Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Film Writer
While they can usually be trusted to lack heavily in both plot or any other form of narrative cohesion, disaster films can at least be counted on to provide maximum bang for the visual buck, as filmmakers engage in playful destruction if only to populate the few minutes of the inevitable catchy trailer.
And so, following the well-worn template of other genre films like Armageddon, Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day, Dean Devlin’s Geostorm approaches the scenario of climate change taken to the extreme, when man made technology designed to curb such events causes them instead, and then some.
Rather than approaching the story as a tale of mankind successfully uniting against global climate change (not unlike the premise of another recent film just out on Blu-Ray, the documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power), Geostorm assumes that clever scientists have managed to build a system of satellites designed to interact with the atmosphere in order to dispel large weather patterns and prevents deadly events such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, tornadoes, tidal waves and extreme cold fronts. You get the idea.
When nefarious elements within the American government decide to hack this system in order to cause a chain reaction of global catastrophes which would affect all but the United States (not to mention causing the death of the American President, played by Andy Garcia), it’s up to the satellites’ creator (Gerard Butler) and his estranged bureaucrat brother (Jim Sturgess) to pair up and find a solution to the hack which causes the unlikeliest weather events to date: flash freezings in Afghanistan, tidal waves in Dubai, etc…
The film wastes no time establishing a series of set pieces designed to horrify audiences with the most extreme weather scenes imaginable, not unlike its Hollywood cousins of decades past. Large landmarks and major cities get slammed with a mixture of deadly polar opposites, like a massive tidal wave in Rio suddenly freezing in the peak of summer, suddenly flash freezing bathers and beachgoers into ice statues within seconds as temperatures drop by tens of degress instantly.
Alas, this high focus on visual effects sequences usually occurs at the expense of worthwhile storytelling and acting, at a time when the digital wizardry is supposed to assist the tale, not supplant it.
Despite a valiant effort to convincingly establish a life-long rivalry of feuding brothers who always sought to outdo the other, Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess can’t sell us on the idea, since both are too busy rehashing pieces of more successful films (including the inevitable broken promise to a family member) to properly focus on the thespian aspects of brotherly bonding.
The film stays on this passive cruise control mode for the bulk of its running time, to the point where we, the viewers, start hoping no one saves the day so we can at least enjoy the popcorn as Earth destroys itself in spectacular fashion. \
The mystery at hand (who hacked the satellites, and why?) is so transparent and threadbare that you’ll struggle not to heckle at the movie screen. The culprits might as well having been wearing signs around their necks.