What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

Look down at the bottom of Syfy’s barrel, rip out the bottom, then keep digging through the earth about a mile and you’ll find this flick. Lou Diamond Phillips, Nicole Deboer and Greg Evigan star in Metal Tornado.

Metal TornadoCast of Characters:
Michael Edwards – Lou Diamond Phillips
Rebecca – Nicole Deboer
Jonathan Kane – Greg Evigan
Nick Edwards – Stephen Macdonald
Ron – John Maclaren
Greg – Frank Schorpion
Lisa – Cinthia Burke
Dennis Porter – Rob Stewart
Allysa Winters – Sophie Gendron
Sheriff Joe Riley – Sean Tucker
Melissa – Camille Solari

Director – Gordon Yang
Screenplay – Jason Bourque & Andrew C. Erin
Producer – Curtis Crawford & Stefan Wodoslawsky
Rated PG for disaster action/peril and mild language

Helios World Inc. is on the verge of solving the world’s energy crisis by gathering and transmitting energy from solar flares. If successful, they could harness an unlimited supply of renewable energy.

I smell the shit hitting the fan real soon, but hey, a greener Earth… is a happy Earth.

Despite warnings from the developing scientist, Helios CEO Jonathan Kane (Greg Evigan) is determined to reach this achievement at all costs; however, he unwittingly unleashes a magnetic vortex that draws in any form of metal into it. It’ll be up to Michael Edwards (Lou Diamond Phillips) and his research partner Rebecca (Nicole Deboer) – aka, the woman he’s probably also banging – to end this disaster ripping through America.

God help us – no, wait a minute! Those dumb-asses brought this on themselves.

Metal Tornado is another bottom of the barrel Syfy movie, which came before another certain “insert this inside a tornado” film of theirs, that touts a pseudoscience storyline they treat as valid as Newton’s law of universal gravitation and just as important as finding a cure for cancer. That “science” refers to a renewable energy device absorbing too much energy from a solar flare, then a percentage of that over-absorption going rogue and morphing into a tornado-like magnetic killing machine, hence the aptly titled Metal Tornado.

Sounds legit and now Al Gore can add this next to ManBearPig as the greatest environmental threat in the world.

Of course, like with all Syfy movies, one can only wonder how the network pitch for this went…

“Sir, I have a new idea for a film that I feel carries a load of promise.”

“The floor is yours.”

“Okay… Imagine this. Sharks picked up by a tornado, and then thrown all over L.A. like predatory debris. Sharks. Tornado. I call it Sharknado.”

“Hmm… Hmm… Wow… That is the dumbest mother @#$%!##$^@% &@#%!$^ sucking idea I think I’ve ever heard before in my life. What the hell kinda network you think we’re running here? Have a little more self-respect you dumb, stupid son of a bitch. Sharknado – what brain stemmed retard came up with that idea?”

“Uh – it was my daughter, sir. The one in St. Jude Children’s Hospital. This was her Make a Wish Foundation request.”

“Oh, and I bet she thinks we can use Twitter to blow up the advertising for this. Yeah, that’ll work. Try again.”

“Fine. I don’t know. Whatever, how ’bout Metal Tornado?”

“Okay, that’s genius. That… is… GENIUS!! Make it happen! Oh, and good thing your daughter only has about what – four to six months left? She won’t have enough time to feel so brokenhearted about us crushing her dying wish.”

Or perhaps it went something like this?

“Sir, we have a problem. We just finished shooting our documentary about the heartland of America, and – well, check this out.”

“What the hell is that blur in the middle of the screen?”

“It’s some sorta video static. It’s like that for most of the movie.”

“Dammit! This documentary was supposed to be a game changer for Syfy. Finally, the respect we’ve deserved all this time.”

“Well, what do we do now?”

“Hmm… Okay, do some quick reshoots of some frightened reactions from the cast. We’ll turn this doc into a disaster flick and pass the blur off as a tornado.”

“But then people will say we’re just ripping off Twister.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Okay, we make it a magnetic tornado that picks up metal as it moves along. No one’s ever thought of that before… Can’t imagine why.”

