It is folly to outsmart Geostorm because the movie doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: a throwback to 1990’s blockbuster disaster movies, written and directed by none other than Dean Devlin (who wrote Stargate and the two Independence Day movies).
For those films, “stupid” was as essential an ingredient as explosions or tidal waves or massive loss of CGI life. It’s part of the charm. Sit back, enjoy the lousy dialogue, enjoy the stupid leaps of logic, the calls to an enlightened American-led global order saving the day …
Oh, well. Like I said, the movie doesn’t pretend to be anything but goofy, far-fetched fun.
Geostorm stars Gerard Butler as Jake Lawson, the designer of “Dutch Boy,” an interlinked series of satellites created by the U.S. but utilized by the United Nations to break apart catastrophic weather events before they hit populated areas. Hurricanes, tornados, superstorms, earthquakes – the limits aren’t bound by logic, rather, but by what kinds of disasters you’d see on movie posters while scrolling through Netflix.
Eat it, tectonic plates. Satellites are gonna stop your devious movements once and for all.
After a disastrous meeting before Congress three years prior to the movie’s main events, Jake is fired from his position as the commander of Dutch Boy. Lawson’s brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), is the suit put in charge in his stead.
In fact, it was actually Max who fired him. Drama.
Anyway, an unknown nefarious force (who can be identified immediately by the strength of the actor’s resume) takes control of Dutch Boy and reverses its weather-controlling effects to instead create cataclysmic incidents. Tidal waves in Dubai, eruptions in Hong Kong, hailstorms in Tokyo. Each event building in power until they become uncontrollable.
What happens when all those events becomes so strong they’re unstoppable? GEOSTORM!
Unfortunately there’s no actual Geostorm in the film. We’re reminded of the threat by a countdown clock that says “countdown to Geostorm,” but the actual disaster events don’t really appear until the third act and most of them feel cardboard cut-out.
There were apparently production problems behind the scenes of the film and, if anything, these moments – CGI spectacles – feel like the most obvious survivors of a previous cut. Each is crafted like a story in its own right. In Brazil, we follow a pretty woman in a bikini outrunning an ice cloud; In India, we follow a boy whose dog gets lost in a sandstorm. In Moscow, we see the sun-beam laser (straight out of Die Another Day) from the perspective of a couple of tourists. These are stock characters for stock sequences. Fun throwbacks, not much more.
Butler hasn’t made a really good movie since 300, 10 years ago, and he’s let himself go in more ways than one. Somehow this makes him more charming. He’s in on the joke but thinks the joke is worth telling. There’s no indication he thinks he’s better than whatever they’re paying him to show up, look tough, and yell to mask his inability at conveying an American accent. His buoyant, “just-having-fun” attitude permeates the rest of the movie and is what ultimately makes it a fun time. It’s like watching a little boy play make-believe in his backyard.
Of course the trailers don’t really convey that this is Sturgess’ movie. The bulk of the movie’s plot is driven by his on-the-ground investigation into who hijacked Dutch Boy. Sturgess has disappeared as of late, and he’s endearing, too — less so than Butler, but then for whatever reason Sturgess is required to put a dramatic face on some of his scenes, an ill fit for the movie.
The scariest part of Geostorm isn’t its wanton death and destruction or odd, troll-like CGI models of Gerard Butler. When the movie reaches its climax the heroic, thoughtful, (non-white) President of the United States shows up and helps save the day. That’s a trope grown comfortable in mainstream American cinema, particularly action movies.
A few friends and I actually did a list of big POTUS speeches from 1990s disaster movies. It was always corny — spitting in the face of some real political problems and American sins — but always an aspiration that seemed achievable. The villain in Geostorm is a nativist American political operative who doesn’t want to turn over control of Dutch Boy from American to UN hands. It’s treated like a no-brainer that this guy is a lunatic whose actions only make the world more dangerous, splintered, chaotic. We have dozens of men just like him in the highest offices of the United States government and that’s downright horrifying.
Geostorm’s politics are milquetoast liberal world order stuff for maximum box-office draw, but goddamn if that doesn’t feel like a political statement these days.
I had a good time with Geostorm. It’s no Independence Day or Armageddon, but it’s definitely big, dumb and full of fun.