Here’s a free piece of moviegoing advice from yours truly. Just…avoid films with Gerard Butler altogether (I regret my London Has Fallen review every day). Geostorm might be the dumbest film in his never-ending cascade of stink bombs. It’s a disaster movie that delivers neither serious emotional stakes or schlocky fun, instead settling for an awkward middle ground that feels like cobbled together pieces of a few different Syfy channel original movies. That makes sense when you consider that it has been cobbled together over three years through an endless cycle of maligned test-screenings and resulting re-shoots.
Writer/Director Dean Devlin has essentially been the monster in the shadows running the Roland Emmerich disaster movie factory since Independence Day. With that in mind, Geostorm is an even more astonishing experience, as it contains none of Emmerich’s winking, occasionally self-reflexive humor. Instead, Devlin opts to make a film about a weather controlling satellite in which seventy percent of the run time consists of hacking into mainframes and looking at broken rocket parts.
In fact, the disaster sequences feel like an afterthought. The CGI drenched special effects pale in comparison to work Emmerich was doing in 1996. They look so much like video game graphics that you half expect Adam Sandler and the gang from Pixels to show up. As we watch whoever our main characters happen to be narrowly avoiding 700 different calamities at any given moment as cars do double axels in the air, there’s never even an ounce of intensity. In an effort to hold onto the precious PG-13 with everything he has, Devlin seems oddly adverse to showing people die on screen. There’s a scene where a 7-47 plane crashes within inches of a woman in a bikini, with broken glass and debris flying everywhere and yet this lucky lady doesn’t even have a scratch on her.
If you’re planning on getting out of the sequences in between the mayhem, you’re out of luck with this motley crew of 2008 up and comers. Butler has progressed into a un-inspired shell of himself over the years, falling back on the same roguish persona he has in every movie. His charm feels entirely artificial though, and the atrocious dialogue he’s given doesn’t help. He is, however, outclassed in the art of terrible by Jim Sturgess, a once promising heartthrob who seems to have abandoned all hope. He seems physically pained by every line that comes out of his mouth and his tense brotherly rapport with Butler is toxic to behind. Abbie Cornish is also thrown in as a blisteringly transparent attempt to make her basic love interest role “stronger” by making her a secret service agent, despite haven’t very little agency of her own. Meanwhile, Andy Garcia and Ed Harris completely phone it in, with the only somewhat charismatic turn coming from Zazie Beetz as a smart-ass hacker.
I haven’t had such an utterly empty experience watching a film in quite some time. I went in expecting to at least laugh at the silliness of it all, but so much of this film is so stilted and cautious about embracing the silly disaster elements that it just becomes laborious. It’s a clunky attempt at making the most blandsauce blockbuster possible, playable in any of the foreign markets we see get destroyed on screen, but enjoyable in none of them.