After James Van Der Beek's notable performance in The Rules of Attraction as Sean Bateman, cropping up at the end of his stint on "Dawson's Creek", I was just about positive he'd be landing a few substantial character roles that leaned on a similar wired, harsh projection. That, however, didn't come to realization quite as expected, instead taking him along a stream of bit parts bouncing from network to network. His potential only comes to mind because The Storm, an NBC-aired miniseries that focuses on the disaster behind weather manipulation, will do him absolutely no favors in regaining his footing. There's fancier ways in getting around to a description, but the experience in this Bradford May-directed disaster work can best be summed up in three words: overblown, tedious, and bland to the point of hibernation.
Marks should be doled out to Van Der Beek, Treat Williams, and even John Larroquette for decent-enough performances to give at least a modicum of life to this script, a sketch of a decent idea that's made mind-numbing by intelligible techno-babble and silly plot twists. Williams plays a military-guided scientist who has aspired to control weather for nearly his entire life. He's gathered together a research team of cutting-edge scientists -- including Dr. Johnathan Kirk (Van Der Beek) -- to further his progress, culminating into a promising test run where they redirect rainfall to a location plagued with drought. There's a glimmer of mild thoughtfulness when discussion arises about the ability to redirect rain clouds to impoverished locations defends the ability to control nature, but then things go massive awry for the rest of this installment of NBC's "Disaster Sunday" once they lose control of the weather patterns.
All that occurs within the first fifteen minutes, and we've got a whopping three hours of The Storm -- split into the two equal parts, just as it aired over subsequent weeks on NBC -- to figure out an answer to reversing the weather patterns. Van Der Beek's Kirk plays a role in this mess similar to a combination between Jeff Goldblum's character in Independence Day and Dennis Quaid's in The Day After Tomorrow, vehemently trying to hammer his opposition-heavy theories home to a bunch of bull-headed military types with unswerving and greedy ideals in their head. His one-dimensional yet sturdy turn as Dr. Kirk gets lost in a mixed-up sea of both bad and underused performances, which straps an anchor to the series' already gimpy leg and massively drags down both the intrigue level and the pacing of the film. Add in a hackneyed murder mystery that ropes Dr. Kirk into a trite, overplayed scenario, and you've got a sea of pointlessness to wade through.
At least in Roland Emmerich's disaster pictures, there's a sense of indulging in a guilty pleasure by watching things either get blown up or destroyed by the awesome forces of Mother Nature. All we've got are a bunch of readjusting satellite dishes shooting purple beams in the sky, and the hole in the clouds from the energy expanding and contracting -- that look good, mind you, but offer little in the way of excitement. Rain falls and falls and falls, while footage of snowy areas and tornadoes try to create a sense of urgency, failing miserably. Lots of double, triple and quadruple split-screen phone conversations enter into the mix right before or after these clips and news reports, often with reporters and military types that try to emphasize the dire measures of the situation. It's all a bunch of smoke and mirrors.
Within that hive of buzzing dialogue and repeated stabs at a thrill or two, there's very little interesting to actually watch as the rain pummels down, even as Kirk hooks up with an "insider" (Luke Perry) who helps to solve the situation. The Storm could've been an indulgent, fun production, if it hadn't been so bleeding long and just ramped up the excitement quite a few decibels. Like this, we're working with nothing more than a brain-cell nosher. Admittedly, The Day After Tomorrow is a guilty pleasure of mine; Bradford May's construction simply replicates some of the half-conscientious scientific themes from it, in a taffy-stretched, nearly suspense-free chatter fest.
Video and Audio:
Considering that both halves of The Storm are crammed onto one disc, essentially three hours of content, Genius Products' 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation actually looks pretty decent. Granted, it suffers from a few compression issues here and there within darker sequences, but the dark, mostly blue and orange cinematography preserves the demeanor of the production well. Rainfall sequences, which can be a hive for blocking and such, actually looked pretty decent, while the computer effects came through with fine detail and convincing construction. Details get a little murky in a few spots and some edge enhancement can be seen, but overall The Storm doesn't look too bad.
Audio comes in a sole Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which sounds pretty decent as well. Rain fall and musical accompaniment are the two elements that really dominate much of a surround experience, pouring through intermittently throughout. Dialogue remains audible and natural, though not terribly crisp, while some of the sound effects and musical punches seem to push a little too hard on the soundtrack's capacity. It sounds fine though, supporting the picture with minimal grievance. No subtitles are available with this presentation.
James Van Der Beek and a few other noteworthy names can't save The Storm from being a bland knock-off of The Day After Tomorrow -- only no snow -- without much action or a strong grasp on nature-fueled suspense. Give Emmerich's film a rental for the special effects and the simple fun behind it all, while giving this three-hour drudge through rain, chatter, and nonsensical weather theatrics a pass. Skip It.