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New Release Review - GEOSTORM

geostorm review
A complex system of satellites designed to combat extreme weather is sabotaged by nefarious forces.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Dean Devlin

Starring: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris, Robert Sheehan, Richard Schiff, Mare Winningham

geostorm poster


With movies like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, director Roland Emmerich reinvented the big budget disaster movie by replacing the traditional ambitiously built man-made constructions like cruise ships, jet-liners and skyscrapers with man's greatest folly, our mistreatment of the planet we call home. Amid all the laughably over-the-top set-pieces in which characters attempt to outrun earthquakes, tidal waves and even frostbite, Emmerich's films offered a bleak outlook on the future of humanity, suggesting that when it comes to reversing climate change, it may be too late.

Emmerich's long-time producer Dean Devlin continues this trend with his own directorial debut, Geostorm. Like 2009's 2012, Devlin's film suggests we're only a couple of years away from catastrophe, with an opening montage detailing how in 2019 the planet finds itself ravaged by unprecedented weather, wiping out entire cities. Earth's 17 greatest superpowers (which also coincidentally happen to be the markets with the biggest box office takings) unite to find a rapid solution to save our pale blue dot. A complex system of satellites - named 'Dutch Boy' after the famous tale of the lad who stuck his finger in a dyke - controlled from the International Space Station, is constructed to predict and negate the effects of extreme weather.

geostorm

All goes well for several years until a village in Afghanistan is frozen like an unwanted packet of broccoli in a bachelor's freezer, a result of a malfunction in Dutch Boy's programming. This leads to disgraced former head of the project Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) reinstated to discover the cause of Dutch Boy's failings.

Warner Bros Pictures have found themselves in the difficult position of releasing a film that makes light entertainment of weather conditions that have taken many lives in the real world in recent months, which likely explains why Geostorm wasn't screened for critics and why its marketing campaign has been so subdued.

It's difficult to view scenes of mass weather induced carnage as popcorn escapism when we're greeted with similar real life scenes every time we turn on the news. Geostorm's use of the East as fodder leaves a foul taste in the mouth, with the thrust of the narrative designed to have us root for Lawson and friends to figure out the problem before any Western nations (the 'cool places' as one character describes them) are affected. I was reminded of that old Onion headline '15,000 Brown People Dead Somewhere' as I watched a sequence designed to make us worry about the fate of a dog while buildings were falling on faceless Asians.

geostorm

The International Space Station isn't quite so international as advertised, and it's up to a bunch of Caucasians to save the day. Along with Lawson there's Ute Fassbinder (Alexandra Maria Lara), the stereotypically stoic commander of the station, and Irish actor Robert Sheehan as a rough and tumble Brit with the worst cockney accent since Dick Van Dyke. On the ground, Lawson's estranged brother Max (Jim Sturgess - remember him?) leads the quest to uncover who is behind the conspiracy, aided by his secret service girlfriend Sarah (Abbie Cornish - remember her?) and a sardonic techy played by Zazie Beetz, who seems to be the only character that knows they're in a bad Emmerich knockoff.

At times, Geostorm appears to mock itself, as if to pre-empt and neutralise smartass critics. Brothers Jake and Max talk about their childhood as if they're roughly the same age, but there's a good decade between Butler and Sturgess, so the film has characters mock Butler's ragged, lived-in look. As if worried about the duo's ability to pull off American accents, the film pauses to make a point of telling us how they were both born in the UK, like how Jean Claude Van Damme flicks always had to find a reason to explain why an American action movie was headlined by someone with the accent of a celebrity chef.

geostorm

More so than a traditional disaster epic, Geostorm is really a half-baked political thriller, with most of the drama involving Sturgess and Cornish dashing around the corridors of power like a second-rate Mulder and Scully. Any viewers familiar with the CV of a certain cast member will pinpoint them as the movie's 'surprise' villain long before the not so sharp protagonists do.

Geostorm scrapes the bottom of the barrel of a genre that ran its course long ago, and it's about as thrilling as watching your lawn furniture get tossed about on a blustery autumn day.

Geostorm is in UK/ROI cinemas now.



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