Directed by Herbert James Winterstern.
Starring Skeet Ulrich, Anne Heche, Daniel Diemer, Jordan Kristine Seamón, Alec Baldwin, Richard Gunn, Praya Lundberg, Johnny Wactor, Anjul Nigam, and Gabriel Clark.
A teenage boy runs away to follow his father’s footsteps, legendary storm chaser Bill Brody.
Generally, whenever a character takes up an endangering hobby (especially one as high risk as storm chasing), a script has to carefully thread the needle to keep them from appearing selfish or frustratingly insane. Supercell (directed by Herbert James Winterstern, with Anna Elizabeth James co-writing the screenplay) solves this somewhat sadly by killing off a young boy’s father during a dangerous storm chase in West Texas, showing the severe potential consequences.
Picking up ten years later, Supercell follows teenager William Brody (Daniel Diemer), seeking a greater understanding of who his father was and why he chased storms. It turns out he was mostly an adrenaline junkie, and, as William comes to learn, his parents were on the same team. The difference is that his mom Quinn (the late underappreciated Anne Heche), was more concerned with science and discovering information about tornadoes that could be used to benefit society and for their safety. It’s also not long before William ends up tracking down his father’s best friend Roy Cameron (Skeet Ulrich), who Alec Baldwin’s Zane Rogers has forced to run the company as a tourist operation for thrill seekers looking to journey into storms.
While the narrative here is far from riveting (characters and dialogue are unmemorable and fall flat), there’s at least an idea and core dilemma for William, who has to decide that if he is going to take after his parents’ passion, what reasons he will prioritize for chasing storms. There’s also the question of whether it’s possible to account for both reasons in the field simultaneously.
Herbert James Winterstern has also chosen to romanticize William’s journey into this world and the exploration of his father with Spielberg-ian energy (and a pleasantly rousing score from Corey Wallace doing its damnedest to ape John Williams). The heart is admirable, although the green screen CGI is so rough that one has to wonder if going heavy on special effects was the right approach.
Skeet Ulrich and Anne Heche are reliable performers, so the acting throughout Supercell is solid enough to invest us in these characters. However, sluggish patches are far too didactic about storm chasing; it’s akin to being in a science class. The problem is that anytime Supercell does try to show something epic in scope or elicit a sense of wonder, the budgeted special effects can only achieve so much, and its heart can only go so far. That lingering question is what type of storm chaser William will become and what he will pick up his parents is also engaging, even if it falls into overly familiar trappings.
Supercell is an ambitious, occasionally compelling low-budget tornado romp with images and sounds inspired by everything from Steven Spielberg to Twister; it’s one of the better knockoffs and possibly worth looking at, but nothing anyone would ever want to trap themselves inside.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com