In the near future the damage from climate change has led to disaster and destruction on an unparalleled scale, and from hurricanes ripping apart cities to heatwaves killing countless people the world is in chaos. In our most desperate hour a project was put forward to stabilise the weather and save the world: a colossal network of satellites to surround the entire globe, altering weather patterns and limiting storms.
Controlled from the massive International Climate Space Station, leading the program and heralded as a saviour by many is Jake Lawson (Gods of Egypt’s Gerard Butler) who alongside a team of six hundred experts from around the world created the network of satellites nicknamed “Dutch Boy,” named for the fable of a child plugging a dam with his finger, saving humanity from the brink of destruction.
But the world cannot stay saved for long and after the weather has stabilised old political divisions continue, and the United States Government sees Lawson as an element they cannot exercise sufficient control over. With three years to go before the handover of the project from the US Government to a general assembly of nations he is fired from the project by the new state department project lead, his younger brother Max Lawson (Cloud Atlas’ Jim Sturgess).
Three years later, it is in the run up to control passing from the United States that malfunctions manifest in the system, a village in Afghanistan flash frozen, killing hundreds, the temperature in Hong Kong spikes causing underground explosions and the collapse of buildings. With the danger to Earth growing there is only one man who can save the world…again.
With Jake reluctantly recruited back to find the fault with Dutch Boy the brothers must put aside their differences, and while Jake tries to find the source of the malfunctions Max investigates the possibility that there may be a conspiracy very close to home which threatens to bring on the dreaded “GEOSTORM,” the storm to end all storms…
The latest in a long line of science fiction disaster movies which stretch from When Worlds Collide to more recent fare such as Deep Impact and 2012, Geostorm concerns itself more with spectacle than thought and in the investigations both on Earth and in orbit none of the revelations are the least bit unexpected with the villainous characters easy to spot and clunky exposition for any audience members obstinately refusing to swallow what they are spoon fed.
The ICSS display screens displaying handy “Geostorm” warnings so the heroes can have a clock to work against and the audience never forget the name of the endurance test to which they have committed themselves, despite attempts to run a government conspiracy story simultaneously and the lofty altitude the film never rises above a standard disaster movie, albeit one with some truly beautiful space craft and space station special effects. Seeing the huge new ICSS with NASA shuttles going to and from it is worth the entrance fee and makes the 3D IMAX experience worthwhile.
The traditional disaster movie tropes are all present as if worked from a checklist, with cars outrunning natural disasters, an emotional family member left behind to cry as heroes are in peril, a broken relationship being healed, the inevitable dog-in-danger scene and the usual highly stereotypical setpieces from around the world emphasising that this is a global disaster. Best enjoyed by ignoring any science completely and enjoying the wild special effects, it is at least entertaining to see a tidal wave take out a guy on a camel in the Sahara desert.
With some surprising faces in smaller roles such as Westworld’s Ed Harris playing the Secretary of Defence, a brief appearance by Man of Steel’s Richard Schiff and Passengers’ Andy Garcia as the President of the United States, RoboCop’s Abbie Cornish plays Secret Service agent Sarah Wilson who must choose between her job and her boyfriend Max and his increasingly outlandish conspiracy theories, Sturgess seemingly perpetually overwrought and bordering on tears.
Der Untergang’s Alexandra Maria Lara plays the commander of the ICSS and does well in a role which consists largely of acting as an audience surrogate and nodding patiently as Jake mansplains, unfortunate as it would better to see more of her character and hear less of Butler. Similarly underused is Zazie Beetz, soon to be seen as Domino in Deadpool 2, here playing a cool hacker and minor comic relief who could have improved the film had it featured more of her.
Traditionally the most enjoyable part of disaster movies is often the characters and their interaction in times of crisis yet most here are forgettable, with many characters included solely to give or receive exposition. The more outlandish the proposition the more believable the characters must be in order to sell it, yet in common with current crises the aim seems to be ratings rather than relief.
Despite his skill with creating compelling characters in television shows such as Leverage, in his feature directorial debut Dean Devlin, working from a script co-written with The Librarians’ Paul Guyot, has not managed to craft personalities of anywhere near the same charm, and while Geostorm is more entertaining than Independence Day: Resurgence on which he also worked, that was a low bar whose pressure drop should not be used as a basis for comparison other than in extreme weather events.
Geostorm is on general release from Friday 20th October