Geostorm (2017) – A Review


A review of the 2017 disaster film Geostorm, starring Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Andy Garcia and Ed Harris, directed by Dean Devlin

The world had been facing a barrage of natural disasters that are looking to make the human race extinct and planet Earth uninhabitable. Fortunately, all the world leaders worked together to make a bunch of orbiting satellites that allows us to stop these dangerous weather disasters from happening. Earth has avoided calamity now that we’re in control of all the weather! Problem solved right?

Wrong! This whole satellite system has gotten some kind of major glitch going on and as a result the Earth is being bombarded with all sorts of climate calamities that we can’t stop! It will be up to the designer of this weather satellite to fix it so we can regain control of preventing these weather disasters.

While he goes up into space, our hero Gerard Butler, discovers a conspiracy that involves sabotaging the satellite, intentionally destroying some countries with crazy weather patterns and the American President being manipulated by his advisors. 

Gerard-Butler-Geostorm-2017-worst-disaster-movie-awfulIt will be up to the orbiting Butler in space and his brother, along with his Secret Service main squeeze in DC, to fix the satellite and expose the baddies. They better act fast too! There’s a looming geostorm that will wipe out the entire planet if they can’t solve all the problems this disaster film is throwing at them in time!

Written and directed by Dean Devlin, Geostorm is I suppose meant to ape all the big-budget glorious landmark destructive entertainment he and partner Roland Emmerich had successfully collaborated on, like Independence Day and Godzilla. They became the modern day equivalent of Irwin Allen – the masters of disaster!

Emmerich has really leaned into the disaster genre and has continued directing more CGI-filled big-budget spectacle entries – 10,000 BC, 2012, Independence Day: Resurgence, Midway and the recent Moonfall

Now Devlin can add Geostorm to the list, which was his directorial debut. It is quite the bonkers movie! There’s not a lick of logic, believability or anything remotely reasonable to ground any parts of it. It’s really ludicrous and the fact that it’s played completely straight and isn’t meant to be goofy fun like a schlocky Sci-Fi movie, makes it even more grueling and tiresome to sit through. It really takes itself seriously. It really could have used some Sharknado tone to it.

Remember, way back in 1998 when the trailer for Deep Impact lured audiences in with that one shot of a giant wave heading for New York City. That was over twenty years ago and one simple wave in a film won’t do the trick today. Geostorm mixes a a cocktail of every kind of CGI weather and space effect it can think of and strings them along to make….some kind of story. 

Geostorm-2017-worst-disaster-movie-bombIt really becomes a mind-numbing experience where you’ll be hard pressed to get a grip on the swirling logic of the story with cascades of CGI destruction that gets thrown around every few minutes. There’s space and waves and snow and fire and airplanes and space vehicles. There’s traitors, a virus inside the satellite, kidnapping a president, out of control space walks, bad guys with accents, countdown clocks, space doors closing right before people can get though them. And did I mention all the CGI weather anomalies that leave nameless people in its wake?

Then there’s one of my favorite disaster clichés- quickly driving away from some disaster and somehow avoid being killed. People simply outrun the giant fireballs, the exploding cities, the lightning strikes. It’s a convenient escape that is meant to be exciting – and happens several times in Geostorm

It just gets to be way too much and worse of all there’s not a lick of any stakes or tension to any of it.

Gerard-Butler-Geostorm-2017-worst-disaster-movie-Dean-DevlinPerhaps you might think, “Well, the film will have a message about the dangers of climate change and encourage us to change us ways to protect our precious planet” – not at all really! In the film there’s no mention of humans behavior that have caused these natural disasters or any indication that we’ve adapted our lives to prevent any further climate damage.

Nah! It’s just we’ve built these weather satellites to basically bomb away any upcoming weather disasters! We can know carry on, just business as usual.

If you’re looking for any science on display you’ll be hard pressed to find it in Geostorm. It’s more science fiction than any kind of science fact. They needed to make big showy disaster scenarios and they don’t let logic get in the way of them just ripping loose with those!

Ok, so it’s all cartoony and you can muster the defense – “not to think too hard about it and just enjoy it”. Well, perhaps some can do that, but I didn’t find anything remotely entertaining in Geostorm. Oh sure, they added in some emotional problems for the actors – the estranged brothers, the romance that has to be kept secret, the daughter worrying about her father up in space. You’ll forget them as soon as their scenes end.

The performances, the nutty story, the boatloads of CGI that just fill the screen. I didn’t take away ANYTHING from Geostorm. I actually started to zone out during what is meant to be a nail-biting space sequence.

Geostorm-2017-disaster-film-movie-CGI-effectsThe ultimate solution to this complex world-ending dilemma is to do what we all do when we run into problems with our electronic devices – just reboot the whole thing! 

Butler has cemented his status as a ‘Redbox Star’! I never much cared for him and felt like he’s been dining out on his popular role in 300 since 2006. Other than those Olympus Has Fallen flicks, most of his films have been ignored, pretty bad or the cheap ‘direct-to-streaming’ entities that have those interchangeable sounding titles.

While Geostorm, might have been a big-budget studio film, Butler does the same kind of gruff performance and one note role as what he’s been doing for the majority of his stardom.

Geostorm-2017-Ed-Harris-Abbie-Cornish-disaster-movieThere are some good actors in Geostorm – Ed Harris, Andy Garcia, Richard Schiff, Alexandra Maria Lara, Mare Winningham – but they’re only meant to fill in one-dimensional roles that they’re too good for.

Fortunately, for them they don’t take the brunt of the blame for anything in the film and we’ll chalk up them being in this as just an easy payday. It’s like when you’d see a good actor pop up in a supporting part in those Transformers movies.

For whatever reason, these disaster films remain popular and there’s still a market for them. Audiences just never seem to grow tired of seeing the cascade of CGI nonsense these movies give them. It’s getting to the point where they just look like video games. I don’t really think there’s much else to most of them other than showing off the latest CGI advancements. 

For me, these Emmerich/Devlin films don’t even make the disaster spectacle that interesting to watch. CGI effects have become pretty routine nowadays. So, unless they’re doing something extraordinarily unique with them or have characters that we like in peril, I look at all these ‘money shot’ scenes as just sploshes of computer paint on the screen to me.

The stories that would come out about the production of Geostorm sounded much more fascinating than anything that ended up onscreen. According to IMDB, some who worked on the film claimed that Butler appeared not to know his lines. 

Then after test screenings went horribly. It was said Devlin’s first cut of the film was “unwatchable”. Warners spent an additional $15 million on reshoots to try to make sense of the film and made a feeble attempt to improve it. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer oversaw the overhauling of the film, to try to make it more coherent. 

Gerard-Butler-Alexandra-Maria-Lara-Geostorm-2017-disaster-weather-movieAfter seeing the final results and the ‘fixing’ they did to it, I have to ask – how bad was Geostorm BEFORE those expensive reshoots???

In the end, the fixes didn’t help. Audiences were not interested in it and critics had a whale of a kicking it. Geostorm’s budget was reported to be about $120 million. It was said the film needed to gross at least $300-350 million just to break even. It didn’t make those numbers and only managed $220 million worldwide.

To put it bluntly, Geostorm was an expensive bust. If you’re hankering for watching a bizarre, idiotic, out of control film that doesn’t make a lick of sense but will shower you with cheesy CGI, then Geostorm might be the antidote.

Sadly, it isn’t ‘so bad it’s good’ and won’t provide you with some fun bad movie laughs. It will just have you scratching your head and elicit plenty of eyerolls. That’s all it’s good for. 

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