Imagine if you took the MacGuffin from “Highlander 2: The Quickening” and gave it to the Kansas State Board of Education to reframe it using their expertise in science before summarising it in crayon on a children’s menu placemat and you’ll be pretty close to how I imagine the pitch meeting for “Geostorm” went. That it was greenlighted is the most damning indictment of the lack of seriousness the threat of climate change is treated.
As the world teetered on the brink of catastrophic, irreversible climate change, brilliant engineer Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) led a team to develop a global network of satellites but is relieved of command when he brings the system online early without authority to dissipate a massive storm over Shanghai. Three years later, as the US is due to hand control of the system to a multinational agency, a series of serious malfunctions force Jake to return to help fix the system only to discover the malfunctions are part of a bigger conspiracy.
There’s a Senate hearing in the opening minutes of the film where Lawson is cross-examined by an angry senator called Thomas Cross. It’s as close to subtlety as the film gets. It can sometimes be confusing for people to separate the concepts of weather and climate and “Geostorm” is unlikely to help in any way given it doesn’t seem to understand the difference either and, frankly, has problems differentiating physics from magic.
Dean Devlin, here making his directorial debut, shuns the tried and tested disaster movie template favoured by his long-time collaborator, Roland Emmerich, instead setting out his stall as a milquetoast Michael Bay. There are orange-hued middle-distance staring scenes, bombastic action beats and over-the-top CGI extravaganzas but there’s a lack of commitment to any of it thanks to an entirely self-delusional belief that the film has a sincere message to convey.
It may not be a disaster movie, but it is a disastrous one. Plots and character development are patchwork and perfunctory, belying the desperate editing and expensive reshoots which this film has undergone. As a result, Gerard Butler – the nominal star – doesn’t actually get that much to do. He’s shunted into outer space with the rest of the narrative flotsam and jetsam while the bulk of the movie’s action conspiracy plot is given to Jim Sturgess as Jake’s younger brother, who’s so anonymous you often forget he’s in the movie while he’s still on screen. In many ways, “Geostorm” shows us the most egregious usurping of an older brother by his younger sibling since the Milibands wrestled for control of the UK Labour Party, with similar results.
Fatally flawed by a terrible grasp of its own internal science and a cast of characters so underdeveloped their only dialogue is usually an announcement of why they might be interesting or useful to the plot, “Geostorm” falls way short of being the devastating global tempest of apocalyptic proportions it’s trying to be. It’s barely a storm in a teacup.