dir. Dean Devlin (reshoots dir. Danny Cannon)
reviewed by Dakota Drobnicki
On the heels of the recent storms that ripped through Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, one might wonder why Warner Bros. would opt to release this movie at this time. After all, MGM pushed back their Death Wish reboot from November to March right after the recent Las Vegas massacre. I’m guessing it’s because it was this movie’s third or fourth release date at this point, and since they released it without advance press screenings, it was basically an unceremonious dump.
Originally filmed in 2014, Geostorm was scheduled for Batman v Superman’s release date last year until awful test screenings demanded $15 million worth of reshoots, complete with a new director and an entire recasting of a character once played by Vikings’ Katheryn Winnick. In any other year this would likely be the cinematic trainwreck of the year, but this movie already has The Emoji Movie, The Mummy and The Book of Henry to compete with for that title.
To combat worsening extreme weather and an increasing number of natural disasters, the US builds a worldwide network of satellites nicknamed “Dutch Boy” that can take full control over the weather below. On the eve of transferring control of Dutch Boy from the US to an international coalition, it conspicuously glitches with deadly consequences in not just Afghanistan, but also on the space station above the satellites.
Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), the man who designed Dutch Boy, is sent up to the space station by his brother Max (Jim
Sturgess) to investigate, and the two discover that Dutch Boy’s recent antics are the result of conspiracy at the highest level of government. They must put a stop to it before the satellites unleash a “geostorm” and destroy most of the world.
Wow, this sounds ridiculous! Surely it wouldn’t really be a dull affair, right? That was my takeaway from it, sadly.
The writing is the most fundamental culprit. The film begins with narration by Jake Lawson’s daughter explaining what the satellite network is, why it exists and what it does, not an unusual move for exposition with such a fantastical concept. A half hour into the film, I wondered why they even bothered when ninety percent of the dialogue is already exposition.
When they aren’t trying for humor without an ounce of conviction or comedic timing, they’re either explaining the science in the film or plainly spelling out their plans so the audience doesn’t get lost. Do any of you remember how dreadfully boring Roland Emmerich’s 2012 was? Imagine if that film was written like the dumbest episode of Cosmos you’d ever see, then mix it with White House Down, and that gives you an idea of how this movie actually plays out.
Despite what the misleading trailer and outright dishonest poster would tell you, it’s actually much more of a political thriller than a disaster movie. The disaster scenes are mostly disconnected from any of the plot— none of the individuals focused on in the boring destruction scenes are relatives of anyone in the space station, for instance— and a supercut of them would be lucky to exceed ten minutes.
This movie would rather devote its time to Jake grumpily facetiming Max from space.
This all isn’t to say there aren’t bursts of joy to be taken from the movie. I was giddy when I saw Ed Harris pulling an RPG out of the trunk of a sedan, when a technician on the space station was awkwardly sucked out of an airlock at the beginning, when a flood over the entirety of Dubai just seems to flush itself within seconds, and especially after a scene where Jake had preposterously left Max a message in a story about fishing with their dad. These were among the few moments where the movie had taken an interesting b-movie direction, even if it still wasn’t the full-on disaster porn the marketing promised.
If Geostorm took itself less seriously, placed more focus in the midst of the destruction, wasn’t shot like a TV movie, didn’t devote an unbelievable amount of screentime to the minutiae around the satellite network, and actually made it about the satellites legitimately malfunctioning, it would be a more interesting spin on the genre. As it is, there’s just way too many cooks in the kitchen.