I guess time flies, because I’ve kind of wanted to see GEOSTORM since it came out, and I didn’t realize that was more than five years ago. It’s the theatrical feature directing debut of Dean Devlin, former writing/producing partner of Roland Emmerich. Devlin wrote the script with Paul Guyot (two season 2 episodes of something called “Felicity”; also Chow Yun Fat’s assistant on THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS).

In my household Mrs. Vern is the fan of disaster movies. The best ones make her giggle. She loves the broad stereotypes, the corny speeches, the cataclysmic destruction, and especially the montages where different countries set aside their differences to save the world together. Unlike me she likes INDEPENDENCE DAY, but she’s not one of the people who considers it to be an actual well made blockbuster movie. She just finds it a little more hilarious and alot less annoying than I do. So she’s the reason we saw and got a kick out of 10,000 B.C. and 2012 in the theater and MOONFALL on video. I skipped THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and she still gets excited and explains to me what’s happening when we come across it on cable. So although I would like to take credit for reviewing this as part of some post-PLANE Gerard Butler study, it’s really because she spontaneously decided the time had come to watch it, and I agreed it was a good idea.

Butler plays Jake Lawson, the chief architect of a web of climate-controlling satellites built through international cooperation in the futuristic year of 2019. Nicknamed Dutch Boy (a term I really got sick of hearing), the system successfully neutralizes climate-change-exacerbated weather events.

Jake is one of those classical movie heroes who is

1) a regular working class guy who just wants to hang out and fix car engines and shit

2) a technological genius so the car engines he fixes are electric

3) hated and disrespected by uptight establishment types even though he literally saved humanity

So after stopping a typhoon from destroying Shanghai he gets dressed down at a hearing by Senator Stikup Hizass (Richard Schiff, THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK) for turning Dutch Boy on without authorization. The fuckin red tape, can you believe it!? And we get the requisite backstory about him punching somebody, just like his character in PLANE, or Casey Ryback in UNDER SIEGE.

“And then, there was the incident where you punched a federal inspector in the face.”

“Well, your federal inspector doesn’t know that a capacitor holds a charge even when it’s disconnected. He was grabbing for the damn thing. I saved his life.”

Jake takes exception to the senator talking about Dutch Boy as an American creation for American national security, since he built it with people all around the world for the security of people all around the world. So he responds with smartass remarks that make everyone squirm, especially his brother Max (Jim Sturgess, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE), a stooge for Secretary of State Leonard Dekkom (Ed Harris, THE ABYSS). Max tries to protect Jake’s job, but instead is appointed to take it over.

Part of what’s funny about the movie is how it depicts the seat of power as such a small world. When the guy who designed the system that saved the world gets fired and replaced by a political hack, that happens to be his little brother. The little brother’s girlfriend Sarah (Abbie Cornish, SUCKER PUNCH) happens to be a Secret Service agent regularly assigned to President Andrew Palma (Andy Garcia, SMOKIN’ ACES), so she’s able to get access to him without anyone noticing when they need it. Other than Sarah being a total badass, the Secret Service seems to be a really inept, rinky dink operation. Max and Sarah can’t tell anyone they’re dating, but they seem to live together, and can meet up and have conversations about subterfuge on the tarmac with the president standing nearby. At one point they manage to kidnap the president during the National Democratic Convention, drive away in a stolen taxi, and only be chased by one car of evil people. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Three years after being fired, disgraced Jake is, as I predicted, living in an Airstream trailer and having a beard. But to be fair it’s not a bushy beard and the trailer is pimped out pretty fancy. He has part time custody of his teenage daughter Hannah (Talitha Bateman, ANNABELLE: CREATION), who narrates the story and is established as a tech prodigy but unfortunately is left out of the action. (I was definitely expecting her to hack or jury-rig something or other.) When Uncle Max shows up unexpectedly Hannah is delighted, but Jake is not. This is the scene where he has to be grudgingly convinced to come back and save the world again, even though they fucked him over last time.

