2017 | rated PG-13 | starring Gerard Butler, Jim Sturges, Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris, Andy Garcia, Talitha Bateman | directed by Dean Devlin | 1hr 49mins |
Studio Pitch: A little bit The Day After Tomorrow, a little bit Gravity and a little bit Michael Crichton’s ‘State of Fear’
Oh boy, Geostorm is a dumb movie in a sea of dumb movies. The directorial debut of 90s super-producer Dean Devlin and co-writer of movies like Stargate, Independence Day and Godzilla (1998) with director Roland Emmerich, Geostorm takes everything from those movies you only thought was dumb and pumps it up 10 fold. The crazy, large scale disaster sequences, the reckless disregard for life, the commentary on incompetent government and crooked politicians, the hero worship action movie macho man, the terrible dialog and hackneyed relationship drama. It’s all here and it’s really quite funny. Somewhere between the scene where Devlin remixed his own stolen cab chase scene from Godzilla to a scene soon after where a high level cabinet member tries to assassinate the president with a rocket launcher I was in for the duration.
Geostorm is so good that it sat on the shelf for a few years while a shamed studio waited until Jim Sturges’ career caught fire or Gerard Butler fell back into our good graces. Neither of those happened so they snuck it out anyway. As it turns out Gerard Butler action movies are as bad as Gerard Butler romantic comedies. Butler once again takes an action hero, written on the page as a cocky, reckless, arrogant rogue and plays him as smarmy, obnoxious and charmless. In Geostorm he’s also one of the smartest guys in the world, having solved Earth’s climate problems by inventing a network of satellites that encase the globe and control the weather. But those fat cats in Washington want to turn the system, nicknamed Dutch Boy, over to the rest of the world and send a team of international scientists up there to replace Butler’s team of international scientists. Devlin’s own one-world globalism gets obscured by his own hero being against it.
Things start going wrong. A city street in Hong Kong starts exploding and the skyscrapers that line it fall against each other like dominoes. Dutch Boy has been hijacked and causing freak weather phenomena all over the world. Devlin gets his Day After Tomorrow disaster sequences without having to explain the science behind it. The satellites did it! The satellites are moving tectonic plates, freezing the beaches and shooting a Hammer of Dawn laser down onto Moscow. Sturges plays Butler’s straight-laced government employee brother who is dating even straighter-laced secret service agent Abbie Cornish (playing this role with robotic intensity) and gets saddled with the trope of the absentee parent, except to his niece who reads him the Riot Act early about how he’s supposed to be in her life more. Everyone is a one-dimensional archetype here.
Even the story is simple here. Who took over Dutch Boy? A terrorist Butler has to fight in space? No, that would be too exciting, just a virus causing it to act up. So what gives? I suppose after being punch drunk by Transformers: The Last Knight and Independence Day: Resurgence, Geostorm‘s quick, efficient, straight-forward, story, setup and execution felt pretty charming. Resurgence is a prime example of how big studio blockbuster filmmaking has changed in the last 20 years, tearing down structure, eliminating 2nd acts and turning these movies into full 3-hour 3rd acts. Devlin on the other hand seems to have rolled out from a cave he started hibernating in back in 1999 and hasn’t changed a bit. Geostorm‘s style is very much like a cheesy 90s action movie that might star Steven Segal or Wesley Snipes and be scored by James Newton Howard. This movie has no delusions of grandeur, Devlin knows what he’s making here and keeps the pace brisk and the running time just north of 90 minutes.
It’s unclear why Devlin and Emmerich didn’t continue collaborating together but given the increasingly awful output by Emmerich, movies that aren’t just big and dumb, but nasty, mean-spirited and angry, it does seem like Devlin may have been the cheesy-fun heart of the operation. This movie ultimately pivots around an astronaut rebooting a computer like an IT worker in order to save the world. It cuts back and forth between the disaster bits and the political conspiracy giving the film breathing room and removing the Disaster Porn quality Emmerich’s movies have. Best of all, it announces its stakes with a literal ticking clock that counts down until the Geostorm itself. That’s the kind of dumb fun this movie feels like. The lack of creativity and the sheer stupidity can’t be ignored, but it’s a lean meal guilty pleasure where you won’t wake up the next morning hating yourself. I’d watch this movie in a heartbeat again over 2012.