“Wow, sir, that came out of nowhere… Fuck it, let’s do this.”

Director Gordon Yang’s style is quite bland in comparison to other Syfy films that we’ve seen before. It’s pretty much just the tornado moving about and sucking metal into it, while people scream in horror. The real unintentionally hilarious treat is Jason Bourque and Andrew C. Erin script, which is cluttered with more science and techno-babble (most of which is nonsense, much to my disappointment ’cause I obviously expect better from Syfy) than what is needed in a Syfy network film. Would you believe me if I said a 100 page thesis on quantum mechanics by Stephen Hawking would be easier to understand?

And to think with all that pointless meandering about astrophysics and magnetic vortexes and ionospheres, getting rid of the tornado comes down to just blowing it up with missiles. Everyone’s happy and cheering that it’s all over while citizens of Philly are getting rained on by sharp, heavy metallic objects that have been left hovering in the air in the wake of the twister’s absence.

It’s not to say that opening up the change purse a little wider for this film would’ve magically turned this into Twister, but this seems cheap even on a Syfy level. Hey, who said being frugal is a bad thing? After all, why pay for film sets when you can just use a classroom in the local school down the street? Why pay for and put the time toward decent special effects when you can use what looks like visuals ripped off of Captain Planet or some other Saturday morning cartoon programming?

If you look at the poster for this, the image of the tornado looks halfway decent, which tells you where most of the effects budget went to. With what was left, all they could probably come up with was a few blue squiggly lines that they pass off as the rogue magnetic field.

Lou Diamond Phillips (Remember him?) is the heroic lead scientist here. You know, the one that, when everyone’s naturally freaking out about a freak event they’ve never seen before in their entire lives, that has to say, “Don’t worry. This can easily be explained by a perfectly sound and rational scientific explanation.”

MythBusters, Syfy movie-based episode – make it happen.

At the very least, Phillips could be used as the focal point of a drinking game. Every time he smirks, furrows his brow or looks perplexed beyond belief, you take a drink. Careful, though. Excess alcohol consumption, as Phillips’s performance here will clearly lead you to doing, is no joke.

Greg Evigan, in full “The My Two Dads checks stopped coming in the mail and Paul Reiser won’t return my calls” mode is the token greedy CEO that’s determined to make his invention work, even though all hell’s breaking loose outside. It takes him about 60 times having to hear “Do you not see what’s going on?!” before it finally gets through to him. As Phillips’s partner in the lab and under the sheets, Nicole Deboer has as much personality as a sponge. Not the animal kind, the Scotch-Brite kind.

Then again she’s Syfy’s hot chick, so who cares?

Never disrespect the Syfy by-laws.

There’s also a subplot involving Michael and his “rebellious” son Nick (Beaver Cleaver is Derek Vinyard next to this kid), played by Stephen Macdonald. I could never quite pinpoint what’s so rebellious about the boy other than that he’s just a whiny douche. Sure, the twister’s ripping through the town, sucking up everything from vehicles, tools, steel structures and the occasional poor soul who happens to have any form of metal plate in them. However, Michael has no time for that when he’s busy giving a lecture to his kid about not being such a bitch, while Nick whines back, “Just get off my back, man!” Oh, well, if not for that pointless bickering we wouldn’t get the obligatory heart to heart acceptance moment between father and son.

“Dad… I’m sorry I’ve been such a dick.”

(Keep in mind, the tornado is still destroying everything outside)

“It’s okay, son. Maybe I’ve been a little hard on you.”

“You’re the best, dad!”

And see? Not even violent, magnetic tornadoes can tear asunder the bond of family.

Metal Tornado is as scientifically plausible as an episode of PBS’s The Magic School Bus, yet everyone involved treats it like an episode of Through the Wormhole. There’s not enough cheese to be entertaining; in fact, with as much “scientific” jargon everyone’s bouncing off each other, you might think you accidentally switched to the Science Channel. Then you stand corrected when the tornado pops up, and that’s when you realize you better start drinking more if you’re gonna make it through the rest of the film. If anything, this movie proves that Angel Guzman’s been putting all that Calculus Jaime Escalante taught him to good use.

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