Geostorm - Review: A Downpour of Dumb Fun
Sometimes, you really are your own worst enemy. You make judgements based on your own experiences and over-thinking the scraps of available information but sometimes, that’s little more self-projecting like when you’re deciding to see a new film based on its promos and trailers. Sometimes, instead of judging what you see, you just latch on something that stirs bad memory of old..... forgive me, film fans for I have sinned. From everything in the lead up, I really thought Geostorm was going to be a flaming pile of awfulness. It screamed to me of those terrible weather-based Syfy b-movies like Weather War. Yet against all odds and all preconceptions, the forecast is bright for this film. My God! It’s dumb.... but it’s actually a lot dumb fun.
In 2019, scientist Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler – “Sparta!!!”) creates a satellite network to control the Earth’s weather and avert natural disasters. It’s all blue skies until years later, he’s called to investigate a series of malfunctions that could trigger a catastrophic global weather event.... you guessed it, a “geostorm”.
This film is an over-the-top cheesy late 90s blockbuster for a double decade throwback (which makes sense being directed by the writer of Stargate and Independence Day). More specifically, this is a weather-based reincarnation of Michael Bay’s Armageddon; right down to Butler and Jim Sturgess (Cloud Atlas) as his brother echoing the relationship of Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck before them. It has the same pattern of breaking up the narrative with globetrotting city-destroying set pieces where people helpless cannon fodder or that one person/cute little dog that miraculously survives everything. It’s got the same dialogue style that gets away with occasionally being too sappy by balancing it with humour and interesting supporting characters..... and all of that is great! It compromises a film that will trouble no awards lists but if you can accept Geostorm as just being a movie, you’ll have the sun shining down on you. It’s frequently ridiculous but there’s no delusion whatsoever; everyone involved knows the score. There are no attempts to give Geostorm a modern edge of gritty realism making it ideal for those sick of such saturation. It’s pure implausible science fiction for the sheer sake of an entertaining spectacle and because of that, it’s a riot. Hell. the featured space station is the size of a flagship aircraft carrier and the entire Earth is covered by a physically linked net of satellites but nobody wastes your time trying to make the logistics convincing. In fact, speaking of time, this storm is comfortably under 2 hours in length and as such is not a needlessly drawn out affair.
Then, there are the money-shot set weather disaster set pieces that for the most part, look great. Most seem to have been selected on a, “wouldn’t be funny if...” basis; tidal waves in deserts, blizzards on tropical beaches, heat wave in Russia etc. Yet they’re fast, frantic, creative, and a couple of cases, heart-pounding and thrilling. The highlight being a lightning storm from the perspective a few key characters trying to drive out of it with bolts all over the road around them. It’s nothing more than popcorn cinema.... but it's good popcorn cinema. The space elements of the film also look pretty good. Not every set aboard the space station looks perfect but the very nature of the film makes you roll with details like this.
The story could still do with some work though as not everything comes together. For instance, the film has an Optimus Prime like opening and closing narration by Butler’s daughter (Talitha Bateman – Annabelle Creation) and early scenes establish her as a significant character... except then she disappears for nearly the entire film, just popping up at the end to be shown worrying if her dad will come back (like he promised he would, of course). Other smaller character stories also feel chopped and shoved-in most likely because they were. After poor initial test-screenings the film underwent re-shoots in which new characters were added. Then of course, while I’m generally saluting the dumb entertainment value of this film, there are points where it becomes just plain dumb.
While Gerard Butler feels like he’s merely going for the motions, Geostorm has some worthy cast mentions. For starters, Jim Sturgess is giving off enough emotion for both half of the paired brothers. Although the highlight of the cast is Abbie Cornish (Suckerpunch) as his ass-licking Secret Service girlfriend. balancing the professional requirements of her job and their relationship. The likes of Andy Garcia (Oceans 11) and Ed Harris (Westworld) are on-hand as POTUS and Secretary of State. There’s even Deadpool 2’s Domino (Zazie Beetz) as tech genius Max.
Look, you are going see and hear a lot of bad things about this film. It will be stinking out Rotten Tomatoes, YouTube film bloggers will be stomping it into the ground, and many of them will have a point. But if you just want a film you can’t possibly take seriously, to kick back and laugh with for a while then (against all expectations), Geostorm is actually a great viewing choice. I’d forecast that’ll soon by eclipsed by Thor: Ragnarok in this capacity but that’s a storm most films will have to weather.