Director: Dean Devlin
Screenplay: Dean Devlin, Paul Guyot
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Amr Waked, Adepero Oduye, Ed Harris, Andy García
Runtime: 109 Minutes
Back in the 90s, director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin breathed new life into the Hollywood disaster movie with a succession of blockbusters that reinvented the genre for the modern era. Geostorm operates in a similar vein to these global catastrophe pictures of the decade, so faithfully in fact that it feels like something that could have only been made in the 90s in order make any kind of sense.
The production history of Geostorm is more interesting and tragic than the film itself. Originally intended to be Dean Devlin’s directorial debut and shot two years ago, test screenings turned out so terrible that the film was pulled back into production for extensive reshoots, with a new writer, producer and director (Judge Dredd’s Danny Cannon) brought onboard to salvage the production with an extra $15 million added to the budget.
All signs pointed toward this being a herculean disaster, and while it is on many counts – mainly cookie-cutter narrative elements, stock characters and dialogue – there’s a minor competence to it that keeps it watchable and a brain-dead fun to seeing the whole thing play out without a glint of sarcasm.
Its preposterous premise, following a global weather catastrophe caused by a hijacked network of satellites by terrorists in an effort to assassinate the President of the United States, is as insane and ill thought out as it sounds. One that is so staggeringly silly that every element surrounding the story that could be taken seriously falls into the chasm with it. This is a world where NASA treats space flight like an airport of takeoffs and landings, where satellite systems can be fixed by merely turning them off and on again, and the mystery of who’s behind it only being interesting because the characters can’t figure out who the obvious bad guy is. You just have to go with it or none of it is going to work.
Gerard Butler is the hero of the hour once again but is left stranded for most of the film aboard the orbiting space station "Dutch Boy", while other characters run about progressing the rest of the film’s shockingly thin plot. The actual destruction scenes are restricted to one full set piece in China for the international market, and a montage sequence that’s spread out over the third act with every trick in the book. Tornados, floods and lightning that can blow up buildings for some reason, all while a single dog tries to escape the ensuing carnage (of course the dog survives).
The CGI varies between impressive and SyFy Channel level, and none of it carries much weight even as entire cities are partially destroyed and Butler is thrown around space like a Looney Tunes character. The reshoots and additions can be pointed out by the shifting hairstyles of the staggeringly inept Jim Sturgess – who emotes like a baby on the verge of a screaming fit – and segues between and during scenes; it’s a very strange experience to see something this big look so haphazard at points.
But it’s worth seeing Geostorm just to relish the stupidity of it all on display in some of the most unintentionally hilarious plot developments of the year. The “secret message” scene in particular in which words are rearranged in a video to say something else is one of the most brilliantly stupid things ever put to film. Characters pop in and out of frame without any reason other than the plot needs them to be there, there are no real characters to speak of despite a multicultural cast, and the dialogue is so trite and predictable that a game of bingo could be played while watching it – including Andy García’s POTUS delivering one of the funniest one-liners in any action film for years.
Geostorm is the catastrophe that was promised and it doesn’t disappoint. Besides some occasional action scenes that almost border on being “good”, the enjoyment is mostly one of the ironic variety by laughing at the ineptness of its story and its baffling internal logic. It wouldn’t be a stretch to proclaim this as one of the stupidest blockbusters ever made, but it’s a guilty pleasure in the making that doesn’t stand for anything but itself.