‘Into the Storm’: Just a lot of hot air

If you ever sat around daydreaming and thought, “I wonder what a tornado looks like on fire?”, the movie you’ve been waiting for is here.

No, this is not a Syfy original TV-film, and there are neither sharks nor wicked witches in the waterspout. (Every review of “Into the Storm” is obligated to mention “Sharknado” and “The Wizard of Oz,” so we can now proceed.)

The scene in question takes place at a gas station. A truck spills its unleaded, downed power lines ignite the gas, and the tornado catches on fire. Which looks pretty cool, unless you’re the videographer sucked up into the flaming spout.

“Into the Storm” is full of scenes like this, and they are why people will see the movie. Sadly, the mayhem is periodically interrupted by scenes of people talking, although I use the terms “people” and “talking” loosely.

The setting is the Midwest, where a documentary crew chases the storm clouds: money-hungry director (Matt Walsh, from “Veep”), brainy meteorologist (Sarah Wayne Callies, a “Walking Dead” veteran), and their gofers.

Meanwhile, teenager Donnie (Max Deacon) is filming his high-school crush Kaitlyn (Alicia Debnam Carey) in an abandoned paper mill, where a sign outside reads, “Worst Possible Place to Be during a Tornado.” Or maybe I imagined that part. Donnie’s macho-voiced dad (Richard Armitage, Thorin in “The Hobbit”) runs around dodging lightning bolts looking for his kid.

Director Steven Quale, a special-effects guy, tries to keep up the found-footage approach (as though everything we see is being filmed by the various participants). But I’m pretty sure the wide shots we see of airplanes being lifted by winds or bird’s-eye views of buildings collapsing have no traceable source.

As bad as the non-action scenes are, the windstorms are incredible. Sheer humongous spectacle is one reason to go to the multiplex, and if you like digital sound and fury, “Into the Storm” does not disappoint. The whooshing of one character inside a tornado and up to the calm above the storm is a high point, in every sense.

The film scolds its video crew for exulting about the great footage even though people are dying in the storm. Needless to say, the movie is also pretty excited about these images, and doesn’t feel much guilt about it. When a movie makes you check your watch during the dialogue scenes, wondering when the next twister will hit, best not to look for the moral compass.

“Into the Storm” (1 1/2 stars)

Bad dialogue scenes alternate with incredible special-effects footage in this digital extravaganza. We follow some tornado-chasers as they barrel into a huge storm system in the Midwest; mayhem ensues.

Rating: PG-13 rating is for violence, language

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