2017, PG-13, 109 min. Directed by Dean Devlin. Starring Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris, Mare Winningham, Amr Waked.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 27, 2017
There’s nothing I would enjoy more than having a chance to watch this latest apocalyptic take on the hazards of massive climate change while scarfing popcorn next to Al Gore in the theatre. I imagine him nudging me throughout director Dean Devlin’s cataclysmic chaos kaleidoscope, whispering, “See that? I predicted that 20 years back. That too. Instant ice tsunamis? Yeah, that was me. Told you the sky was falling.” I concur, to be sure, but this planet-in-peril disaster flick – and it is assuredly a flick in the basest sense of the term – is preposterously ham-handed and utterly derivative of so many other Irwin Allen and Roland Emmerich-inspired outings, that the only way forward through the chaos seems to be more chaos multiplied by a factor of 10.
In “the near future,” a multi-nation effort to retard the planet’s globally warmed death spiral to, um, our current reality has resulted in a ring of weather control satellites orbiting the Earth, hilariously dubbed “Dutch Boy.” But someone – Steve Bannon? Doctor Evil? – has hacked their way into said satellites and the ginormous international space station that controls and constructs them. This results in a Weather Channeling orgy of cascading meteorological fiascos. Tsunamis in Dubai! Electro-twisters in Florida! Ed Harris in this movie! (Seriously, from Darren Aronofsky’s Mother! to Geostorm? The mind reels.)
U.S. President Palma (Garcia) and mouthy sci-guy/project director Jake Lawson (Butler) are on the case, as is Jake’s little brother Max (Sturgess) and a barely-there Winningham, among many other insubstantial characters, cities, and some Brazilian beach babe in a thong that you’ll be delighted to see perish. (But not the cute little doggie. Doggie’s gotta survive, right?)
Often the CGI effects appear to have been rushed, but the sheer cheesiness at the core of Devlin and co-writer Paul Guyot’s plotting makes one long for serious disaster epics such as 1974’s Earthquake. That at least had Marjoe Gortner and Chuck Heston going for it. Likewise the Devlin-penned popcorn goofiness of Independence Day, which was certainly more believable than anything Randy Quaid has done on YouTube lately, and way less bonkers than this muddled mangling of an otherwise mostly entertaining film genre.
That’s what renders Geostorm such an abysmal failure in the end. Not a single character or the jeopardy that they find themselves in – end of the entire human race and all – is likable, canine-in-peril excluded. At least in something like Michael Bay’s Armageddon, a movie I’m not ashamed to say I enjoyed more than a little, the audience can cheer for Bruce Willis and his heroic, stoic, and frequently laugh-out-loud, goofball asteroid cowboys. Not so here, where planetary extinction is just a bombastic and badly executed background to not-so-supervillian tedium. This is how the box office ends, not with a bang but with endless exposition and Afghanistan on ice.