Director: Dean Devlin
Writer(s): Dean Devlin, Paul Guyot
Release Date: 20 October, 2017
This, perhaps fittingly, is a disaster on every conceivable level. Which is hardly surprising, given the circumstances.
What circumstances are those?
Geostorm, which is the feature debut of producer Dean Devlin, began principle photography in 2014; it was received so poorly in test screenings that the whole thing had to be delayed and re-shot. The version of the film that snuck discreetly into cinemas last week, then, after conveniently not having been screened for critics, is the absolute best version of this film that has ever existed – an incredible thing, considering that it is incompetent drivel. And has there ever been a worse time to release what is essentially a montage of extreme-weather highlight reels? It arrives mere weeks after several chunks of the world have been ravaged and devastated by natural disasters of unprecedented ferocity. The only thing stupider than Geostorm are the politicians and pundits who continued to insist that global warming was a myth as hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans starved to death in the wreckage of their homes.
Well, let’s not get political.
Good point – it isn’t as though I don’t have plenty to complain about otherwise. First, though, plot: We open with some scene-setting narration from child actress Talitha Bateman, who sketches out a cautionary near-future with a bit more eloquence than the lines she’s reading strictly deserve. The world, she informs us, is ******. All the inconvenient truths of climate change have come to pass, but luckily her dad, Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), has put his beard and his implacable accent to the task of stabilising our temperamental atmosphere. The solution is “Dutch Boy”, a network of weather-controlling satellites that can raise or lower the temperature of any location on earth.
That’s going to go wrong, isn’t it?
Of course. The U.S. government currently have their hands on the controls, so it’s hardly a stretch when inclement weather snap-freezes an outpost in Afghanistan and hikes up the temperature in communist China to such an extent that the gas lines burst and a random Asian man has to outrun the fracturing road in his tiny Smart car. Who, I wonder, could be behind these attacks on America’s most well-known political rivals? I guess you’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, the President (Andy Garcia) has asked Jake to return to space and reboot the Dutch Boy system, which is malfunctioning thanks to a virus planted by a member of the multinational team (led by Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara) tasked with maintaining it.
You might be surprised to learn that Jake is a hothead who doesn’t play by the rules, which has led a Senate sub-committee to reprimand him and place Dutch Boy in the hands of his flaky bureaucrat brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), whose hairstyle changes from one scene to another, and who teams up with an extraordinarily bland Abbie Cornish to battle the evil backroom shenanigans of Washington. In one unintentionally hilarious scene, Jake and Max communicate in code.
This sound familiar.
Yeah, it’s plodding along in joyless adherence to the traditional disaster movie formula. If you’re keeping count, feel free to check off the hero’s daughter not respecting him until he saves the world, the hero saving the world, and an imperilled dog. (Bingo!) This is only half the problem with Geostorm. The other half is how po-faced and self-serious it all is; you can’t even enjoy the novelty of Gerry Butler – surely one of Hollywood’s finest shouty-punchy men – shouting at and punching weather. The trailers seemed to promise more of that than we end up getting. Geostorm is mostly a nonsensical political thriller which asks us to buy King Leonidas as a space scientist while the earth is occasionally beset by hailstorms and hurricanes.
What’s ironic is that Dean Devlin is the producer who, working mostly with Roland Emmerich, more or less pioneered the modern disaster movie with flicks like Independence Day. You’d think he’d be able to find some interesting new wrinkles in the worn fabric of global calamity, but I guess not. Perhaps the film’s troubled provenance is to blame. Danny Cannon was brought in to direct the extensive reshoots, as was Jerry Bruckheimer as some kind of production consultant, but neither are credited. And if the man who produced The Lone Ranger doesn’t want his name attached to your project, then you’re evidently in big trouble.
What about the action, though?
What about it? In the few brief instances we actually get some, we’re mostly left wondering how much each of the dozen-or-so contributing visual effects companies were paid for their services. You almost wish they hadn’t bothered. I often imagine what it might be like to run for your life in front of an empty, lifeless green screen, pretending you’re being chased by a tsunami or a fast-spreading cold front or whatever. The stars in Geostorm are often forced to perform alongside a personality-free slab of robotics who can’t act back at them – but enough about what it must be like to work with Gerard Butler.
Oh no you didn’t.
Sue me, Gerry. And good luck with that because Geostorm didn’t make any money.
If you want to take a look at a badly-written, badly-acted, sloppy and nonsensical snapshot of where our world is inexorably headed, by all means check out Geostorm. If I were you I’d just continue to strangle turtles with your plastic bags and wait for the real thing to hit us.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.