Twister appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. From start to finish, Twister looked great.
Sharpness seemed excellent. Only the slightest smidgen of softness ever interfered with the presentation, as the vast majority of the flick was crisp and detailed. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws also created no concerns during this clean transfer.
Colors were good at all times. The movie went with a natural palette that seemed lively and full. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows showed good clarity. Low-light shots offered appropriate density and lacked excessive opacity. I really liked this consistently strong transfer.
In addition, no complaints came with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Twister. This sucker blasted right out of the starting blocks and rarely let up at any point. The soundfield seemed unbelievably strong and encompassing. It featured a nice complement of ambient sounds during the few quiet scenes and really flew during the storm scenes, which provided some of the most exciting and wildest audio I've heard.
The roar from the tornadoes appeared stunningly forceful, but it never degenerated into just a massive attack of noise. The localization remained terrific as each speaker clearly pumped discrete sound. I'd be hard pressed to think of any ways they could have improved upon this mix.
Thankfully, the quality of the audio also seemed very strong. Dialogue appeared consistently natural and warm, with no intelligibility problems, though the sheer volume of the effects occasionally overwhelmed the speech to a small degree. Music sounded clear and crisp, with good dynamic range. Best of all, of course, were the effects, which simply overwhelmed the viewer. They came across as clean and realistic and never betrayed the slightest hint of distortion, even during the loudest scenes. I won't say that Twister provided the best sound design ever, but it's on a very short list of the top mixes. The soundtrack remains stunning.
This two-disc Special Edition of Twister represents its third DVD incarnation. All three offer virtually identical audio; even though the 2000 SE includes a DTS 5.1 mix, I felt it sounds the same as the Dolby Digital material on all three DVDs.
Visual quality demonstrates the differences among the three discs. The original 1997 DVD was literally one of the first discs ever released. It remains watchable but is easily the weakest of the three in terms of picture quality. It suffers from digital artifacts and a mix of other flaws.
The 2000 SE shows picture improvements but doesn’t act as a night and day jump up in quality compared to the 1997 disc. It still suffers from source defects, edge enhancement and some softness. Sure, it looks better than the original, but not by a tremendous margin.
All of that means this 2008 SE becomes easily the best of the three in terms of visuals. It eliminated the various problems of the prior two releases and proves consistently satisfying. I think this is literally as good as a standard-def DVD of Twister will ever look.
This two-disc set includes extras found on the 2000 SE and some new ones as well. On DVD One, we get bits that already appeared on the 2000 release. In addition to two theatrical trailers, we find a running audio commentary from director Jan De Bont and visual effects supervisor Stefen Fangmeier. They were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Of course, we learn a lot about the effects, but we also find info about cast and performances, shooting on location and dealing with weather, real tornadoes and research, story and characters, music and audio design, and a mix of other production topics.
De Bont and Fangmeier are a chatty pair so almost no empty pauses can be found during this track. They get into many production subjects. I feel De Bont and Fangmeier spend too much time mentioning how good the effects are, but nonetheless they offer some solid information about the film. They maintain a high level of energy and make this a pretty good little track.
Over on DVD Two, we get a mix of new and old materials. In the “repeat” column come two featurettes appear on this DVD: Making of Twister and Anatomy of the Twister. “Making” lasts 13 minutes, 50 seconds as it presents remarks from De Bont, Fangmeier, producer Kathleen Kennedy, VORTEX director Erik Rasmussen, and actors Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, Jami Gertz, and Cary Elwes. “Anatomy” runs eight and a half minutes and features Paxton, De Bont, Elwes, Kennedy, Gertz, and Fangmeier.
Although they're separate pieces, the two programs might as well have been combined, for little differentiates them. Each contains unique information but both follow similar routines. The programs detail issues during the shoot and that concerned the effects, plus we see some real-life tornado video. Both featurettes remain firmly in the promotional-puff-piece vein, but I found them to offer enough information to make them worthwhile. However, they don't substitute for a comprehensive documentary.
Another repeat component comes via the music video for "Humans Being" by Van Halen. This three and a half minute clip is pretty much a total loss. The song is terrible and the video itself is dull and ordinary; it follows the same old "lip-synch combined with film shots" formula we've seen so many times. Die-hard VH fans might enjoy it, but I sure don't.
The remaining DVD Two components are new to this release. Chasing the Storm: Twister Revisited lasts 28 minutes, 56 seconds. It features De Bont, Paxton, Fangmeier, special effects supervisor John Frazier, and stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers. The show looks at how De Bont came onto the project and convinced the studio its effects would be viable, cast, characters and performances, story choices, practical and visual effects, weather on location, stunts, production design, and audio.
“Revisited” offers a technical look at the film. Given the nature of Twister, that doesn’t come as a surprise, but it does disappoint that we don’t get more actors or other creative talent. This becomes an efficient look at some effects and other nuts and bolts issues.
For a more fact-based look at twisters, Nature Tech: Tornadoes fills 45 minutes, 15 seconds. The History Channel documentary features remarks from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Severe Storm Laboratory’s Harold Brooks, University of Oklahoma Department of Meteorology Professor Howard Bluestein, the National Weather Service’s David Andra, Storm Prediction Center Warning Coordinator Dan McCarthy, NOAA’s Doug Forsyth, KWTV (Oklahoma City) chief meteorologist Gary England, KWTV staff meteorologist Mike Armstrong, National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Josh Wurman, University of Oklahoma grad students Robin Tanamachi and Chris Weiss, Texas Tech University research associate Russell R. Carter, Texas Tech grad student Ameri B. Gurley, Texas Tech civil engineering Professor Chris Letchford, Van Wert OH Emergency Services Director Rick McCoy, and storm spotter Dennis Bowen. We learn about the causes of tornadoes, research/detection tools and methods, the work of “storm chasers”, and various aspects of twisters.
The documentary tends to be pretty dry, I must admit. It gives us a decent look at facts about tornadoes and related research, but it doesn’t pack as many of the real-life shots we want to see. I think we get more images of spinning radar dishes than we do twisters. This gives the program a less sensationalistic tone, but it’s also less enjoyable. Seriously – if we watch a show about tornadoes, we really only want to see lots of them!
Finally, the DVD finishes up an ad for the Flat Out Ultimate Carnage videogame. What does the driving game have to do with Twister? Nothing I can discern.
Although Twister remains a flawed film, it still delivers a powerful punch where it counts. It's a pure adrenaline rush that got my blood pumping from the very start and rarely let up until the end. The DVD provides excellent picture and audio along with a pretty good collection of supplements. If you like “check your brain at the door” flicks, then Twister deserves your attention.
Since this two-disc Special Edition of Twister represents its third DVD release, prospective purchasers may face a dilemma. Does the new one improve on its predecessors? Yes, especially in terms of visual quality, though the set’s extras mark a step up as well. It’s definitely the package to buy if you own neither of the prior releases, and I think it’s a worthwhile upgrade for anyone who has either of those discs. The new extras and the significantly improved picture quality make it a winner.