RHI Entertainment continues to put the disaster in disaster epics; about the best one can say about its latest two-parter for NBC, “The Storm,” is that it’s superior to the distributor’s laughably bad last existential threat, “Meteor.” Various actors get very, very wet in this cautionary tale about science run amok, which serves the secondary purpose of cautioning networks against acquiring longform programming simply because it’s produced for the international market and thus relatively inexpensive.
“The Storm” basically boils down to the warning in that old commercial — “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature” — and then stretches out the mayhem over two nights. In order to do this, the story includes a few superfluous peripheral subplots — including one about a pregnant woman — that are only welcome in that they provide a respite from all the wind-whipped noise.
James Van Der Beek plays Kirk Hafner, a scientist working on a device that will allow researchers to manipulate weather systems. At first that obviously seems like a good thing — diverting storms, bringing rain to drought areas — but it’s of course being developed for nefarious ends by a ruthless industrial magnate (Treat Williams) and a general (David James Elliott) who wants to weaponize the technology.
Kirk is ready to become a whistleblower — first to a cable TV reporter (Teri Polo), then to a detective (Marisol Nichols) — but his attempt to spill the beans to cable network CNS merely yields lots of chases and violence. The slim premise holds up as a thriller, barely, in the first half before completely disintegrating in the second, by which point they’re talking about punching holes in the ionosphere and uttering unfortunate dialogue like “Can’t anyone do anything right?” (Williams, hilariously, is shown with different scantily dressed women in multiple scenes.)
Working from a script credited to four writers, director Bradford May uses a split screen for no particular reason other than perhaps to try to convince us that we’re watching “24.” By the time it’s over, former newsman Bill Lagattuta — playing a CNS anchor reporting on the storm — has probably notched as much screen time as most of the better-known stars involved.
The Halmi factory has a certain genius for packaging these kind of projects, built around terse titles and big concepts. If only they put as much effort into producing them, “The Storm” might amount to more than another soggy tempest in a teapot.