As long as you know going in that what you’re about to see in director Dean Devlin’s Geostorm is pure hokum, you’ll be fine. If not, and its silliness is just too much, then for you this could rank as among the worst of the year. In fact, nominations for the Razzies may already be in order, and they’ll certainly be justified. But all the same, go ahead, surrender to the conflicts and their resolutions, try to enjoy it, and you never know, you may have a good time in an MST3K kind of way.
After the delicate sound of thunder, booming in the background as the Warner Bros. logo appears, there’s a montage of TV news clips showing just how bad global weather has become. It’s 2019, though what we’re seeing doesn’t look all that unfamiliar. Shots of hurricanes, tornadoes and ocean water sweeping across coasts everywhere doesn’t have quite the same effect of a futuristic world going crazy when what we’re witnessing could easily be news clips from Puerto Rico, parts of Florida, the Texas coast, and even Ireland during the past couple of months.
“Everyone was warned,” a young girl’s voice narrates, “But no one listened.” That young girl happens to be Hannah (Talitha Bateman), the daughter of belligerent satellite designer, Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler). Jake is the genius behind an outta space natural disaster defense system nicknamed Dutch Boy, so called because of the story of the little boy from The Netherlands who plugged a leaking dam with his finger. The system came about after the world’s leaders clubbed together, joined forces, and financed an International Climate Space Station that beams waves down upon the Earth whenever something in our climate gets out of hand. And it works. But three years after the American government suspiciously removed Jake from the project and put younger brother Max (Jim Sturgess) in charge, then replaced some of the international techs with their own less experienced scientists, Dutch Boy starts going wrong.
The first sign of an oncoming disaster begins in Afghanistan. In the middle of a hot desert, an isolated Afghan villages freezes, its occupants frozen to the core, looking as if Disney’s Elsa passed through and let it go all over the place.
The second and even more damaging sign occurs later in Hong Kong. A massive, underground gas leak causes an explosion of epic proportions, resulting with half the city collapsing, it’s skyscrapers crashing into each other like glass towered dominoes, knocking each aside until there are no more buildings left to topple. The authorities blame the disaster on old, cracked pipes, but Hong Kong-based supervisor of the Dutch Boy program, Cheng (Daniel Wu) thinks different. A sudden rise in temperature hot enough to fry an egg on the Chinese pavements caused those pipes to burst, and there’s only one explanation, or maybe two. Either faulty programming made the Dutch Boy program pull its finger out, or someone is purposely sabotaging things.
The answer soon becomes obvious when Cheng makes an urgent call to brother Max. “We’ve got to meet,” he declares after doing a lot of computer research. “I’ve figured it all out.” And with a line like that, guess what happens to Cheng?
The setup is perfectly fine movie science-fiction. A defense system messing up and firing back on the planet is a good start for a popcorn disaster flick, but the dial on the preposterous meter starts climbing once that political conspiracy kicks in. Jake, who has left his daughter under his ex-wife’s care and is now up there, on the space station, is trying to fix things. But it’s not long before he discovers sabotage, and his investigations take him directly to those in the White House. “Someone has weaponized Dutch Boy!”
Earlier this year, the Hollywood industry buzz was that extensive work had to be done on Geostorm before its release. Test audiences in 2016 gave the film a thumbs down, so with a budget further inflated by $15 million, Warner Bros. brought in new producer Jerry Bruckheimer, writer Laeta Kalogridis, and new director Danny Cannon (all uncredited) to take over the reins and to boost things up. In the end, it’s hard to determine whether what we’re watching is the work of director/writer Dean Devlin or the uncredited Danny Cannon, but suspicion and an obvious change of style, not to mention a good dose of story-telling lunacy during the outrageous and often outrageously funny climax, leads you to think that most of the extra effort went into the final act.
In disaster movies, we all like to see things blow up, and in the recent tradition of Dwayne Johnson’s San Andreas and Devlin’s ex-movie partner, Roland Emmerich and his 2012, you get your money’s worth. Here’s a list. 1) India is on fire where, no kidding, we worry about a boy and his missing dog. 2) Orlando is about to explode during a Democratic National Convention with most of the White House in attendance. 3) Dubai and all those ridiculously tall skyscrapers become awash. 4) Moscow’s Red Square appears as if it might melt, though given the recent real-life discoveries of Russia’s computer hacking interference in all corners of American politics, there’s no losing sleep when watching that particular event. Even Gerard Butler’s Jake is in serious jeopardy as the Dutch Boy space station blows up all around him. Will he get off in time and escape that one, last, mighty explosion when everything seems lost? “He’s coming back,” declares his daughter when watching it all unfold on television. “He promised me.”
Geostorm is truly absurd, and the deeper the conspiracy theory unfolds, the more absurd it becomes. But with a film as loony as this, who really cares? When the politicians actually discuss how they might look in an election year rather than go ahead and save the lives of countless millions around the globe, tuck in to that popcorn and enjoy the nonsense. Dubai might drown, and everyone in that Orlando Convention center might fry, but you just know that somehow, that kid and his lost dog in India are going to reunite, and in the end, that’s all that counts.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 109 Minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)