(1.5 / 5)
To say that Geostorm is as dumb as a bag of rocks is an insult to hardworking geological processes.
It’s not that time and energy, and roughly $120 million, didn’t go into the production – it’s that they did and, despite extensive reshoots, this is what we ended up with; a film, which if not quite putting the “disaster” into “disaster movie”, is certainly, on its own terms, a mess.
The directorial debut of long-time producer Dean Devlin, Geostorm is a film about extreme meteorological conditions and computer systems. Actually, mostly computer systems – they’re cheaper.1 Gerard Butler plays Jake Lawson, a rough-around-the-edges engineer who plays a pivotal role in the creation of “Dutch Boy”, a web of satellites that defend Planet Earth from freak storms. If that seems slightly too close to comfort to offer much by way of entertainment, Geostorm is, as an example of the genre, mostly remarkable for the lack of weather porn.
A village in the Afghan desert gets put into deep freeze, as does a beach in Rio, while icy Moscow gets hit by a massive heat-wave. The film’s script, written by Devlin and Paul Guyot, is such that it probably mistakes this hot-cold reversal for dramatic irony.2 Brought back into the fold by his company-man brother Max (Jim Sturgess), Jake travels up to the International Space Station, now the network hub, to figure out the cause of a serious technical malfunction. As with the mastermind on the ground – whose identity it falls to Max and his Secret Service Agent girlfriend Sarah (Abbie Cornish; essentially playing a Terminator) to figure out – the saboteur is patently obvious from the moment of their introduction.3
As much a half-baked political thriller as an out-and-out disaster movie, Geostorm steers so deliberately into every cliche, it could almost pass for parody. It’s certainly absurd: tornadoes descend on Mumbai, presumably killing thousands, but our sympathies are directed instead to the well-being of a boy and his dog. When devastating tsunamis descend on Dubai, they do so from across the desert; as in, coming from the opposite direction of the sea. Geostorm’s characters make jokes about mistaking the Secret Service for the postal service. It’s the rare attempts at sincerity that garner most of the, or indeed any, laughs.
Where Butler’s other franchise is remarkable for its regressive politics – at one point in London Has Fallen, Butler snarls, “Go back to Fuckheadistan” while knifing an anonymous jihadist – Geostorm instead plays up its liberal credentials: Jake first loses his job while defending “Dutch Boy” as being an international effort to a hostile Senate. The film saddles the character of his teenage daughter, Hannah (Talitha Bateman; giving the only genuine performance), with the task of book-ending the film with an overly optimism voice-over. All of the film’s female characters – including hacker-with-attitude Dana (Zazie Beetz) and the German ISS Commander (Alexandra Maria Lara) – are put at service of its agenda; in terms of utility, the latter is essentially Siri in human form.
Only Jake has anything resembling a character arc, if you squint; going from a man who is basically decent and heroic, but who drinks Coors Light in the middle of the day, to someone who maybe doesn’t do that, possibly. When he says that he hasn’t always made the right decisions, it could well be Butler himself apologising for his involvement.4 While the advent of Trump and Brexit should at least make Geostorm an uncontroversial experience, politically speaking, the film is not so much a guilty pleasure as simply, well, guilty; of bad timing and a general lack of imagination if nothing else.
- There’s an aborted plot strand involving a predictive computer simulation, which is utterly pointless in that outcome is always the same.
- It’s a film whose plot could well have been written on the back of a napkin, insofar as its difficult to imagine it ever having been typed into a word processor.
- They also vanish for a chunk of the film when the rest of the suspects are still hanging about; leading to a climactic showdown between Gerard Butler and… SPOILER some scrawny dude. Murder on the ISS this is not.
- We’re still waiting on the Has Fallen films.