Twisters’ Director Explains the Movie’s Intersection of Sci-Fi, Actual Science, and VFX

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From Minari to Twisters: Lee Isaac Chung’s Unexpected Journey to the Heart of the Storm

Lee Isaac Chung, the director of the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film Minari, is no stranger to stirring narratives about family, resilience, and the American experience. However, his next project, Twisters, marks a bold departure from his previous work, taking him from the intimate world of family dramas to the high-octane realm of tornado-fueled action. The decision, at first glance, might feel surprising, if not unexpected. But Chung, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, sheds light on the journey that led him to this unlikely destination, revealing a deep-rooted connection to his subject matter and a burning desire to pay homage to the science behind the spectacle.

Chung’s personal connection to the Twister universe stems from his upbringing in Arkansas, a state known for its proximity to the infamous Tornado Alley along the Oklahoma border. This shared geography, coupled with his fascination with the original Twister film, played a crucial role in shaping his vision for this sequel. He pushed the studio to embrace the authenticity of the setting, ensuring that Twisters was filmed in Oklahoma, capturing the raw power of the landscape and the potential for catastrophic weather events.

Beyond the visual spectacle, Chung’s interest lies in the scientific underpinnings of the film. He emphasizes the original Twister’s ability to inspire a generation of scientists, even though its portrayal of storm chasing veered into the realm of science fiction. "In the original Twister, the idea of putting these Dorothy sensor balls into a tornado is completely science fiction, but it inspired a generation of people to want to do scientific research on storms," Chung explained. "And with this movie, the endeavor that Kate [Daisy Edgar-Jones] is on to see if she can disrupt the dynamics of a tornado, this is also based on a lot of science fiction. We’re just theorizing, and it’s definitely not something we want people to do, but we wanted the film to pay homage to science and research and conducting very big ideas out there."

In Twisters, the Dorothy sensor balls, a crucial element of the original film, will likely play a significant role once again, perhaps with advancements in technology reflecting the evolution of storm research since 1996. But the sequel takes things a step further, exploring the potential to alter the course of a tornado, albeit within the bounds of science fiction. This ambition is not just about pushing the limits of special effects, but about sparking curiosity and igniting a passion for scientific exploration in audiences.

While rooted in scientific realism, Twisters doesn’t shy away from the cinematic thrills that defined its predecessor. To ensure a captivating experience for audiences, Chung acknowledges the importance of maintaining a delicate balance between scientific accuracy and dramatic storytelling. He reveals that the film’s approach to explanation mirrors the original, where a dedicated character provided clarity to the bewildering aspects of storm chasing. "What I was thinking as I was reading the script and planning the film was any time I personally had a question where I wondered, ‘What does that mean?’ that’s when I would assume we needed to tell the audience something," Chung explained.

The visual effects, another hallmark of the franchise, have been meticulously crafted to depict the intensity and breathtaking scale of tornadoes. Chung highlights the contribution of Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a company synonymous with groundbreaking visual effects, responsible for the groundbreaking visuals of the first Twister. "Industrial Light & Magic did the VFX for the original, and one of their artists on that film, Ben Snow, was our VFX supervisor on this film. He was very excited for this one because he knew how far they had come at ILM in terms of how they can incorporate so much physics into what happens within a natural event. They’re able to take environments and not just show tornadoes with incredible detail, they show the effects of the tornadoes in incredible detail as well, to the level of every blade of grass, basically."

Chung’s commitment to authenticity extends beyond digital effects, incorporating practical elements to enhance the realism of the film. Scott Fisher, a renowned special effects artist known for his preference for practical effects, joined the team, ensuring that the visual impact of the tornadoes wasn’t solely reliant on CGI. "We worked with Scott Fisher, who’s an incredible special effects artist … he comes from that school where they only use VFX if absolutely necessary," Chung stated, describing how Fisher’s expertise helped create a truly immersive experience for viewers.

With its focus on science, thrilling action sequences, and a blend of practical and digital effects, Twisters promises to be more than just a nostalgic homage to the original. It represents a significant step forward in special effects technology, mirroring the advancements in storm research it portrays. The film’s ambition goes beyond thrilling audiences; it aims to inspire curiosity about the natural world and the science that governs it. Lee Isaac Chung, the director who took audiences on an intimate journey into the heart of a Korean-American family in Minari, is now taking us into the heart of a storm, promising an unforgettable cinematic experience that resonates with both the mind and the soul.

Twisters opens in theaters on July 19, 2024, ready to unleash its powerful storm of entertainment upon the world.

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Alex Parker
Alex Parker
Alex Parker is a tech-savvy writer who delves into the world of gadgets, science, and digital culture. Known for his engaging style and detailed reviews, Alex provides readers with a deep understanding of the latest trends and innovations in the digital world.