Talk about bad timing. Just as Texas, Puerto Rico, and Florida are digging out from massive natural disasters and half of California is ablaze from colossal wildfires, this weekend brings a big-budget movie all about massive natural disasters. Like floods and wildfires.
Geostorm marks the directorial debut of Dean Devlin, who brought us Independence Day and the 1998 version of Godzilla. The man knows how to make a spectacle of the world crumbling under the weight of large-scale destruction, and though it’s generally at least somewhat fun to watch, I have no doubt many people will choose to eschew this particular one since it hits so close to home. For them and for everyone else, frankly, if you’re going to pick a movie to skip over the next few weeks, Geostorm is a good one to pass on.
Ironically, even as I mention the film’s poor timing in one breath, I’ll declare in my next breath that Geostorm’s biggest issue is that it actually spends too little time on the disasters. If you’re making the conscious choice to pony up your bucks to watch this kind of film, you’re not doing so for the nuanced characters and delicately interwoven plotlines. You’re there for the over-the-top images of monster-sized tornadoes, 100-story tidal waves, and buildings toppling over like dominos. And I imagine if you splice all of Geostorm’s on-screen natural disaster bits together, you might top out at 15 minutes. Probably closer to ten. The balance of the film is a combo flick of a brotherly squabble, space-based action, and a plot to assassinate the President of the United States.
Gerard Butler, as clunky as ever, stars as Jake Lawson, a super-scientist who has created a web of satellites that keeps the world’s climate in check. Anytime there’s a hurricane threatening, for example, the satellites deploy little remote thingies that break it up. Lawson is obnoxious, though, and his crankiness gets him fired in favor of his brother Max (Jim Sturgess).
Fast-forward three years, and the system has started going haywire—a remote village in the Afghan desert freezes instantly, and Hong Kong’s water mains erupt in fire—so Max has to suck up to his disgruntled big brother and get him to fly back up to the satellites on a repair mission.
While up in space Jake discovers that the system has actually been sabotaged with a virus, and that some higher-ups in the government may be behind it. As luck (or bad storytelling) would have it, the only way to prevent the imminent geostorm is to self-destruct the space station, resetting the system’s computers.
Unfortunately Devlin, working from a sublimely ridiculous script he co-wrote with Paul Guyot, his colleague from TV’s The Librarians, decided to jettison his mantra of “more is more” in favor of attempting to have an actual plot. Though he provides occasional glimpses of calamitous destruction, more often we find computer experts trying to track the virus, Max and his Secret Service girlfriend Sarah (lone bright spot Abbie Cornish) trying to unravel a conspiracy, and Jake trying to figure out who broke his satellites.
It’s a bit of a disappointment to be sure. As god-awful as the Devlin-produced 2016’s Independence Day: Resurgence was, at least it featured gratuitous amounts of fictional disaster porn. Devlin would have been better served saving some for this go-round. For a movie called Geostorm, there’s precious little storm to be found.
Worth the 3D glasses?
To be sure, there was plenty of potential in Geostorm, but most of it is squandered. While there are a ton of explosions and flying things, there’s not much else that makes the 3D glasses worth it. Pass.