tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Geostorm’ is Rife with Destruction, but Devoid of Suspense

The latest Dean Devlin disasterpiece is just sadism taken to a massive scale

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Geostorm takes place in the near future, where the world has built a network of satellites in order to neutralize extreme weather events. The system, known as Dutch Boy, succeeds in saving the millions of lives from various weather anomalies. But a few years into its operation, Dutch Boy malfunctions, causing several fatal localized weather events around the world. Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), the scientist who designed the system and oversaw its construction, heads back up to space to fix it, hoping to prevent global catastrophe. Meanwhile, back on Earth, his estranged brother Max (Jim Sturgess) works on uncovering the conspiracy behind the malfunctions.

The movie is of course designed to be little more than a series of sequences involving recognizable cities being destroyed. This is, after all, the latest film from director Dean Devlin, who made his name reducing various cities to rubble in his body of work. And indeed, this movie is rife with destruction, with Hong Kong, Tokyo, Rio de Jainero, Moscow and Orlando, Florida shown to be suffering from some manner of apocalyptic weather catastrophe that levels buildings and causes thousands of deaths. And through all that mayhem, the movie fails to be exciting or suspenseful.

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The film is so casual in its application of destruction that it makes it all feel abstract. It always feels so distant, the film not really bothering to give any of the human victims of the various disasters any names. They’re just collateral damage in what is really a story of two brothers learning to get along. There is no time here, in this movie, to really contemplate the effects of the disaster. It pays lip service to some grander theme of humanity working together to solve a great problem. But the thousands of lives lost feel incidental to the story of these brothers.

And it really isn’t much of a story. The opening scene lays down the conflict: Jake is basically sore that Max is more adept at politics. The film jumps three years, and the film basically makes it out that things haven’t at all gotten better. It then partially concerns itself with Max’s relationship with Sarah (Abbie Cornish), a Secret Service agent. The world is supposedly on the verge of some sort of civilization-ending catastrophe, but you really wouldn’t know it from the way the film carries itself. Its protagonists make quips and talk about getting married in the midst of a lightning storm. There is no immediacy to any of their actions, all of their efforts to save the world playing second fiddle to whatever dumb personal thing they’re concerned about.

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The disasters aren’t particularly well done, either. The movie offers little we haven’t already seen. It all just plays out as empty CGI spectacle: animated elements crashing into more animated elements, with nary a person to care about on screen. Gerard Butler plays a scientist in this movie, but you wouldn’t know it. There is so little charisma in his performance that you might end up siding with the people who fire him at the start of the movie. Jim Sturgess overplays the ineffectual nature of his character, and Abbie Cornish feels completely indistinct in an underwritten role.

Geostorm could be empty spectacle, but it doesn’t even really deliver that much spectacle. It’s mostly really dumb. It is to some extent trying to make some kind of point about climate change and geopolitics, but it’s clear that it doesn’t really care about any of that. It doesn’t even really try to make any of it make sense. The character narratives are limp, their elements seemingly lifted directly from a screenwriting 101 book. All it really wants to do, it seems, is to show these cities of the world being reduced to rubble.  It gets to a point where it just feels like sadism taken to a massive scale. And that’s no good.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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