Jacob Richardson | 20/10/2017
As cliche as they come, Geostorm is a disinteresting, nonsensical mess.
Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) developed the ‘Dutch Boy’ - a giant satellite system that, under Jake’s direction and the expertise of a skillful internationally inclusive team of technicians, controls the world’s weather as a preventative measure against the disasters of climate change. Alas, after a confrontational senate committee hearing, he is removed from the program and his brother, Max (Jim Sturgess) is placed in charge. Fast forward 3 years, and the Dutch Boy is about to be handed over from American control to an independent multi-national committee. When it starts malfunctioning, the President (Andy Garcia) and Secretary of State (Ed Harris) call in Jake to try and fix it. When they discover that it is being tampered with, Jake, Max and Max’s Secret Service agent girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) must find out who it is and shut the system down, before the targeted storms coalesce into one world-destroying Geostorm.
It’s difficult to quantify what makes Geostorm just such a poor film. Certainly, from a scripting perspective, it is a dog’s breakfast. Dialogue is meted out in phrases that, before this moment, have likely never left a living human’s mouth. Conversation is so stunted that even in one section where Gerard Butler’s character is meant to be using a subtle code in normal conversation to his brother, his covering, typical conversation story is unintelligible. It’s like watching 15 to 20 mute humans, previously segregated from any semblance of language, suddenly gifted with speech and filmed in space for ninety minutes.
Then again, they aren’t helped by their performances. Whether it’s Harris and Garcia phoning it into extreme levels (watch for Garcia’s unenthused clapping during the genre mandated control centre celebration scene), Cornish struggling through her one dimensional character, or Sturgess looking uncomfortable in every single scene, the actors know they are reciting the exact antithesis of Shakespeare. While the actress playing his daughter is astoundingly bad, Gerard Butler has a little more fun, yet even he is clearly struggling to muster up much of the energy needed. What’s even stranger is the choice of Sturgess and Butler as brothers. In a movie about a giant net that controls the weather, it’s weird that these two brothers with wildly different accents stand out as the weirdest part.
And yet, Geostorm’s most egregious sin may be in the fact that it is just plain boring. There is nothing that curates more disinterest than a film where every step is known to the audience, and the screenwriters for Geostorm (Dean Devlin of Independence Day: Resurgence fame and Paul Guyot) hang so tightly to cliched, overused motifs that the film never leaves you with a shadow of a doubt about what is happening next. All the major tropes of this genre are there, like an excruciating filmic bingo game - the first disaster stumbled upon, the cover up, the initial mistake for a natural disaster, the realisation it is a plot, the mistaken bad guy, the good guy who turns out to be the bad guy, the hacker hidden in plain sight. It’s movie-making 101, and the only place Devlin (who also directed) and Guyot eschew the traditional forms is in their elimination of any linking sequences whatsoever. There are no moments where Jake stumbles on the information he needs to support his theory that the President is behind it, no moments where we see Jake hide the hard drives, or where we see the hacker sneaking away from the pack. We get no prescient foreshadowing that the President isn’t evil. Instead, seemingly realising that his script lacked any nuance or intrigue, Devlin eschews explanatory scenes to instead resort to flashes of revelation as the primary character driver. It’s infuriating, and, rather than making the plot surprising to the audience, further highlights the utter contrivance of this script.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this film makes no sense. Whether it is the meaningless addition of “holographs” as phones in the three year period between the opening of the film (2019) and the disaster (2022), the contrived code that Gerard Butler uses to signal his brother, the motivations for the eventual villain (who seemingly doesn’t realise he, too, will be killed by this storm), the utter impossibility of the space shuttle’s docking systems, or the insane disasters that actually do occur. Every location is struck by some comically ridiculous disaster. Seemingly taking his cues from better movies, we see Devlin even explode a stadium when a bolt of lightning hits it, reminiscent of Independence Day’s iconic shot, but with none of the pathos.
What is interesting about the advent of these environmental catastrophes is the poor quality of their rendering. We’ve seen better effects in lower budget films, commercials, and iPhone applications, so any sense of danger is obliterated by the unbelievability of what we are seeing on screen. It’s a shame. Geostorm had the potential to be a fun, funny disaster movie. Instead, the most realistic disaster we see is the utter destruction of quality filmmaking.
This is a terrible movie, from script to performance to plot to production quality. It’s a frontrunner for worst film of the year, and a tremendous waste of all time and effort from those who made it, and those who spend their hard earned money seeing it.