It’s the last thing I should be saying in 2017. But after seeing “Geostorm,” I was left wanting more high-octane weather.
There’s no doubt the Gerard Butler-helmed disaster flick is hitting cinemas at an inopportune time: Devastating storms and hurricanes have battered the US and Central America this year. A film about monster storms? That hits a little close to home.
But “Geostorm” continues a rich tradition of disaster films — titles like “The Day after Tomorrow,” “2012” and “Sharknado” that all deliver on the premise reiterated in this film’s opening line: “Everyone was warned, but no one listened.”
Scientists versus government! Saving humanity versus saving money! Killer clouds versus frozen deserts! Bring it on.
It’s the near future and the climate is in chaos. Earth has been hit with a series of apocalyptic weather events, so an international team of scientists, led by Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), bands together to build “Dutch Boy” — a global network of geo-synchronous satellites that prevents storms by… something something lasers?
As the movie’s tagline goes, “Control the weather, control the world,” and that’s exactly what Dutch Boy does; without it, individual storms could build into an unstoppable global weather event known as a Geostorm. The US is about to hand control of Dutch Boy over to international hands, and Jake’s brother Max (Jim Sturgess) is brought on to handle the transition. But there are signs of shady government bureaucracy, and when the weather starts to go wrong, we realise Dutch Boy could be turned against us.
Like any good disaster movie, “Geostorm” isn’t strong on believable science. It also doesn’t dwell on the manmade element of climate change. In fact, humankind has declined to rein in its profligate consumption and heavy reliance on fossil fuels in favour of building an expansive space program, a massive, fourth-generation International Climate Space Station and good ol’ Sky Net (sorry, “Dutch Boy”).
But while I don’t expect a believable peer-reviewed plot in a disaster film, I do expect action.
In between truly unbelievable freak weather events (a snap-frozen town in Afghanistan, a killer ice wave in Rio De Janeiro), there was a great deal of posturing about government conspiracy, tempered with A-list actors looking like they were mentally clocking their billable hours in each scene.
Butler does a serviceable job at essentially playing Bruce Willis circa “Armageddon” — in this case, a grizzled spaceman doing his best to keep Dutch Boy online while checking in on the bureaucracy back home via occasional intergalactic Skype calls with his brother, Max.
But back on Earth, Max has trouble convincing us he can bring down a government conspiracy at this global scale. Sturgess is drab and desperately in need of a haircut in the supporting role, and we’re surprised Secret Service agent and love interest Sarah Wilson (Abbie Cornish) is willing to stick with him for the duration. Seriously, their hair game is dreadfully mismatched.
Certainly “Geostorm” hits some of the right notes. I like my one-liners ridiculous (“You get us a car, I’ll get us a president!” is up there) and I like my visual cues obvious (did you know the Geostorm comes with its own progress bar on NASA’s computers?)
There’s even some dubious tech thrown in for good measure. In the near future, everyone has a translucent “holoframe” device for making calls and hacking satellites, while in Hong Kong calls are made on office phones straight from 1992.
But the film could afford to skip the turgid exposition and Washington machinations to give us more of the good stuff: special effects, wide-eyed civilians craning their necks to see impending doom and Russian sky lasers (yes, I wanted more of that preposterous plot point).
“Geostorm” co-writer Dean Devlin (who also directed and produced) should have taken a leaf out of the rock music rule book when scripting this film: Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.
“Geostorm” is in cinemas now.
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