Movie review: Gerard Butler fights climate change in 'Geostorm'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Oct 13 2017 11:40 AM

The trailer of this film already made very clear what this movie was going to be about. This was not just going to be about a tornado like "Twister" (1996), or an earthquake like "San Andreas" (2015), or a tidal wave like "2012" (2009), or a space disaster like "Armageddon" (1998). This new film will be a smorgasbord of disasters all in one film in one CGI extravaganza -- a worldwide cataclysmic event they call a "Geostorm".

Because the Earth is already suffering extreme effects of climate change, an international group of scientists led by Jake Lawson built a satellite system called "Dutch Boy" to stabilize the earth's weather conditions. One day, there was a severe snowstorm in an Afghanistan desert that froze the inhabitants to death. A serious malfunction in Dutch Boy was suspected, so Jake was called in and sent to the space station to check it out.

On Earth, Jake's estranged younger brother Max Lawson, who worked in the inner circle of the White House, did his share of investigating and damage control with the convenient help of his secret fiancee Secret Service agent Sarah Wilson, as ruthless American politicians appeared to be involved. As giant hailstorms fall on Tokyo and massive tidal waves flood Dubai, the Lawson brothers have only an hour and a half left to try to stop the countdown before the whole world gets destroyed by the deadly Geostorm.

As it was already quite evident in the trailer, the acting of the cast was on the hammy side. It felt miscast, almost everyone did not look realistic for his or her character even if they were supposed to be decent actors. Of course, one man can be 11 years older than his brother, but Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess did not look nor act like brothers at all. Andy Garcia did not feel like a US President, nor did Abbie Cornish as a hotshot agent, nor Alexandra Maria Lara as the commander of a space station.

On the other hand, Ed Harris was good as the US Secretary of State Leonard Dekkom. You knew exactly what his character was all about the very first moment we see him. I also have to commend the work of young Talitha Bateman, whom we just saw as the tormented lame girl Janice in "Annabelle: The Creation" earlier this year. She was very genuine and sincere in her role as Jake's daughter Hannah and her voice-over narrations that bookend the film.

Many special effects were too obviously CG when compared to other recent disaster films. The work on the Rio de Janeiro scenes did not look good, with a bikini-clad girl outrunning the freezing wave from the sea, leaving people and even a flying jumbo jet freezing up in its wake. The "exciting" parts dealt with electric cars driving away from breaking up roads in Hong Kong or lightning bolts (with big man-made explosions) in Orlando. The typical "down-the-wire" race against the clock and the "heartwarming" montage of relief and jubilation afterwards are such dogeared cliches.

So, what we end up here is a strange inharmonious marriage of three distinct genres: the catastrophic world disaster flick, an outer space thriller, and a political potboiler to boot. This is the directorial debut of Dean Devlin who had written and produced films like "Independence Day" (1996) and its sequel "Independence Day: Resurgence" (2016) before, so it seems he just rehashed ideas from his previous films and blew their scale up with a much bigger budget. Word is there had been other writers and directors who spiced things up further in numerous rewrites and reshoots.

The climate aspect is certainly timely, and may in fact be too timely for comfort in the wake of recent real-life destructive storms and earthquakes. But unfortunately in real life, there is no larger-than-life Gerard Butler character with his Dutch Boy to fix our deranged climate and his superheroic derring-do to save the world. 4/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."