‘Geostorm’ Has Fallen (Movie Review)

Much like The Perfect Storm, sometimes a cog in the Hollywood moviemaking machine comes up with a decision to have two reasonably entertaining ideas collide. In the case of Geostorm, to freshen up the idea of a massive storm destroying cities, a convoluted plot to assonate the president by controlling the weather was developed. This was apparently tricker to pull than intended, but after millions spent on reshoots and the hands of several other filmmakers coming in to help shape this thing, the results are a film that is somewhat watchable.

Set in the not-too-distant future, the story opens with a recap of how climate change has led to the world needing to combine their efforts to develop a solution. The result is a system of satellites setup to control the global climate. Dr. Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) is responsible for designing this system, better known as Dutch Boy, but despite his clear claim to fame, Jake’s problems with authority get him removed from control. Jake is replaced by his brother Max (Jim Sturgess), and while a couple of years go by without a problem, some serious anomalies suggest someone may be up to no good when it comes to having control of the weather.

Geostorm comes from the mind of Dean Devlin, who makes his directorial debut with this film, after having produced many of Roland Emmerich’s blockbusters, including the Independence Day movies. If that gives you an idea of what to expect, you wouldn’t be wrong, although this film is a highly mixed bag regarding the silly fun that could come from a premise as wild as this one. Given the eventual involvement of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and others to rework a lot of this movie, I’m probably more curious about what this film was originally like when the initial script was given the green light, as opposed to a clearer understanding of the mechanics of the villain’s plot.

As it stands, rather than a film that relies heavily on melodrama and fun character banter to build up to the spectacle, you get a lot of characters spouting exposition, with only a few bringing the right sense of swagger to the proceedings. This is where Butler comes in. There is no world where this man is a scientist, and yet the film somehow lets him coast along in a convincingly enough manner, so we just kind of accept it. Much like Butler’s American accent, we just let it go, as there is far more ridiculousness to contend with.

Sadly, the insanity does not hit until the film’s final half hour, with a lot of time instead spent with Sturgess, the film’s most boring character. He works in the White House, has a secret relationship with Secret Service Agent Sarah Wilson (Abbie Cornish), and regularly reports to the Secretary of State (Ed Harris) and President Andy Garcia (sans beard, so you know he’s at least partially committed to this film). Given a more inherently funny actor (think Channing Tatum in the underrated White House Down), the Max character would be a blast to watch. Instead, Sturgess’ moments of levity never hit hard enough, and we instead watch his minor facial reactions to the unfolding conspiracy that’s bringing about extreme weather.

The idea of a Geostorm refers to a chain reaction of harsh storms that creates one global storm system that would destroy almost everything. Obviously the characters want to prevent this, but the film still gets a chance to show some countries getting beaten down by huge waves, intense lightning, massive hail showers and more. In 2017, there isn’t too much to say about elaborate weather effects. It’s all CG noise thrown up onto the screen with an added touch of space station-based destruction thrown in for good measure as well. This means I can’t give all that much credit to the various situations this film has come up with. Not helping is how weightless it all feels, no matter how many random civilians the movie tries to single out to help us relate.

In saying all of this, I could easily see how someone could really dislike this movie. That’s not quite the case for me. Geostorm is certainly a mess, and it does itself no favors by holding back on its madness, but it does still have its share of goofy charm. It may not be anywhere near as fantastic as The Core, but there is enough to enjoy in this fairly compact film (it’s amazingly under two hours).

For all the issues regarding standard expectations for movies (decent characters, engaging story, etc.), Geostorm does manage to put together some wacky concepts and imagery. In no particular order, we see a smart car in a chase against explosions, the most insanely powerful lightning strike of all time, Ed Harris armed with a rocket launcher and the baffling editing choice to not show what happens to a woman confronted with an airplane that nearly crashes on top of her. There’s also the matter of all space logic being thrown (or torn) out the window, but I’m sure some YouTube video of Neil deGrasse Tyson is already being carefully prepared to deconstruct the logic of Geostorm (and it would no doubt take several hours to watch).

There’s a good chance that any of those ridiculous things listed above will only have a potential viewer more intrigued and I can’t blame them. Geostorm is not winning any points for what it accomplishes, as there have been plenty of dumb movies that have done this kind of thing better. I’ve even seen actors do better slumming in other movies like this (again, The Core is terrific). However, if 2012 was the peak of just how much cinematic damage a disaster movie could do to the world, the novelty of throwing in a presidential assassination attempt into this one was a nice touch. Geostorm may not be saving the world, but it finds a way to assault the senses and not feel like a waste either.

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