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‘Geostorm’ rains on its own parade

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Sci-fi action flick entertainingly terrible

If you have any familiarity with blockbuster action movies from the 1990s, you’re aware of the work of Dean Devlin, even if you aren’t aware that you’re aware.

Devlin was a longtime writing/producing partner of Roland Emmerich; the duo was responsible for some of the biggest, broadest, most explode-y films of the decade – “Stargate,” “Independence Day,” “Godzilla,” “The Patriot” – before parting ways for more than 15 years, only reuniting for last year’s “Independence Day: Resurgence.”

Now, Devlin has decided to take a turn in the director’s chair for the first time with “Geostorm,” a sci-fi action movie that he also co-wrote. And if it was still 1998, this movie might well have been one of the biggest box office successes of the year.

But what worked in 1998 doesn’t work nearly as well in 2017. “Geostorm” is Emmerich-lite, less disaster porn and more disaster late-night Cinemax. Beat to recognizable beat, it is almost eerily familiar in a manner that won’t evoke much nostalgia but will definitely induce plenty of incredulous head shaking.

Truth be told, I kind of enjoyed myself.

In the near future, the Earth’s weather has reached extremes that threaten to render it inhabitable. In a last-ditch effort to save the world, a coalition of global powers comes together to launch a massive project – a web of satellites that will (somehow – it’s never explained even a little) control the weather and keep mankind safe. They call it “Dutch Boy,” after the legend of the boy who put his finger in the dike, because in this future, they’re big fans of on-the-nose analogies.

Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler, “A Family Man”) is the man who made Dutch Boy a reality, but he’s a maverick, a wild card who refuses to play by the rules set forth by his government overseers (shocking, I know). He’s replaced at the head of the operation by his brother Max (Jim Sturgess, TV’s “Close to the Enemy”), a government official whose girlfriend Sarah (Abbie Cornish, “6 Days”) just happens to be one of the lead agents on the Secret Service detail for President Andrew Palma (Andy Garcia, “Passengers”).

But when Dutch Boy starts to malfunction, causing catastrophic and deadly weather events at seeming random, President Palma and his Secretary of State Leonard Dekkom (Ed Harris, “mother!”) force Max to bring Jake back on board as the only one who can fix the problem because of some typically nonsensical and narratively convenient reasons. Despite his misgivings, Jake agrees and is flown up to the massive space station that serves to control the satellite web, meeting with the station’s commander, a German scientist named Ute (Alexandra Maria Lara, TV’s “You Are Wanted”).

Only it turns out that there are sinister machinations afoot, because of course there are. Before you know it, Jake must race against the clock to try and prevent the impending formation of the titular Geostorm, which happens when a bunch of bad storms … team up? Or something? It’s particularly unclear, even for a movie that clearly has no interest in explanations. There’s sabotage and intrigue, both in space and back on Earth. And the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

This movie is gloriously stupid. Dean Devlin couldn’t have recreated a better example of a big-budget action flick from his heyday if he tried. It’s all here, every little thing that made ‘90s movies such a brainless delight.

A convoluted plot that involves treachery and conspirators that anyone with half a brain would immediately recognize? Check. Painfully self-aware one-liners and blatant exposition dumps? Check. Technology essentially being treated as magic? Check. Gratuitous destruction of recognizable landmarks? Big old check. Overreliance on CGI that will almost instantly look and feel utterly dated? Yeah, check. An overwrought and sentimental familial relationship whose resolution is inexplicably tied to the success of whatever mission is being undertaken? SO. MUCH. CHECK.

Seriously – you’re an Aerosmith ballad away from instant ‘90s blockbuster bingo.

Gerard Butler is pretty much the perfect guy to star in this movie. He’s as mercenary as they come, willing to do pretty much whatever as long as there’s a check. It’s not that he doesn’t know how stupid this movie is – it’s clear that he does – it’s that he just doesn’t give a s—t. He unapologetically three-quarter-asses his way through the proceedings.

Sturgess and Cornish give decent enough B-plot as they deal with the Earthbound side of the situation, even as they cycle through action movie romance clichés. Lara is the closest thing to an actual character on the space station side of things, though her sole trait appears to be being German. Garcia and Harris are a delight, both of them embracing the utter idiocy of this movie and their places in it; they don’t let the movie’s stupidity get in the way of them having a good time.

The effects work and action sequences are meh, surprisingly close to the SyFy Original end of the spectrum for a movie with a reported nine-figure budget. That said, the filmmakers’ willingness to disregard how the laws of nature work allows for some pleasantly ridiculous moments. None of it makes sense even in a world where we’ve accepted that weather control is a thing; that’s part of its weird charm.

And “Geostorm” IS charming. If you have a soft spot in your heart for Devlin’s output of two decades ago, you’ll be entertained by this one. Again – and I cannot stress this enough – this is not a good movie. It is a stupid movie. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself. Maybe you will too.

[2 out of 5] 

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