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Review: Geostorm (2017)

Geostorm (2017)

Directed by: Dean Devlin

Premise: In the near future, humanity has gained control over Earth’s climate through a network of satellites controlled by the International Space Station. The satellites malfunction and cause catastrophic destruction.

What Works: Geostorm has high production values. The movie was directed by Dean Devlin, who was a writer and producer on movies like Independence Day and 1998’s Godzilla and like those films Geostorm is primarily a spectacle of destruction. The movie’s technical aspects are all competent and the special effects are convincing. It’s also worth mentioning the diversity of the cast. The space station crew is really international and at a time when there is a lot of bad press about the homogeneity of Hollywood films, this one deserves a little bit of credit.

What Doesn’t: In many respects, Geostorm feels like a movie that should have been released twenty years ago. Its style is rooted in a hokey populism and a preoccupation with special effects that was common among filmmakers who aspired to be the next Steven Spielberg. Movies like Independence Day and Godzilla were made at a time when digital special effects were relatively new and allowed filmmakers to conjure images of mayhem on an unprecedented scale. Twenty years later, a lot of those disaster movies of the 1990s haven’t aged well, in large part because of their stupidity and disingenuous sentimentality but also because audiences are no longer willing to forgive bad storytelling for the sake of a special effects show. Instead of adapting to the cinematic marketplace and keeping up with the trends in action and sci-fi moviemaking, the filmmakers of Geostorm double down on the spectacle-over-substance philosophy. The result is a dumb and forgettable picture that often feels like a SyFy Channel original movie made with the resources of a Hollywood tentpole release. But even the set pieces of Geostorm aren’t that impressive. There’s a lot of crashing, blowing up, and falling down but it’s not presented with much style or gravitas. The movie is often lifeless and unexciting even while the fate of civilization is supposedly at stake. That’s partly due to Geostorm’s bland characters. No one is interesting and everyone talks in expository dialogue that explains everything the audience already knows. Nothing about Geostorm is credible and not in a scientific nitpicking kind of way. The filmmakers of Geostorm don’t appear to understand how weather works. Typhoons, tsunamis, and lightning storms stop and start at the touch of a button and the movie has absurd images like a village in the middle of the desert that’s turned into a frozen tundra while everything around it is hot. Geostorm makes an ill-advised bid for political relevance. The narration that bookends the movie hints at international unity and the climate crisis but there’s nothing of substance here; it’s just window dressing. As part of the plot, it’s discovered that the malfunctioning satellites and the catastrophic weather is actually part of a vast political conspiracy. The subplot is so dumb that it’s impossible to take seriously and the filmmakers don’t even bother to give the villains any kind of a rational motivation. Despite how wacky its premise is, this movie could work if it were presented as camp but the filmmakers of Geostorm seem to think they are making Interstellar when their movie is much closer to Sharknado.

Bottom Line: Geostorm is stupid but its greater sin is that it fails to be any fun. The filmmakers have created a movie about the end of the world that actually manages to be boring.

Episode: #674 (November 12, 2017)