Powell’s YouTuber and tornado wrangler Tyler Owens, studied meteorology and is handy with all the “CAPE” and “EF5” terminology. No one tries to headbutt a tornado. And no one suggests they drop a nuke on it, either. Twisters, like its predecessor (and 1993’s Jurassic Park, if we’re keeping up the comparison), offers us compassionate, rational heroes faced with unparalleled destruction. And, here, that force rattles right through your bones.

Kate Cooper (Daisy Edgar-Jones) has skills that border on the prophetic. She can divine a tornado’s path by the way wheat shifts in the wind, yet has ended up stuck behind a desk in New York City. Suddenly, her old friend Javi (Anthony Ramos) turns up. He’s joined by a crew stacked with doctorates and a truck full of equipment capable of taking a full, 3D scan of one of the beasts about to tear through Oklahoma’s infamous Tornado Alley. She can’t say no. And yet she’s failed to ask herself who paid for that equipment and what their true motivations might be.

While knowledge remains sacrosanct in Twisters, Mark L Smith’s script updates the conceit to ask questions about who is afforded the assumption of expertise, and who is not. When Tyler first appears, in his beat-up truck festooned with homemade gadgetry, his crew are labelled “hillbillies”. And yet he’s also handily equipped with Powell’s charisma – which is, as a graduate of Top Gun: Maverick and a Tom Cruise protegé, a force as untameable as Mother Nature. It’s a flex of a cast: Edgar-Jones wears her character’s genius lightly but convincingly, and there are strong (if minor) turns from Love Lies Bleeding’s Katy O’Brian, Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka, Nope’s Brandon Perea, The Crown’s Harry Hadden-Paton, and future Superman David Corenswet.

There’s a part of Twisters that feels expected from director Lee Isaac Chung, the man behind the tender, observant 2020 immigrant drama Minari. Real, tangible communities lie in the path of devastation (the inevitable mention of climate change reminds us that the situation only gets worse from here), yet there’s such a feeling of solidarity and resilience in the air that it lends an otherwise chaos-dictated disaster spectacle a surprising touch of hopefulness.

And it’s a deft way to ground Twisters without subtracting from the sensory rush of being virtually pummelled by wind and rain for two hours. Terilyn A Shropshire’s editing is sharp here – it’s expressive and, at times, intense to the point of being frightening, but you can always keep a good handle on who’s where and what’s going on. The film’s climactic tribute to the original’s drive-in sequence would likely have been this year’s best action sequence if Furiosa hadn’t decided to crawl under an oil tanker two months ago.

Wind it up: Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell in ‘Twisters’
Wind it up: Daisy Edgar-Jones and Glen Powell in ‘Twisters’ (Warner Bros)

The callbacks, thankfully, are fairly minimal – but it’s still a comfortingly old school affair, in which its CGI feels at home next to a host of traditional practical effects, including that old gem of a slowly collapsing water tower. No bulging-to-the-point-of-bursting muscles needed.

Dir: Lee Isaac Chung. Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell, Anthony Ramos, Brandon Perea, Maura Tierney, Sasha Lane, Harry Hadden-Paton, David Corenswet, Katy O’Brian. 12A, 122 mins.

‘Twisters’ is in cinemas from 17 July