You see, there was an incident in Afghanistan. A whole desert village and all of its people were completely frozen over. This part got covered up, but Dutch Boy seems to have caused it. Also something seems to have malfunctioned on the International Climate Space Station that controls the satellites and an Indian engineer (Richard Regan Paul) got blown out a window. We saw it go down, and know that he was copying secret files onto a thumb drive right before it happened, but they don’t seem to know that.

Jake flies up to the space station, where everybody is kind of a dick to him until they realize holy shit that’s the Jake Lawson, same one that saved the world and gave us our jobs and the structure we currently orbit the earth in. (This seems inconsistent because we just saw him get recognized and treated like a rock star by a porter at a hotel.) He works with Dr. Ute Fassbinder (Alexandra Maria Lara, MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA), who kind of seems like a love interest, and she has a crew of forcibly colorful personalities who don’t really get much of a chance to be developed. Like PLANE, the movie benefits from how comforting it is to see Butler as an in-charge heroic dude, even though he’s just going around spouting lingo and coming up with different theories and looking at numbers and security feeds on computer monitors and shouting out orders.

It’s alot of this:

(Yep, that’s Eugenio Derbez, the music teacher from CODA on the right.) So they heroically figure out there’s a computer virus and all he has to do is pretty much unplug it and plug it back in, but it takes a while to be able to do that.

The space stuff gets pretty dull, but meanwhile on the planet Earth there’s an occasional fun disaster. A colleague named Cheng Long (Daniel Wu, WARCRAFT, TOMB RAIDER) witnesses a sudden extreme heat incident while in traffic in Hong Kong. He looks into it, finds he’s been locked out of his security clearance, and warns Max of the titular phenomenon – if enough of these storms happen at the same time they will bump into each other, ping pong around, swirl up like ice cream and turn into one super duper motherfuckin GEOSTORM storming up the entire geo. I can’t really picture what that means – is it, like, one giant rain storm or snow storm covering the entire plane at once? Or is it more of a potpourri storm, like giant twisters blowing lava and waves and car-sized hail everywhere? I have no way of knowing, because the weird thing about GEOSTORM is that (SPOILER) they stop the geostorm from happening. It should be called THE PREVENTION OF THE GEOSTORM or THIS CLOSE TO HAVING A GEOSTORM.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s quite a bit of destruction, and I’m not sure it would’ve been more exciting had we been told that storms had combined like Voltron to form the geostorm. Still, it’s pretty funny to have a whole movie called GEOSTORM where everyone’s explaining what a geostorm is and trying to prevent a geostorm and having computers counting down to when the geostorm happens (one of my favorite touches) and then they stop the geostorm from happening so we do not get to see a geostorm. If in EARTHQUAKE! they ended up being safe because the earthquake didn’t happen you wouldn’t say “phew.” You’d want to see the earthquake.

As I alluded to earlier, the disaster stuff intersects with conspiracy intrigue. Someone high up in the government (it’s obviously Ed Harris) (spoiler) is taking control of Dutch Boy to use as a weapon against other countries. Max suspects the president, and convinces his girlfriend to help him steal a presidential access code from him! She’s hesitant but then kind of like “Okay, just this one time.” But you know how these things go, it’s a slippery slope, and the next thing you know she’s helping abduct the president. It’s very spontaneous and seat-of-the-pants, they don’t even discuss how it will go down, she just says she will do it, calls in a fake gun sighting and then walks onto the floor of the DNC firing a gun in the air. Somehow nobody sees that it was her. It’s so fucking stupid but also she looks pretty cool doing it so it sums up the appeal of Devlin movies pretty well.

The actual funniest thing in the movie has to do with how the brothers are able to communicate in secret. Early in the movie Max mentions apropos of nothing that they had a secret code when they were kids. You know right away that this will come up later but you don’t know how far-fetched the code is gonna be. Jake makes a video call where he reminisces about a childhood fishing trip, which Max knows is a code because they never went fishing as kids. Somehow that I wasn’t able to follow there are a series of numbers hidden in the words, and the numbers represent different points in the video which they typity-typity up to play consecutively, and then it chops up his syllables to form a very general, non-specific warning message. How the fuck did he know how to speak that out loud? And how did they do it as kids?

