Back in March of 1993, the weather captured my imagination when one of the most notorious winter storms in history blasted into the D.C. metro area. I remember it seeming like it was never going to stop snowing. When all was said and done, the “Storm of the Century” had blanketed D.C. with more than a foot of snow. As a 12 year old, that’s more than I could ever recall falling. Playing in snow that was knee deep was crazy insane and seeing it all happen is a huge reason I find myself a Meteorologist today. I began to wonder what else the weather could bring. How did it happen and why??? Well, there is one other thing that mesmerized me even before the weather did… Movies!!!
Plain and simple, and like many of you, I love movies. I love going to the theater. I love the smell of popcorn when you enter the building. I love handing that ticket to the “ticket taker” or these days, scanning my mobile ticket. Yes, I even love watching the previews. Although, I will say that the amount of time devoted to previews has gotten a bit out hand. The last movie I went to, the previews were pushing close to 30 minutes! But, I digress. Movies, to me, are the best. And I love all types of movies… Comedy, drama, horror, documentary, animated, foreign, you name it. I’m all about it. I love being taken into whatever world the writers and directors have created. It’s that time where you can just get lost in the story and characters, forget about that thing at work or school that may be stressing you out, and just relax. Easily, one of my favorites things to do.
Now, there are times where two of my favorite things come together… Movies that are weather-themed or weather influenced. Some examples include, The Wizard of Oz, The Perfect Storm, The Fog, The Day After Tomorrow, Sharknado, and, probably most famous, Twister. As a meteorologist, when people find out I’m also a movie buff, I get asked what I think about these types of films. They want to know how believable they are. “Could that stuff really happen???”
The first time I was asked that question, it threw me for a loop. Believe it or not, I didn’t have an answer because I had never really thought about it. As I stated earlier, I love going to the movies to get lost in the world and my last thought is to try and figure out what’s accurate versus what is not. Of course, going back and watching these movies with that question in mind, you see that a tornado composed of sharks is a ridiculous thing. No, you would not have a tornado suck up sharks from the water and ravage an entire city. It’s absurd but that’s exactly what it was supposed to be. The filmmakers accomplished exactly what they set out to do… Make a movie that was totally unbelievable but have people watch it and talk about it. Their goal was to not be real.
Slightly more scientific was The Day After Tomorrow. It made the claim that a super-mega storm would pull down super cold air from the upper-atmosphere and freeze over all of New York City. Sounds plausible until you realize that as air descends, it actually warms. It would have been more accurate to have the city warm up and melt everything.
Twister, on the other hand, was a little more grounded in reality but it could certainly be picked apart on it’s inaccuracies. Take the opening scene, for example, which was set in 1969. A tornado was threatening and one of the characters mentions that the tornado is an F5. Well, that couldn’t be right because the Fujita scale that rates tornados wasn’t developed until 1971. On top of that, a tornado is not rated until after the damage is assessed so there is no way it could have been rated as it was happening. Also, at one point in the movie, the characters seek shelter from a tornado… Under a bridge. The characters are storm chasers and they should know better. That is one of the most dangerous places to seek refuge from a tornado. Meteorologist Dennis Mersereau wrote a great article on what the Twister filmmakers got wrong and right. You can check it out here.
I’m sure I could go back and point out some of the “rights” and “wrongs” of some of the other weather-themed movies but, for me, that defeats the purpose of a movie. Unless it’s a documentary, all facts/reality can get thrown out the window. As long as I’m drawn into a place that captures my imagination for 2 or so hours, I’m good! I’ll take an inaccurate movie that is enjoyable over one that has all the facts right but is a snooze fest…any day of the week. In the film Gladiator, Maximus shouted, “Are you not entertained???” That’s what matters the most to me. Did you enjoy yourself? Was that hard earned money spent to go the theater worth it. Do you wish you could take that time you spent watching the movie back. Those are the important questions. So the next time you sit down to watch a movie, suspend reality and just go with it. It’s so much more enjoyable that way!
By the way, if you were curious, my favorite weather-influenced movie is Groundhog Day. As a 12-year-old, the idea that a day could repeat itself over and over was the coolest concept. Plus, Bill Murray was just genius. I’d love to know what your favorite movie is. Weather related, or not, let me know in the comments below.