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'Into the Storm' Blockbuster's Lead Role? The Weather

The casting director had it easy.

I must admit that I have a bit of a storm fetish. Perhaps it comes from growing up in the Kootenays. On late summer afternoons, thunderstorms tend to roll in like clockwork, transforming blue skies to black in a matter of moments. Sunny beach scenes turn into Armageddon. Boaters bolt for cover as the wind kicks up and huge yellow-green waves threaten to dump water-skiers and fair weather sailors into the dark depths of Kootenay Lake. When lightning arcs across the sky, the dogs whine to be let in so they can hide under the dining room table, and the humans run madly around unplugging their various computers, routers and even the phone. If you're lucky, you get a front row seat to the ultimate fireworks show, lightning, thunder and curtains of rain roiling across the valley. Ten minutes later, it's usually all over and everyone goes back to doing what they were doing before.

There is a discernable pattern at work, one that is age old and understandable. But things are changing.

The most cursory look at the news will reveal extremities of weather, floods on the East Coast, and drought in the West. In unexpected ways, animals appear to be feeling the effects. There is an inherent, almost biblical, aspect to some of these events that would give even the most entrenched atheist a bit of pause. Immensity of violence is one thing, but fierce storms are also often insanely beautiful to witness.

If you're looking for an entertaining bit of disaster porn, Into the Storm is not it. It's what might generously be called terrible. But it points up something that is difficult to ignore, namely that the weather is often the biggest and most dramatic show in town these days.

Look at the flying car!

The one uniting quality of Into the Storm and reality is the tendency of humans to stand in the path of imminent disaster and destruction and simply watch it happen. This is where things kick off in the film with a group of high school kids in a car, watching a tornado approach. Instead of running away, they film the power lines exploding in showers of sparks, until the funnel cloud finally reaches them, picks up their car, and treats it like a cocktail shaker. Bloody margarita mix for everyone. After that bravura opening, things quiet down for a bit.

In the nearby town of Silverton, the local high school graduating class is assembling in caps and gowns for their commencement ceremony. The action is presided over by the blandest human being alive, one school vice-principal named Gary Morris (played by human cottage cheese Richard Armitage). Father to two teenage sons (Donnie and Trey), Gary has his work cut out for him. His kids, after lipping off to him in typical teenage fashion, are also busily filming everything they see in order to prepare a video time capsule to be opened some 25 years in the future.

Yes, 25 years in the future... what will that look like exactly? By the year 2040, we will be well past the date set by climate scientists at the Copenhagen Summit of 2009, where it was generally agreed that a rise of 2 C was the maximum limit for global warming. (More on that in a bit.) Predictions differ, of course, but estimates for this date maintain that current carbon dioxide emissions (happening right now) won't even have taken full effect. By then, however, according to various scientifically arrived at scenarios, there will be drought-like conditions in the U.S. that decimate food production. Vanished ice packs around the globe will result in shrinking major rivers and major water shortages. And everyone will have bedbugs. Except this time, we will be eating them, instead of the other way around. (I made that last bit up, but you get the picture: the prognosis is grim.)

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