IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 109 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
When catastrophic climate change endangers Earth’s very survival, world governments unite and create the Dutch Boy Program: a world wide net of satellites surrounding the planet which are armed with geoengineering technologies designed to stave off the natural disasters. Its chief architect Jake Lawson is scolded by senator Thomas Cross for activating Dutch Boy without prior approval even though in doing so he prevented a major natural disaster, and is subsequently replaced by his brother Max. After successfully protecting the planet for two years, a strange freezing event occurs in Afghanistan, evidence that something is starting to go wrong. Jake and Max, now estranged, are tasked with solving the programme’s malfunction before a world wide geo-storm can engulf the planet….
I wasn’t initially going to review Geostorm, so I browsed the reviews of it the other day and they’re generally pretty poor. Now I’ve found the time to do a write-up, I can say that those critics were right, though I personally can’t really say that I was too disappointed by it. You’d probably expect Dean Devlin’s directorial debut, especially considering it’s in part a disaster movie, to be corny and stupid just like most of the outings from his former partner Roland Emmerich, so in that respect I wasn’t let down. On the other hand Emmerich tends to know when to time the cheesiest moments and is often quite good at balancing his movies so they seem aware of their own ridiculousness yet don’t become actual send-ups, and he usually provides lots of spectacle along the way. Devlin, who also co-wrote, tends to just pile on cliche after cliche with little thought as to whether they work or not, raiding every movie he can think of from The Day After Tomorrow to Armageddon to try to stop the viewer from being bored but not succeeding in making him or her actually care very much. Geostorm is the second film I’ve seen over the last few days that seems to be principally comprised of bits and pieces from other films. And the special effects are variable to say the least.
It’s actually the second film recently released that’s been delayed for a few years due to reshoots and a studio obviously unsure of what to do the movie that they had. The first one was the umpteenth instalent in the Amityville series entitled Amityville:The Awakening which they finally decided to unleash, and that hasn’t had a very good response. And Geostorm seems to be a similar case, where they messed around with the film for ages yet in the end seem to have failed to come up with anything better then what they started with. The extensive reshoots apparently extended to cutting some characters completely and adding totally new ones, but more than anything else the result is something that’s been pounded by what seems like multiple commitees and test screenings into easy mass consumption, anything interesting or dramatic reduced to the most simplistic and bland level. The result isn’t boring, but it’s not very involving and doesn’t possess the verve to make its more stupid aspects and moments [and there are many of both] forgiveable or dare I say [I’m certainly able to enjoy a bit of dumb fun just like everybody else] part of the fun. The screen I saw the film in didn’t have many people in it but it’s possible that some of them still heard my groaning.
So once again we have a disaster movie that’s very much about the subject of climate change, so if there are any denyers still reading this review then you should be advised to stay away. I can’t say that I disagree with the film’s viewpoint, though I did groan [I’ve used that word twice so far and will probably use it again] at some political propaganda elsewhere. I don’t think that you have to be some kind of extreme right-winger to find the way Hollywood likes to shove its liberal agenda down our throats rather irritating especially in films which are seemingly intended to be nothing more than pieces of entertainment, but as that’s a subject best left to better or braver writers than me that’s all I’ll say about that! Geostorm is set only two years from now where, after a brief montage of disasters jarringly alternating shot of real events with staged ones, it asks us to believe that some satellites have been built which can prevent all natural disasters. That’s only one of the things Devlin and co-writer Paul Guyot’s idiotic screenplay asks us to swallow but at least we get a good idea of what things are going to be like almost immediately. The main man behind this undertaking Jake loses his position to his younger brother Max and the scenes between these two, which begin with Jake calling Max “little brother” just so we know who he is instead of us being allowed to pick it up through more natural dialogue, are sometimes almost excruciating in the way they cynically try to hit all the expected emotional beats. All it results in is us not caring a hoot about them or their relationship.
Jake, who by the way has a 13 year old daughter who of course is very precocious, becomes a fixer of car engines but two years later is visited by his brother when a remote Middle Eastern village is mysteriously frozen. He reluctantly goes back into space to sort things out while Jake, who’s having a secret relationship with security guard Sarah Wilson, does his own investigating on the ground and begins to suspect that maybe somebody could be behind the malfunction. The story eventually leads to the big plot point emphasised in the trailer where Jake and Sarah have to kidnap President Palma, played with obvious boredom by Andy Garcia, for reasons which I’m not going to go into. They manage to do this with absurd ease in what is one of the stupidest scenes in movies I’ve seen this year. Almost half of the film though takes place in the main space station, something which you certainly wouldn’t gleam from the trailer. These scenes sometimes have a bit of easy humour to them and aside from a few shots during a death scene look absolutely convincing, as if they’d spent most of the special effects budget on them. The cutting back and forth from space to earth is well done too and has a nice even rythmn. But, to be honest, the space station scenes could have been removed from the story altogether, they could’ve started the movie at NASA where the two main characters discover the weather net has been hacked and then try to stop it.
A fairly early set piece set in Hong Kong where an earthquake and huge explosions occur is well pulled off despite the way that one particular car is able to avoid buildings that are being knocked down like dominoes. And people on a beach being frozen as a tidal wave occurs is quite memorable though most of the tidal waves in this film look awful. There are several other types of disasters that are shown to attack other cities, though some of them are disappointingly brief, the effects seem to get worse as the film goes on [did they do them in order?], and the attempts during each extreme weather event to make us care about an individual, or a pet, are just cringeworthy. Devlin is happy using things that have previously been done over and over but doesn’t seem to understand how they can still work if handled well. Meanwhile the conspiracy angle never convinces whatsoever and wouldn’t it have been far more interesting and indeed frightening if it wasn’t in the film at all and things just started to go wrong anyway? And when even I worked out the supposedly surprise villain right at the beginning I could do nothing else but groan [third time I’ve said this, mind you it’s been two or three paragraphs now so I’ve done well].
While Ed Harris seems incapable of giving a bad performance, the majority of the major cast members just look like they don’t want to be there. I really like Jim Sturgess, but he looks ill-at-ease here, while Gerard Butler’s all-purpose ‘American’ accent fails to really come off. It’s two of the female cast members, Alexandra Mara Lara and Adepero Oduye, who actually come off best and I wished that Oduye’s character had been in the film more. She seems like an actual person and the actress actually seems to be enjoying herself. Composer Lorne Balfe provides as generic a Remote Control-style score as you can think of, you just know what the chords are going to be and where each musical cue is going. And the whole film is just like this, except for the final act where you think something’s going to happen which may add a bit of weight but doesn’t and instead you’re treated to the most ridiculous scene in the whole movie – though at least it’s one at which I was able to laugh out loud at rather than groan [there we go again]. Of course it’s possible that Geostorm was a decent film in one of its previous incarnations, but I doubt it.