Illustration: Kevin K.
Explicitly framed as a parable about climate change, Geostorm is An Inconvenient Truth for the bombastic fake news age. It’s a cautionary tale that, quite literally, warns that if humanity doesn’t band together to prevent global warming, we’ll have to build an insane space contraption to stop it, and then that machine could potentially be used as a weapon in a convoluted power grab. It’s also a disaster movie in promise more than practice—a nonsensical political thriller with as many minutes-long Holo-FaceTime conversations as glimpses of CGI destruction. And like the Geo Storm compact car, it’s a hopelessly outdated, ramshackle vehicle you can’t believe anyone would still be seen in. Yet there it is, Gerard Butler not entirely surprisingly at the wheel.
The film is the directorial debut of Dean Devlin, a writer and producer who’s worked with apocalypse-obsessed director Roland Emmerich on Independence Day, 1998’s Godzilla, Universal Soldier, and Stargate. Devlin missed out on Emmerich’s 2012 and Day After Tomorrow, though, and Geostorm is apparently his playing catch-up on the weather-as-villain scenarios. Though, if the weather were the actual villain in this thing, maybe it wouldn’t be quite such tedious trash.
Like recent intolerable efforts Olympus/London Has Fallen, Geostorm buries its uninspired action set-pieces beneath Butler’s stubble of harebrained D.C. backstabbing that goes all the way to the President and his ensuing car chases. The minor pleasures of world-ending destruction porn are obscured by so many absurd rationales, clichéd characters, and obvious plot points—plus the fact that, this being 2017, no one is blindly impressed by the spectacle of a city in CGI ruins. Sorry, Parisian flood-renderers.
Butler stars as Jake Lawson, a scarcely-convincing scientist we’re introduced to in a prologue that sees him mouthing off to the senate and fired by his own brother, a Secretary of State aid-or-who-gives-a-shit named Max (Jim Sturgess). Jake headed up “Dutch Boy,” an international project that launched a massive space station effort to halt climate events given the clever name “extreme weather.” A system of satellites has been able to negate the extremity of this very extreme weather. But, three years since Jake’s firing and the arbitrary assignment of new crew members, something has malfunctioned and killed an entire village with coldness. As you could guess, there’s “ONLY ONE PERSON” to put on the case.
Jake, of course, has become (akin to Devlin’s ID4 Randy Quaid part) a drunken, willingly-suicidal divorcé and loving father who’s living in a dated trailer in the desert. Max is, of course, headed with recruiting his brother into this mission to fix the system. And, of course, it turns out that there’s a deceitful human hand at play in this plot to create, yes, a GEOSTORM. Leave it to Jake and Max, the respective Bruce Willis gruff dad and Ben Affleck romantic lead of this somehow less-thoughtful Armageddon, to solve the issue.
After it’s laid hilariously bare that a simultaneous confluence of worldwide storms is “what we [this “we” is never clear] call a GEOSTORM,” the titular event is built up quite a bit. We’re shown a “Geostorm alert” and a computer prediction’s warning of “category level: Geostorm” before, finally, a “time to Geostorm” appears on screen. That countdown is for exactly an hour-and-a-half, forcing everyone in the theater to check their phones to see whether there’s actually that much left in this interminable film.
There’s not quite, thankfully, but there is still a ton of bullshit to wade through to get to the end. Even the scenes of outright destruction are burdened by such stupid pseudo-science that seeing a major city awesomely torn apart is a struggle to watch. The “cooling” power of the satellites acts like a freeze ray, and the “heating” element somehow makes Hong Kong explode from the ground up, its high-rises toppling like dominoes. All of this builds to a climax that’s thoroughly predictable, entirely inane, and worst of all, always boring. Maybe it should have been expected after Armageddon worked against its title offering, but as it turns out, all this sci-fi nonsense is meant to AVOID a Geostorm.
Yes, Geostorm does not even contain a Geostorm, the event it created and repeatedly defined solely for this trash script. Instead, it prioritizes the most painfully obvious lampshading ever seen in film: the Scottish Butler and English Sturgess are said to be born in the UK, excusing their strained, unbearable New York tough-guy accents; and in the same scene, it’s pointed out that Butler (obviously) looks much older than Sturgess, who, until the end of the prologue, you’d have assumed was his son over his brother. If only they’d bothered to so readily broadcast that Geostorm is an absolute shitstorm.
Director: Dean Devlin
Studio: Warner Bros.
Runtime: 110 minutes
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Richard Schiff, Robert Sheehan, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Ed Harris, Andy García