Do you remember the late 90s? Of course you do. It was a magical time when the idea of an all-out nuclear war with North Korea started via Twitter was the kind of stupid idea that would get a screenwriter kicked out of a pitch meeting. Back then, movies about impending global annihilated could be made with blissful ignorance; completely unaware of how prescient they actually were. First time writer/director Dean Devlin (producer of Universal Soldier, Stargate, and Independence Day) remembers those days fondly and has gifted to us a film that is facepalmingly stupid yet wildly entertaining if you approach it with the proper mindset.
In the near future (next year actually), global warming gives birth to violently out of control weather events that leave a death-toll in the millions worldwide. With the future of the entire planet in the balance, a coalition of 18 nations band together to create a weather control system nicknamed “Dutch Boy”. This system of satellites is controlled by the International Space Station and their mission is to save the world by neutralizing super storms before they start. But after years of success, isolated incidents of extreme weather start striking and all signs point to sabotage or worse. The tool that saved the world is being turned into the doomsday weapon that is sure to end it.
The hardest part about reviewing a film like this is deciding where to begin. It’s a ridiculous premise with a haphazard script and the kind of continuity errors that would make a film snob take a vow of blindness. It’s also peppered with fascinating ideas, cool world building, and a tone that is surprisingly hopeful and sincere. It may also be one of the most inclusive big-budget movies in recent memory.
If you’re familiar with Devlin’s previous work with director Roland Emmerich (Universal Soldier, Stargate, Independence Day, etc.), then you know EXACTLY what you’re getting with this film. The scenes of environmental destruction are so over the top that they transcend into goofiness. The characters are drawn very broadly and rely heavily on archetypes with hints of depth. The pace is breakneck and you’ll never have a chance to get bored during the film’s merciful 109 minute runtime (remember when every blockbuster movie wasn’t 3 hours long?). With his first time at the helm, Devlin is staying so firmly in his comfort zone that you’d swear he was directing with training-wheels on.
Gerard Butler (Olympus Has Fallen) plays Jake Lawson, the creator of Dutch Boy and the least convincing movie scientist since Denise Richards (The World is Not Enough). After an unpleasant run in with a Senate committee, control of the station is stripped from him and handed to his younger brother Max (Jim Sturgess); naturally, this does wonders for their relationship. They have to put their differences aside when Dutch Boy starts killing people with weather. Before they know it, they have to bust open a conspiracy with Jake on the space station and Max in D.C. Despite the presence of known action star, Butler, the film’s resident badass is actually Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch) as Secret Service Agent (and Max’s secret girlfriend) Sarah Wilson. She gets the most kickass moments and her formidable skills save Max’s life on several occasions.
The supporting cast is a diverse group of actors from around the world including Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands), Amr Waked (Lucy), Andy Garcia (Ocean’s Eleven), Ed Harris (The Rock), and Eugenio Derbez (How to be a Latin Lover). Easily, the film’s breakout star is Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) who plays cybersecurity expert, Dana. Beetz turns what should have been a gratingly annoying comic relief character into one of the most funny, charismatic cinematic nerds in a long time. She is genuinely charming and her jokes land every time. You’ll want to see her in EVERYTHING from now on.
The action scenes in this film are surprisingly good. The global destruction has a visceral quality to it with camerawork that puts you right in the middle of it. One trick the filmmakers use to invest you is to zero in on a single person within the chaos and show the scene from their perspective. Even though these characters are never given names (or dialogue), they help to make the danger more personal as opposed to a clinical view of immense property damage. Occasionally, the action takes a more traditional form (car chases, shootouts, etc.) but is no less thrilling or silly.
The best collaborations between Devlin and Emmerich always had a strong sense of hope as well as global unity. Independence Day is the most obvious example of this; it was a film with a not-so-subtle message of strength though unity as characters saw past their differences (religious, racial, national, etc.) to come together for the greater good. Geostorm paints a very similar picture with a world that set aside its differences to save itself. The film’s villainous characters turn out to be the hardline nationalists; people who believe in isolationism and divisiveness (sound familiar?). The film’s characters are a diverse bunch, moreso than most recent blockbusters and the film is stronger for it. Despite the archetypes on-hand, it never feels like the kind of mean-spirited stereotyping that is still way too common in films these days.
The world of this film feels like the kind of society Progressives dream of. After global warming nearly destroyed the planet, the world quickly changed its views on the controversial topic. Green technology is everywhere in the film with every car on the road being electric and Butler’s character even runs a small business where he converts classic muscle cars to be clean electric. The filmmakers never stop to pound you over the head with this, it’s just a fact of life in the world they created. Global unity is also apparent in almost every scene. People of different races, nationalities, and religions are seen working together like it’s no big deal. Once again, this is presented as a fact of life and Devlin rarely beats you over the head with it.
Simply put, if you’re looking for a disaster movie that you can take seriously in any way whatsoever then you shouldn’t even bother with this film (and I apologize for making you read so far into this review). But if you can enjoy an earnestly silly disaster movie with an optimistic and inclusive worldview, then there’s a lot here to like. Geostorm is the kind of movie that’s destined to perpetually play on TV and become a permanent fixture on streaming services. It’s destined to be the third best movie on a “Disaster Movie 4-Pack” DVD; not as good as Independence Day, way better than Independence Day Resurgence, and about on-par with The Core. Not a theatrical recommendation, but definitely worth a Red Box.