Sometimes you just need to disconnect your brain and enjoy a mindless film full of explosions and silliness. Geostorm fills that void nicely despite being wildly uneven, a large cast that struggles for screentime and a complete lack of character development. In biting off more than it can chew, Geostorm is a hot mess but mildly entertaining with it.
The disasters faced
Weather wars, tsunamis, freezing and boiling temperatures, tornadoes, self-destructing space stations, government cover-ups, hacking dramas, malfunctioning windows and trying to not look 18 months older between reshoots.
Following on from a global warming disaster the worlds leading nations have come together to fund and create Dutch Boy – a weather changing station. Not content with ruining nature, now we attempt to control it by science things that are very gently glossed over. However, after years of success Dutch Boy appears to be falling apart and that causes main engineer Jake much concern. Sent back from disgrace to sort out the mess, he leads a team of international experts on the space station to try and find the cause. Down on the ground Jake’s brother Max deals with the political implications. The more malfunctions, the more deaths.
Quickly it becomes clear that its not a malfunction but actually being purposely set off. Cheng, a scientist discovers this first hand in Hong Kong when he gets caught up in a meltdown and sets off a chain reaction that implicates the President of the United States. Max, along with secret services girlfriend Sarah and his secretary Dana need to pull off various coups on Earth to rat out the dirty party. Meanwhile, Jake and Ute, the new lead engineer go to work flying around space and having near misses trying to work out who is the rat in space. All this leads towards a grande finale where several of the weather stations trigger off a countdown to a global Geostorm to wipe most of the planet out. Will our brothers Jake and Max be able to save the day? If they can, will there be much of a planet to save anyway?
Why is it worth watching?
Geostorm comes from the school of 80s and 90s Arnie nee current day The Rock. There’s a lot of clunky humour, cliche moments and ‘oh shits’ before something happens. It has a tone of a Sci-Fi channel movie that has a full Hollywood budget and that makes it feel like a b-movie that’s spread its wings. Ludicrous science, use special effects, explosions for the sake of it and a cast of hundreds running around the place.
That also means sadly that at times it feels like a b-movie that’s spread its wings in the wrong places. The script is not great and as this film prides itself on its international cast, the acting feels strangely stilted depending on who is in the frame. The main cast all speak Hollywood. Then we have a miserable British guy who you want to slap, Ute who is German but speaks without feeling, Al is Mexican by numbers, Eni is there just to show Africa was involved too and Cheng brings in the Asian population. They are all stereotypes of their Nations as seen through the eyes of America and whilst that isn’t always a bad thing, it is all the ‘foreign’ characters who get zero character development. Armageddon understood that if you are going to stereotype characters like that, you need time with them to make them likeable or at least have some traits. Here, they melt into the background and that is a shame.
What also fades into the background are the quick-fire setup and effects sections. In taking a lesson from 2012 and Day After Tomorrow, we go to a location, see a character for literally five seconds and then have a dramatic scene with them. I struggle so much with this as there is literally no attachment and its just effects on show to say ‘oh hello we have explosions!’. I hope this style of pick up and drop storytelling goes away soon. At least place a secondary or tertiary character there to get me invested! The other nitpick I have is that it takes exacting cues from both those films and Gravity but does them worse. You wouldn’t notice any CGI updates from them at all so why do a near exact shot for shot copy?
What Geostorm does do well is paint a strained relationship between brothers. Whilst some of the glances between Max and Jake border on romantic, it is their core love/hate/love of each other that bonds the two sides of the story together. Geostorm underwent a lot of reshoots and editing which see a lot of other characters pop in and out very quickly but the bond of the brothers remains strong. Sarah is badass as a secret agent although coerced way too easily for my liking and Dana is underused as excellent comic relief.
Runtime is an interesting one as Geostorm ramps up the speed and drama particularly in the second half of the movie. Yet I felt the movie was a bit rushed an uneven. I’d have taken another 20 minutes of proper character development and payoffs of storylines from other characters, or chop out some of the stuff that leads nowhere. I feel like that would elevate the film somewhat but what is here does go along at a fair pace.
Geostorm’s effects are a mixed bag of really impressive space work and some slightly underwhelming green screen. The digital effects for explosions, debris, fire, building collapses and so on really hit the mark. The level of detail is superb. Step away from that and you’ll find croaky water effects (scale doesn’t help here) and some really weird green screen. It’s mostly when you don’t expect it too like at the president rally in the stadium. It looks really fake and miscoloured. On the whole, the big bangs are impressive.
I would watch a Dana spinoff and I was very appreciative that Geostorm does not shoehorn in a love story between Jake and Ute. I also want to shout out to Hannah, the daughter played by Talitha Bateman. She is only in a few scenes but she is a natural in them and her bookend narration on the film carries the heartfelt message it wants to convey. I would have loved more of Al, our friendly Mexican. I also wished that Ed Harris had been utilised more in his mentoring role to Max. His character was ripe for some great twists and turns but it fizzles out too soon. Also, watch out for a strange cameo from Mare Winningham. She has about one line and is billed high up the cast leading me to think her part was reduced down in editing. From Miracle Mile to Miracle Line…
‘Self Destruct? Why would you build that into a space station?!’
Three memorable moments
- The Hong Kong disaster and the fact Cheng is escaping in such a tiny electric car.
- Bye-bye Makmoud!
- Is it a bird? Is it lots of birds? No its a giant plane!
The obligatory weird moment
During a car chase sequence, Sarah spins around their electric car to shoot and kill a chasing driver. Immediately the POTUS barks at Max ‘MARRY HER!’. He literally found out they were together about 3 minutes earlier and then returned immediately to being utterly cold and understated for the rest of the movie. Also, watch out for Sarah shout out Max’s name when she enters her apartment thinking it is being burgled…
The drinking game
Geostorm has an obscene amount of fireballs and explosions from nowhere that are far bigger than they should be. Take a small swig for each one and you’ll be plastered before the station goes into self destruct mode.
Although I’ve poked fun and been highly critical, Geostorm is brainless entertainment. Does it make sense? No. Do actors age and look different between scenes? Yes. Is it uneven? Hell yes! Geostorm is fun though. Whilst it imitates segments from The Day After Tomorrow, 2012 and Gravity it doesn’t do any of those bits better than the original. It’s when Geostorm steps out to be the weird b-movie it wants to be that it becomes entertaining and fun. Proceed with caution and with low expectations and you might just like it.
Rating – 2.5/5 OK
If you liked Geostorm then you may like…
- 2012 – follows a similar selection of natural disasters
- Gravity – does space station explosions and survival seriously
- Weather Wars – the low budget version of this movie which came first
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