A film review by Craig J. Koban October 29, 2017

GEOSTORM  ½j
  

2017, PG-13, 109 mins.

 

Gerard Butler as Jake  /  Katheryn Winnick as Olivia  /  Jodi Lyn Brockton as Melach  /  Abbie Cornish as Sarah  /  Jim Sturgess as Max  /  Ed Harris as Dekkom  /  Robert Sheehan as Duncan  /  Andy García as President Palma  /  Alexandra Maria Lara as Ute Fassbinder  /  Mare Winningham as Dr. Jennings  /  Amr Waked as Dussette  /  Talitha Bateman as Hannah  /  Jeremy Ray Taylor as Emmett

Directed by Dean Devlin  /  Written by Devlin and Paul Guyot

 

 

 

GEOSTORM is new disaster porn film of tsunami-sized idiocy and mediocrity, made all the more shamefully wretched because it squanders the decent talents of multiple actors appearing in it, all of whom are pathetically trying to make this insufferably silly material work.  

It also marks the directorial debut of Dean Devlin, perhaps best known for co-writing INDEPENDENCE DAY and STARGATE back in the 1990's, but his rookie production here behind the camera seemed cursed from the very start.  Shot three years ago with a rapidly ballooning budget, GEOSTORM had disastrous test screenings, which led to $15 million worth of reshoots, with some of the actors being recast.  Watching the final product it's a head scratching mystery why any studio head felt that Devlin's film was worthy of a cinematic release; this is one of the most laughably wrongheaded and instantly forgettable films of 2017. 

Overt familiarity and crushing genre fatigue taints GEOSTORM like a curse.  It aesthetically and narratively borrows in a fairly heavy and obvious fashion from Devlin's own co-created ID4 as well as past world decimating features like THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (directed by Roland Emmerich, former partner of Devlin).  Even more egregiously, elements of ARMAGEDDON are lazily thrown into this film's inept hodgepodge, especially in the manner it incessantly pummels viewers with brain hemorrhaging visual and sound effects overkill (yet, to Michael Bay's credit - and I can't believe I'm even saying that - his films at least have a finished polish that appear to have made usage of their vast budgets).  Perhaps most damning, GEOSTORM tries to be solemnly topical by using the threat of climate change as a lightning rod to propel its story forward, but I'm reasonably sure that very few actual scientists were consulted in its making.  This is the kind of movie that Neil deGrasse Tyson would have a field day with in a lengthy Twitter rant. 

 

 

The film opens with an ominous voice over narration set over multiple juxtaposed archival footage of multiple Earth-shattering storms and natural disasters that have virtually laid our planet to waste.  We are told that "entire cities" were lost and a "heatwave killed two million people in Madrid in just one day," which I'm assuming had a calamitous effect on Madrid's tourism industry.  Faced with overwhelming pressures, the world's leaders - as they conveniently always do in science fiction disaster films - decide to band together, forget their differences, and pool their resources to do what comes most naturally: Design and build an Earth orbiting defense system dubbed "Dutch Boy" that uses a multitude of other satellites to control the world's weather and stop disasters before they happen.  As a man that has experienced some of the most hellishly cold winters in Canada for the past forty plus years, I sincerely wished that my home and native land had access to their own Dutch Boy, but never mind. 

Now, it's never explicitly explained how Dutch Boy actually works, as that would require some basic level of scientific explanation, other than it shoots little torpedo-like thingies from space and into storm clouds, instantly stopping mankind threatening weather from happening.  As the film flashes forward to the present (an oddly unspecified time in what I'm assuming is the not-too-distant future), the President of the United States (a slumming it Andy Garcia) is given the terrible news that a part of the Middle East has frozen over, which hints at a possible Dutch Boy malfunction.  A high ranking cabinet member, Max (Jim Sturgess, also slumming it), embarks on a novel plan: send up Dutch Boy's original inventor, Jake (Gerald Butler, another slumming it casualty), to the space station to fix it.  Oh, he's also Max's estranged brother who became estranged from him when Max royally fired him after not playing nice during a Senate committee on the transfer of power for Dutch Boy.   

