There are effective ways to tell a story: be honest, persuasive and engrossing. This applies to practically any form of storytelling, from the greatest novels to the most recent films. Even the best sci-fi films work within the constraints of our known universe and the world established in the story. So when developing the new sci-fi/action/adventure/drama/thriller/disaster/stormageddon ‘Geostorm’, why did its creators feel confident in breaking all of these rules so haphazardly?
Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler, 'London Has Fallen', 'Gods Of Egypt') is a frikkin’ genius. When the world starts suffering from self-inflicted deadly weather events, he creates a network of satellites in outer space which can control the heating and cooling of the planet. However, despite literally saving the world, he's grilled by a thankless U.S. committee and gets fired from the project by his own brother Max (Jim Sturgess, 'Cloud Atlas', 'One Day'). Flash forward a few years, and this technical marvel has been hacked and used as a weapon to murder hundreds of people. Why? And by who? There’s only one man who knows the system well enough to find out - Jake Lawson. So Jake and Max are forced to bury the hatchet and work together - one from space, one from inside the White House - to uncover who’s behind the plot and foil it before the world is overcome by a geostorm the likes of which has never been seen before.
In case the synopsis wasn’t quite clear enough, this film is ridiculous. By 2022, the weather will be controlled by lasers on satellites in outer space. The International Space Station will be large enough to land rockets in. And the laws of physics will no longer apply. Fortunately, we’re not forced to endure the setup of this weather control system - we’re just given the Cliffs Notes in the opening minutes of the film. But even everything about the technology is so convenient for the story - only the President of the United States (Andy Garcia, 'Passengers', 'Ghostbusters') has the override codes, a reboot can only be initiated from within the space station itself, and the self-destruct function can’t be stopped whatsoever.
Along with the story, the dialog is utter garbage. There were countless instances where I audibly groaned, or actually predicted the direly unoriginal dialog word for word. There’s actually a point where Jim Sturgess’ character says, “As my brother would say...” and then proceeds to punch the U.S. Secretary of State (Ed Harris, 'Mother!', 'Snowpiercer') in the face. It desperately tries to force humour into a storyline which is already sagging under the weight of its own ludicrousness, elevating the mundane conversations between set pieces to an eye-gouging level.
So who exactly is responsible for this nightmare? It’s probably safe to say that director/co-writer/producer Dean Devlin played a big part in the atrocity. Despite a mixed bag of previous writing credits (‘Universal Soldier’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Resurgence’, the 1998 ‘Godzilla’, ‘Stargate’), the fingerprints on so many parts of this film don’t bode well for him. The entire production has been plagued by reshoots and delayed release dates, with principal photography starting all the way back in 2014. The cheesy and cheap special effects don’t help the film either, so frequently providing a completely unconvincing illustration of the action at hand. It must be said, for Devlin’s feature directorial debut, there are some genuinely appealing moments - but for every one impressive element, there are three bad to make up for it: an entire stadium exploding in a fireball from a lightning strike, an escape scene in Tokyo in a Smart car, space sequences practically stolen from ‘Gravity’.
Along with the story, the dialog is utter garbage. There were countless instances where I audibly groaned, or actually predicted the direly unoriginal dialog word for word.
To compliment the ludicrous story is the uninspired acting. To say Gerard Butler is the best part of this film is not exactly a compliment - he simply gets the calibre of material he’s working with and plays to it. Drawing on his filmography also allows him to deliver those corny lines with panache and conviction. The same cannot be said for Jim Sturgess, who gets lumped with his fair share of lacklustre lines, but flails wildly with them. A few of the brighter sparks include Zazie Beetz (soon to be seen in 'Deadpool 2', TV's 'Atlanta') as Dana, Max’s go-to fast-talking tech genius, and Aussie Abbie Cornish ('Seven Psychopaths', 'Limitless') as Max’s kick-arse Secret Service Special Agent girlfriend Sarah Wilson. Biggest disappointments include Alexandra Maria Lara ('Rush') as Ute Fassbinder, the space station commander and Jake’s pseudo-love interest, and Robert Sheehan ('The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones', TV's 'The Misfits') as Duncan, the token Brit.
By the time you get to the very end - and I mean the very closing monologue - it's finally revealed that the film is actually a criticism of global warming, somewhat ironic given its message that technology can fix humanity’s mess. But by this stage, it’s entirely possible you won’t give a damn anyway, while breathing a sigh of relief to be leaving the cinema. Start comparing ‘Geostorm’ to other disaster films like ‘Armageddon’, ‘Deep Impact’ and ‘San Andreas’ and it makes them look like works of art. It could be forgiven if its action made up for its sins, but it doesn’t even come close. ‘Geostorm’ is one disaster you’ll want to avoid at all costs.