Twister (Mark Mancina)

Released in summer of 1996, Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment brought together Universal and WB and a team of super-producers to produce one of the year's biggest hits. With a script by Michael Crichton and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin, and ultimately ending up with direction with Dutch cinematographer-turned-director Jan de Bont. The film was a massive undertaking, filming on location throughout Oklahoma, a grueling physical production that caused various cast and crew accidents, and pioneering ground-breaking computer effects from ILM to capture the wrath of the tornadoes. The film received mild critical praise, but was a massive success, and went on to become the first feature film on DVD. With a fun cast, chemistry between the two leads, and a relentless onslaught of pulse-pounding sequences, the film is a blast, that still holds up well to this day as film that still fought on an in-camera disaster blockbuster film, before the full digital takeover of the next decade. 

Joining the venture was American composer Mark Mancina. Mancina got his start working for Hans Zimmer's Media Ventures, as an additional composer and arranger. His first major solo composer credit was for director de Bont's previous hit, "Speed", two years earlier. The mid 90's was the heyday of Zimmer's developing sound--testosterone-fueled 'power anthem' action scores. Mancina utilizes many of the key elements of that sound, keeping a strong melodic, orchestral base (with a delightful, long-lined, Copland-esque main theme), a beefy action theme for the storm-chasers, with the addition of Trevor Rabin on electric guitar to give the score a modern modern rock n' roll edge, and an epic choir that accompanies both the awe and terror of the twisters themselves. The score is definitely a product of its time, but one that often transcends the typical sound that came to define more generic blockbuster scores of the period and is a fun, tuneful, epic listen.

The film featured a heavy number of songs featured on screen, most of which were released by WB on a song album. A few months after the film's release Atlantic Classics put out a score album, featuring Mancina's score and the end credits piece by Eddie and Alex Van Halen. In 2017, La-La Land Records released an expanded limited edition (with the full score in proper chronological order), and a few bonus cues. I revisited this film recently, in anticipation of the long-gestation sequel, and delighted to see the film and score really hold up. There hasn't been a ton of art produced for the film, however, and a lot of the original promotional art feels a little dated. But I dug in and found the best that's out there to try to update it a little. I present a total of seven new covers.

Covers 1, 2 and 5 seem to be the original studio marketing posters. The main posters feature a very dark, moody and gritty style. I tried to enhance and sharpen the images, though they still largely retain their original look. Covers 3 and 4 are sourced from later home video releases. Editing was fairly simple on most of these, besides them all having to be upscaled and enhanced, a bit of color and level tweaking, etc. In several, I did vertical compression by sliding the darker tornado sky further down in the image, as they otherwise would have been mostly cut out of the crop, which gave the image a better framing and gave more space in which to place the title. 

Covers 6 and 7 feature custom fan-created artwork. Cover 6 adapts a piece by French artist and game art director Philippe Poirier. His image is an ultra-wide panoramic landscape, a great design... but one that is naturally tricky to adapt for a square cover format. I knew I'd have to lose the entire left half of the image. But even compressing the right half, I still had to sacrifice a lot, and choosing how to frame the remaining elements was tough. I moved the flying cow over to the other side of the twister, and flipped the two heroes direction and scooched them a bit closer to the tornado, and had to repaint and blend things back in together. It was such a cool image, I knew I wanted to feature it. But this is one of those tough ones where I struggled to still try to be as faithful to the spirit of the original piece, while having to make some painful compromises and edits. 

Finally, cover 7 features original art by UK illustrator Rich Davies. Fortunately the wider composition of this allowed for easier cropping. He originally had two color variants, one a colder, more colorful image, and one a darker, more sepia-tone image. I ended up doing my own color corrections and came up with look somewhere in between the two. 

This was fun project that I was able to crank out in a week, as a change of pace from some other bigger projects that I needed a break from. Hope you enjoy, and let me know your favorite selections!

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