If you have kept up with movies in 2017, then there's a good chance that you have already heard of Geostorm. Dean Devlin's global warming-inspired, Gerard Butler-led disaster epic has captured the imaginations of many moviegoers since the first trailer dropped -- primarily in the hope that the film could live up to the campy, fun, B-movie quality promised by the marketing material. Alas, the film has now screened for critics, and I am saddened to say that delivers all of the camp and ham that we expected it to, but considerably less of the fun.
In the near future, humanity's contributions to climate change have brought planet Earth to a tipping point. After a series of "extreme weather events" kill millions and lead to global socio-political unrest, brilliant (albeit hot-headed) astronaut Jake Lawson leads the development of Dutch Boy -- a satellite capable of controlling Earth's weather patterns. But when outside forces begin to tamper with Dutch Boy and cause unnatural disasters all over the planet, Jake's brother Max (Jim Sturgess) calls him back into action to go up to Dutch Boy in an effort to get the space station working correctly again while Max investigates the mystery on Earth's surface.
For a movie attempting to blend the disaster and political thriller genres so thoroughly, it's honestly shocking that Geostorm is as dull as it is. While the basic premise of the movie would seemingly promise non-stop action and intrigue from start to finish, it features surprisingly few "Geostorm" sequences. To fill in those gaps, Geostorm offers up a half-baked political thriller mystery that's a little too predictable and a little too static to carry the film between action set pieces. In the end, what we are left with is a movie that mostly devolves into Jim Sturgess and Gerard Butler monologuing exposition at each other on video monitors for two hours, while nameless civilian characters get frozen or burned to death.
That formulaic take on the disaster movie model shines brightest when you realize exactly how many movies Geostorm rips off in the creation of its story. It has the global warming story angle of The Day After Tomorrow, the apocalyptic scale and gung-ho machismo of Independence Day, and the (attempted) outer space tension of Gravity (in fact, there's more than one space walk scene that are DIRECT rip-offs of Gravity). Geostorm Frankensteins these ideas (and others) together in an attempt to freshen up the disaster movie genre, but the film lacks any of the urgency of the projects that it takes inspiration from, so the intended Frankenstein monster is really more of a lifeless corpse.
On that note, one of the most evident reasons for Geostorm's inability to generate tension is the fact that we seldom see any characters that we have come to know or care about in any real danger on the screen. Almost every single time Dutch Boy fires, it uses its weather-altering power to bring chaos and destruction down upon unnamed and unknown characters. The result of this creative choice is a series of natural disaster scenes that lack any real personal stakes from a character perspective, and feel decidedly gratuitous and impersonal.
That's when it becomes clear just how many characters go underused in this movie. Despite the size of its core ensemble, Geostorm only really cares about Jake and Max, and it leaves some of its most intriguing perspectives waiting on the sidelines for something interesting to do. Two of the most notable examples of this are Annabelle: Creation's Talitha Bateman (who goes criminally underutilized as Jake's daughter), and Abbie Cornish as Max's girlfriend -- a Terminator-esque secret service agent Sarah Wilson. The film keeps most of them out of harm's way for the bulk of its runtime, as it instead opts to focus on redshirts who come and go with little fanfare.
In a particular sense, you can almost see the fantastic movie that Geostorm could've become in more capable hands -- and when I say amazing, I do not necessarily mean good. Between its made-for-TV level CGI during many of the "extreme weather events," to the hammy acting, and the remarkably straight-faced take on the story, Geostorm had the potential to become one of those delightfully fun disaster movies that you throw on with some friends on a Friday night. The film does occasional hit those notes in a really fun way (seriously, there are brief flashes in which I had some fun), but there just aren't enough to keep it interesting.
If there's one bright spot amid Geostorm's ineffective action and muddled storytelling, it's the fact that none of the actors appear to be taking the film too seriously -- in a good way. Familiar faces like Gerard Butler, Andy Garcia, and Ed Harris chew the scenery in almost all of their scenes, and it's clear that the cast knows something about Geostorm that Geostorm doesn't.
Too campy to be taken seriously, but too boring to be pure fun, Geostorm embodies the worst of both, and the result is a sometimes enjoyable (but mostly bland) disaster (movie). After all of that build-up for something epic, the response to Geostorm could be summed up with little more than a simple "meh."