I expected the first film I saw Ed Harris in this year to be Daron Aronofsky's Mother. I was wrong. About 20 minutes into Geostorm, he shows up as the US Secretary of State and aside from the obvious “gimmie my cheque” stamp on his forehead, let’s just say there is a Clancy Brown in Daredevil Season 2 thing going on. I guess the good news in all this is, my remaining experiences with Harris in 2017 are sure to be the opposite of mind-numbing.
For the record, Geostorm is no good. Nonsense even. The kind of output I expect from the lowest rungs of b-movie exploitation filmmakers in Ghana. Given the chatter on Twitter, this came as no surprise. The question was what kind of bad film it was going to be. Gerard Butler starring in a rubbish film normally means we are in why-so-serious territory and that lack of awareness is always entertaining to watch. Here, Butler plays a satellite designer, according to Wikipedia, and he saves the world and he saves the world again and he pays the ultimate price but doesn’t pay the ultimate price. He is the epicentre of this absurd meeting point of The Day After Tomorrow and An Inconvenient Truth, with a longing for the days of ‘90s conspiracy thrillers.
If director Dean Devlin’s vision is anything to go by, we will lose the battle against climate change in a few years. There are shots of the aftermath of devastating hurricanes and heatwaves, among others, and there is cause for pause for anyone who watches the news. I reckon this section of the film is even in bad taste and a precursor to the tonal mess awaiting us. So what is Devlin’s solution for all this? A massive space network of satellites to manipulate the climate called Dutch Boy. And it’s only fair this global safeguard funded by the US and China. I hope their governments were taking notes in this screening.
Butler’s Jake Lawson, being the impossible white man of this film, is the brains behind this vague humanity saving technology. But of course, it’s not enough to be the second coming of Christ, especially in when you are a hot head in extremely cynical times ruled by hawkish politicians. In an unbearably scripted opening where a ton of info is shoved down our throats, we see Jake get fired as head of Dutch Boy, by his brother no less. Depending on your mood, you may find some morsels of substance in the familial bonds in this film so I’ll leave that to you to explore. A few years down the line (some 10 minutes into the film), cinematic Murphy’s Law takes hold and Dutch Boy starts to malfunction. Naturally, the world (US) turns to the hero it does not deserve.
This may be a spoiler and I’m sorry, but there is no geostorm in the disaster film called Geostorm. Genuine shocker. Devlin does not come up with an inventive way to destroy mother earth. Given the $120 million budget, it’s safe to say the execution is not only asinine but lazy, unless $120 million only gets you some night-time CGI these days. Our director serves us a Hong Kong city overheating and toppling. There is a small Afghan village that turns into Siberia. Doha, introduced to us with a man on a camel, is hit with a small tsunami and that’s pretty much about it, save for a few ice and lighting storms here and there. Devlin literally gives us a timer to countdown to the moment the geostorm will hit and we all know what that means; the hero will save the day.
FYI; a geostorm is "an unstoppable chain reaction of extreme weather patterns globally and simultaneously." Yeah I know, I don't care either.
For a film with a giant timer, there is a massive suspense deficit. So what does this leave us with? A ludicrous plot that is annoyingly America-centric and Gerard Butler’s expressionless acting. I noted earlier that Butler’s character was a satellite designer but what does that really mean in Devlin’s book; a blanket for an astronaut, engineer, programmer, climatologist, geophysics and the list goes on. Jake is all this while basically playing that secret service agent from the Olympus Has Fallen. They could have just called this the sequel. It wanted to be Olympus has Frozen so bad it even had a subplot involving a ludicrous political conspiracy amidst some ridiculous red herrings.
You could line up the superlatives to describe how stupid this film is. I reckon it may drive some true scientist of the relevant field to pluck their eyes out and jam an ice-pick in their ears. But you won’t catch me faulting this film for being boring. Yes indeed, it hits the “so bad its good” mark and I can’t wait for it to feature on the How Did This Get Made podcast. It’s nice and trim at about 100 minutes and very entertaining for the most part.At one point, Devlin just says screw it and turns this film into a mish mash of Golden Eye, Moonraker and Die Another Day. It’s much more of the latter two to be honest, and yes, we are dealing with climate change and its devastating apocalyptic effects but sure, let’s throw in a giant laser beam, which has nothing to do with nature, to cook up Russia. The only thing missing was the cyclone heralding a plague of bloodthirsty sharks and piranhas.
I will end this review with a bunch of films you can search for as a pallet cleanser – Like me, you can wait for Mother for some good Ed Harris, among others. Definitely seek out Gravity to remind you that despair and dread in space is about much more than a malfunctioning gas tank. As far as government conspiracies go, films from the Manchurian Candidate to Enemy of State should suffice. And basically, if you want a disaster film that does what it says on the can, if you want to be pretentious, check out The Impossible, otherwise, the flag-waving San Andreas should do the trick.
As an undisputed positive, Zazie Beetz shows up and she has great hair and a chin sculpted by God himself. That'll prompt a smile.