The erratic weather patterns of planet Earth, which have only grown worse and more deadly as the years go by, have finally caused the various nations of the world to come together to conjure up a solution for these weather-related problems in newly released “Geostorm.” The nations remedy arrives in the form of a system of satellites, nicknamed Dutchboy, that hover above Earth and control the weather. Natural disasters are a thing of the past and the man behind designing Dutchboy, Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), is a hero. Unfortunately, Jake Lawson is a rowdy guy who doesn’t respond well to authority and him mouthing off to a U.S. senator ends up costing him his job.
Three years after his firing, Dutchboy is acting erratic and has caused a freak killer snowstorm in Afghanistan in addition to killing a crew member. These freak accidents have Jake’s brother, Max Lawson (Jim Sturgess), recruiting Jake to go back up into space and use his expertise to make sure everything is ship-shape on Dutchboy. The estranged relationship between these brothers means Jake is hesitant to take on the job, but he finally decides to go and make sure his greatest accomplishment is running smoothly. But once he gets there, a great conspiracy involving Dutchboy begins to reveal itself, one that could impact the world as we know it and use this outstanding technology for pure evil purposes.
“Geostorm” firmly plants itself into the cheeseball disaster movies subgenre that I tend to thoroughly enjoy, especially the ones we saw in the 1990’s. Lord knows not every single entry in this strain of cinema is successful (remember just how bad last years “Independence Day” sequel was?), but there’s an unabashed earnestness to the way the best movies in this subgenre suggest unity is the only way for humanity to survive in the face of disaster while there’s a chance to do some delightfully bombastic sequences when one applies the right sense of theatricality to the depiction of large-scale disaster carnage. Unfortunately, Geostorm is very much not one of the better disaster movies out there and that’s mainly because it forgets to imbue the sense of hopeful collaboration that really separates the best from the worst in this subgenre.
Instead, the plot of Geostorm focuses on Jake Lawson, a dude whose entire personality begins and ends with “stubborn gruff scientist”. Jake acts like a know-it-all jerk to everyone that crosses his path, and while it’s doubtful any actor could have made this character work, Gerard Butler does not fit the part one bit. Butler finds himself unable to lend any charm or charisma to his role that could have at least made Jake a tolerable person to hinge big-scale disaster sequences around. The best disaster movies star characters who rise above the occasion to become the best version of themselves whereas Jake Lawson starts out as your typical deadbeat dad and then morphs into whatever type of character the script needs him to be in the name of story convenience. Having someone this poorly developed headline “Geostorm” was a big storytelling mistake and the same can be said for how much of this movies screentime is devoted to this tedious character and his fractured relationship with his brother and boy howdy does that get tiring all too fast.
That’s the other problem with “Geostorm,” too much time is spent on banal character interactions, especially the dynamic between Max and his Secret Service girlfriend, Sarah Wilson (Abbie Cornish), that on rare occasion drop some delightfully corny bits of dialogue (“The President is the kill code!” is a keeper) but predominately just feel like filler in between the CGI-laden disaster sequences. Couldn’t there at least be some energy to the performances of the actors involved here to keep these human-oriented scenes afloat? A movie about satellites that can create apocalyptic weather events shouldn’t have so much of its screentime turned over to dreadfully rote dialogue-heavy scenes that trot one tired trope after another without even a semblance of creativity. For instance, Jake has a daughter, because all disaster movie leads have to be dads who have trouble connecting to their kid, but that element of his character barely factors into the story at all and all the young girl does in her brief screentime is deliver tons of ham-fisted dialogue.
Unsurprisingly, things pick up in the third act of Geostorm when the titular event gets underway. It’s here that a 5-ish minute stretch of the story provides the peak amount of fun in the entire movie by a long shot as Max, Sarah and the President Of The United States (played by Andy Garcia) all try to outrun an apocalyptic thunderstorm as well as evil henchman in a car chasing after our heroes. I want to emphasize this, this is a car chase happening in the middle of Orlando, Florida collapsing. It’s like the result of someone having this burning desire to merge a “Baby Driver” car chase with that one scene in 2012 where John Cusack in a limo tries to outrun an earthquake. This actually pretty fun bit of mayhem concludes with the villain of the story monologuing about his motivations, during which he drops three implicit references to recent Republican presidents (W. Bush, Trump and Reagan, in that order).
It’s a bonkers scene that serves as a demonstration of the kind of wild anything-goes mayhem “Geostorm” needed more of. Instead, a car chase happening as the end of the world occurs is the sort of craziness “Geostorm” is in shockingly low supply and that’s doubly surprising given how it’s directed by Dean Devlin, long-time creative partner to Roland Emmerich, the guy who set the standard for modern-day disaster movies with “Independence Day.” Instead of being fun, this movie just feels muddled as all out, especially in terms of how it preaches globalism but in the end, it’s explicitly a self-centered American character who is tasked with saving the planet. Would you expect anything less cohesive from a feature as tragically underwhelming as “Geostorm,” though?
Douglas Laman is a film critic,who, when not watching movies, attends Collin College, hangs out with friends and… watches movies. For more of his work and ramblings, visit his website at www.landofthenerds.blogspot.com