This weekend Warner Brothers unleashes “Geostorm” on theaters. The film marks the directorial debut of “Independence Day” writer, Dean Devlin. Coming from the world of disaster films, one might assume that Devlin would be a perfect fit for this planetary storm adventure and in a lot of ways he delivers on the faith that the studio has put in him. Devlin knows the rules of the genre and uses them correctly, but in the end “Geostorm” takes on too much for a film that clocks in under two hours and therefore snowballs into a foggy, watered down mess.
The year is 2019. Persistent extreme weather is threatening the existence of the human race. In order to protect our civilization, the world has come together to construct a network of satellites that can prevent hazardous weather patterns from developing on Earth. The system created by Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) is functioning flawlessly until his brother Max (Jim Sturgess) fires Jake from his job after he refuses to play nice with their Washington DC superiors. With Jake no longer in charge, someone finds a way to hack into the system in order to use the satellites for the ultimate evil, the creation of a geostorm with enough strength to wipe most countries off the map.
At first glance “Geostorm” is your standard disaster movie. You have your two leads who just don’t see eye to eye, a blonde love interest, a young daughter to help make the audience fall in love with our “break all the rules” lead and, of course, the bad guy who messes with a perfectly good system for a seemingly nonsensical reason. But the good news for fans of the genre is that there are still some non-traditional beats in the film. The filmmakers tried hard to find the path least traveled in almost every sequence in an effort to avoid having the film feel too tired and overdone. The problem is that it quickly becomes apparent as to what the writers are trying to do and so halfway through, the audience finds itself left with a film that feels predictably unpredictable.
For a big-budget disaster film, there are a surprisingly small number of disaster scenes. The concept is just too big for a feature film of a relatively short length and leaves the audience stuck watching scene after scene of exposition, wishing that the characters would just get to the action. And at times, it’s easy to forget that Gerard Butler plays the film’s lead. No stranger to corny dialogue and silly action, Butler is a master at somehow making even the most melodramatic moments feel halfway believable. Unfortunately, his character spends a lot of his time locked away on a space station trying to fix the problem, forcing us to spend much of our time back on Planet Earth with Sturgess. While he can be a decent dramatic actor, he tends to struggle with the corny, disaster movie dialogue, leaving a lot to be desired from his performance.
Still, there is something deeper here. “Geostorm” feels like the big-budget, fictional version of “An Inconvenient Truth”. Both its opening and ending speak to the importance of teaming together to fight climate change. It’s a timely message that is used as an attempt to keep the movie from just being a popcorn piece. The film tries desperately to get its “working with our allies” point across, even giving some of its best emotional beats to the Middle East and China. But at the end of the day, “Geostorm” is still a disaster film, so this message is overpowered by the use of visual effects and silly technological jargon.
Overall, “Geostorm” is a disaster film that is seriously lacking in the disaster department. Even an all-star cast can’t save this movie from losing itself in the hail storm of melodramatic moments required to explain a story with such a large scope. While the director should be given credit for making even a halfway decent film out of something seemingly unfilmable, the final product will please only the real disaster or action junkies among us.