So the Devlin appeal is that kind of deranged nonsense mixed with scenes like giant hail in Tokyo, a heatwave in Moscow, a tsunami in Dubai. It’s always identifiable major cities. Just once I want them to throw in, like, Lynnwood, Washington. Anyway, there’s a good one where everybody’s enjoying surfing and sunbathing on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, but suddenly a wallop of super-cold comes flying at them. The camera zeros in on this couple standing up from their beach chairs and running. The boyfriend turns to ice but the girlfriend keeps running, making it off the beach and to the streets in her bare feet and bikini, still hauling ass, dodging cars, heading down an alley.

Man, I was pulling for her, but she’s forced to stop at a dead end and then gets nailed by a falling passenger jet. Unfair. In these movies a dog can escape an explosion but some random lady is definitely gonna get it.

[update: Muh argues in the comments that this lady did not get it, that the point was that she survived. I took her final shot, being pelted with debris from an exploding jet, to mean she was a goner. But this is not the real world so Muh is probly right that not being directly landed on by the jet = survival.]

Of course you also got the emotional button-pushing: contrived reasons why Jake must heroically stay behind as the space station self destructs, heroic friendship, estranged brothers becoming re-stranged, daughter seeing on TV that her dad is a hero. (I like when her mom is concerned about her dad being in danger from a storm and she’s like, “Oh, I forgot to mention he’s in space.”)

Devlin has only directed one time since GEOSTORM, and at a much smaller scale (the 2018 thriller BAD SAMARITAN). I think him directing a big disaster (meets space meets political action thriller) movie was a great idea though, because this is pretty much exactly like an Emmerich movie, with all the same silliness and charmingly preposterous plotting, but very little of the frantic comedy shtick that makes the Emmerichs such a challenge for me. I guess this isn’t entirely Devlin’s movie, though – after poor test screenings producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Danny Cannon (JUDGE DREDD) and writer Laeta Kalogridis (ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL) were brought on to do reshoots. According to The Hollywood Reporter before they were filmed, “The reshoots are not just light spruce-ups, either. Up to to $15 million is being spent, according to sources, and some notable characters are even being jettisoned from the script.” But they also had sources saying they were no big deal, just expensive “due to reassembling the international cast close to two years after the movie had wrapped principal photography.”

Whatever happened, Jake’s ex-wife was originally played by Katheryn Winnick (SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER, HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD, POLAR, THE MARKSMAN) but then recast as Julia Denton (PSYCHO SWEET 16), so we know the part with that character was a reshoot. I think the biggest sign that the changes were significant is that there’s a major character, Dana, a computer expert Max recruits to help save the world, played by Zazie Beetz (JOKER, THE HARDER THEY FALL). I’m almost positive she was a new addition because Beetz had no acting credits to her name when the initial shoot happened in 2014 but had broken out as Van on Atlanta by the time of the reshoots, and this is the type of role you give to a hot new it-girl, not an absolute rookie. She has stuff that she makes funny that doesn’t seem necessarily written as funny, and her presence is easily a highlight of the movie, so I am pro-the-reshoots. Great work, team!

I believe Butler filmed his 2016 trio of GODS OF EGYPT, LONDON HAS FALLEN and A FAMILY MAN all after GEOSTORM, but they came out first, making this his last release before DEN OF THIEVES.

Like PLANE, this is a movie that kinda works (to the extent it kinda works) because of that old fashioned movie star thing, that we like watching Gerard Butler be a hyper-competent, heroic dude, no matter how dumb the situation. PLANE gives him more action stuff to do (he gets to fight a couple times, for example) but GEOSTORM is far more ridiculous and seems to have way more money to spend on wrecking computery shit and making people run from things, so I’d say it’s the more entertaining of the two.