Begrudgingly, Jake decides to head back to fix his baby, but soon realizes that Dutch Boy might not be actually malfunctioning, but may indeed have been - gasp! - tampered with to allow storms to develop.  As Jake and company race against to clock to find out what's wrong, Dutch Boy's lack of handling of the world's climate is allowing a perfect storm of bad weather - a "geostorm" - to develop all over the planet, which will hit, of course, in exactly 90 minutes after the station's scientists discover it.  There's also one of those obligatory bright red digital clocks that counts down to the Geostorm unleashing itself, which of course begs the question as to whether all time zones will be hit at the same time...or one first over the other...or...never mind.  While this is happening Max discovers - with the aid of his secret service agent girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) - that the only way to stop the Geostorm and get Dutch Boy back online is by using the President himself, whose fingerprints and retinal ID can be scanned into a computer to reboot Dutch Boy.  In their infinite wisdom, the pair decides to kidnap the most powerful man in the free world, fearing that he won't come willingly.

Oy vey. 

GEOSTORM is about as horribly antiquated as just about any film being released today gets, which isn't helped by the laundry list of clichés and conventions that Devlin and co-writer Paul Guyot employ, right down to the afforementioned digital countdown clock, family rivalry melodrama, broad characters from multiple backgrounds, a race against time to stop an unstoppable threat, political malfeasance, and, hell, even sequences involving a boy and his dog being threatened by one of the disasters (in all of these films, untold thousands of people can be killed, but killing a pooch is an unacceptable no-no).  I could also go on and on all day about the mind numbingly preposterous lack of anything approaching actual science in this science fiction yarn, but I'd rather discuss some of the screenplay's more imbecilic logical gaffes.  Like, for example, the fact that Butler's Jake is the creator of Dutch Boy and is single handedly responsible for saving the lives of everyone on Earth with his creation.  This would make him the most popular and important man in the world, yet when he meets his diagnostic team up at the space station they don't recognize him.  And don't get me started on the whole cockamamie plan that involves Max and his girlfriend kidnapping the president to ensure his cooperation in resetting Dutch Boy, which doesn't reflect well on the level of protection the Commander-in-chief has in the future. 

Then there's the shocking plot twist of who's behind Dutch Boy's malfunction, which is beyond obvious pretty much from the get-go and could probably be deduced by the character's first appearance in the film.  The casting of the film is also a major issue, seeing as Butler never once comes off as one of the smartest scientists in human history here, nor is he even a likeable hero worthy of our rooting interest.  And as far as those infamous reshoots go, GEOSTORM's lack of continuity rivals that of FANTASTIC FOUR from a few years back, another notoriously terrible film that involved reshot footage that stuck out like a proverbial sore thumb and never gelled cohesively with what was filmed before it.  There are instances in GEOSTORM where Butler looks a tad pudgy and sporting a beard...and then there are other shots of him that are supposed to be set within the same moment of the story where he appears clean shaven and skinnier.  We're talking Ed Wood Jr. levels of directorial and editorial ineptitude here, people. 

I won't remember GEOSTORM a day after I write this review.   Perhaps I will remember some of its flashy visual effects sequences, some of which are good, but many others that seem hopelessly rushed and incomplete.  Beyond its glossy veneer as a would-be eye gasmic spectacle, there's virtually nothing else left for me to recommend here that would warrant you seeing GEOSTORM, a thoroughly dead-on-arrival disaster film that virtually never achieves the level of big, dumb campy fun because it takes itself as serious as a heart attack.  Here's another thing: Is  watching a film about incalculably large planet-sized storms destroying us enjoyable in the wake of so many recent weather related tragedies?  Not particularly, and maybe that's why GEOSTORM mercilessly bombed at the box office this past weekend.  You know a film's in trouble when it grosses less in its opening weekend than the budget of its reshoots that were meant to save it.  

Nothing could save GEOSTORM from its overwhelming badness...not even Dutch Boy

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