P.S. I have this idea of buying the rights to the name Geocities to bring back as a nostalgic brand, like they did Cracked Magazine. If I had done it five years ago I could’ve worked out a deal for Geocities presents GEOSTORM. Hopefully I can get it all nailed down in time for Geocities presents GEOSTORM II.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 31st, 2023 at 7:20 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Geostorm”

  1. I was a bit surprised, to not say “disappointed”, that this was more of a corporate espionage thriller than the Emmerich-esque disaster movie that I was promised, but all in all I was okay with it, even if I remember the pizza that I ate while watching it better than the movie.

  2. Thanks for confirming I was right to keep flipping past this blu-ray in Big Lots. I thought I heard this one was secretly good, but I might be confusing it with THE CORE, which was written by Devlin’s Leverage co-creator, John Rogers.

    I haven’t seen Jim Sturgess in a while. As an unabashed super-fan of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I enjoy seeing when anybody from that pops up in stuff.

  3. Man I really loved this one. Granted I was high as shit, but it kept a smile on my face and definitely scratched my disaster movie itch with just the right amount of entertaining tongue-in-cheekness without veering over into smug self parody. It’s the perfect blend of the sincerity of Armageddon with a dash of MacGruber-y “this feels like a Tropic Thunder trailer” ridiculousness. Which Armageddon already kinda was, but you know what i mean.

    I don’t remember too much of specifics, except I did spend most of the first half wondering if Abbie Cornish was a bad guy or not. A character like her usually isn’t even in a movie like this, but Cornish, with her stone-faced delivery and T-1000/Terminatrix vibes, absolutely steals the show. And Andy Garcia was so good in this as the President and Ghostbusters 2016 as the Mayor of New York (not the same character I don’t think), it made me think I’d love to see him play a politician in a “serious” movie, one of these days.

  4. In a movie like this once they describe a Geostorm as destroying the earth you know you ain’t getting it.

    Also didn’t the bikini chick survive? The plane missed her! The whole scene was a race to crash some satellites which did something which stopped the storm intercut with her trying to escape, and the quick thinking of Butler saved her life.

  5. Muh – Hmm. The last shot is her kneeling and getting pelted with debris from a jet that crashed like half a block away from her, so I took it as meaning she’s toast. But watching it again your interpretation makes sense.

  6. Yeah it was pieces but small rock-sized ones, they weren’t smashing stuff. I’d think they would have shown her conclusively squished if they wanted to go that route. Although why not show her looking in in wonder that she’s still alive if she made it. Which seems sloppy too.

    But I feel like for a movie like this if they were going to bump her off, she would have been like yay I made it and THEN sees the plane which kills her.

  7. And ps I had never seen this movie, only wanted to see it because the description sounded good. And yeah she SHOULD be dead in the real world, but this is big Hollywood physics when you can outrun a freaking ice wall in the first place. Or the goofiest scene in a disaster movie, Independence Day where they jumped into that door in the tunnel engulfed in flames and none of the flames went inside.

  8. Nothing about Ed Harris pulling a bazooka out of the trunk? That was the highlight for me.

  9. I saw this movie in a theater thanks to the short lived miracle of the modern world Movie Pass. It was everything I wanted my free Dean Devlin disaster movie to be.

  10. 1) So a long time ago I worked on an NBC mini-series called THE STORM which was initially titled MEGASTORM and starred James Van Der Beak as a scientist who developed a system of satellites that could be weaponized to control the weather. Then they got out of control and wreaked havoc on the world.

    I never saw Geostorm out of respect, but I’m shocked that it seems to have a lot of the same ideas.

    Well maybe not that shocked.

    2) Super late to the game on this but started watching Gerry Butler’s Den of Thieves last night and find it dope as hell! I joked it should be called Dumb Heat but it’s a lot better than that. Bonus points for being the best David Ayer movie yet, despite him not being anywhere near it. (I say this at the halfway poinr in the flick)

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