Cinema Dispatch: Geostorm

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Geostorm and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Dean Devlin

We’ve been getting a LOT of delayed films this year, haven’t we?  Tulip Fever took a while to come out, Rings took even longer, and that Amityville Horror sequel or reboot or whatever ended up failing so hard that it was released FOR FREE on Google Play.  Not in theaters; on the same storefront where you download crappy Tetris knockoffs and flashlight apps.  Now we’ve got this movie which may be the most interesting of the bunch simply because of how much money Warner Bros inevitably sunk into the damn thing to try and recoup its losses.  Not quite as much as Monster Trucks, but certainly enough that you’d question if anyone behind this damn thing had heard of the Sunk Cost fallacy.  Well it’s finally out now at probably the worst time imaginable (this story keeps getting better and better!) and with very little fan far from Warner Bros who may have finally realized it’s time to cut their losses.  Does this movie manage to rise above its troubled production to deliver something at least somewhat enjoyable, or is this possibly an even bigger mess than The Snowman was?  Okay, NOTHING is quite as shoddily put together as that film, but will this still be an absolute disaster and not in the way they were hoping for?  Let’s find out!!

The movie takes place in the very near future where humanity finally came up with an idea on how to combat Global Warming.  Not by recycling or embracing renewable imagery of course, but by putting a giant freaking net of satellites around the globe that can somehow shoot science beams at the earth whenever a tornado, hurricane, or anything else is about to threaten human lives.  Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), who I’m assuming got this brilliant idea from Highlander 2: The Quickening, is the one dude bad enough to put this whole project together which is nicknamed Dutch Boy but is kicked off the project for infuriatingly political reasons.  Okay, he punched an inspector in the face, but what ELSE was he supposed to do!?  Listen to what he had to say!?  Anyway, his brother Max (Jim Sturgess) is the new head honcho of the project but the system starts to malfunction a few years down the road which leads to some isolated but very deadly weather events and no one knows what’s causing them.  I guess it’s time for good ol’ Jake to reclaim his throne and go up to the satellite to see what the heck is causing these problems and hopefully stop it before it threatens all life on Earth.  Will Jake solve the mystery before it’s too late and find out if its simple malfunctions or sabotage?  What will Max find out back on Earth with the help of one of Dutch Boy’s programmers (Daniel Wu) and a hacker that he apparently knows in the State Department (Zazie Beetz)?  Just how many things can they manage to blow up with a weather machine!?

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“Damn it!  I knew we shouldn’t have stored all those recalled Samsung phones in there!”

This movie is so old and cliché that it feels like a throwback to an earlier era in filmmaking… but for me that ended up being the film’s saving grace and frankly made it one of the more enjoyable disaster movie’s we’ve gotten in a while, and trust me; I understand that’s a really odd to say given how unfortunate the timing is on the release of this (a big weather doomsday movie while Puerto Rico still doesn’t have power), but it’s certainly better than Independence Day Resurgence which had the full faith and confidence of the studio behind it.  It’s undeniably stupid in terms of concept and ESPECIALLY in terms of where the plot ends up going, but it’s all done with such a bold faced sincerity that I couldn’t help but get caught up in the goofy fun of it all.  I was expecting something far less coherent and far less tasteful than what we got (especially since it’s starring the dude who literally said “go back to fuck-head-istan” in one of the worst movies of last year), and while those problems are definitely still there and will be addressed, I couldn’t bring myself to hate this or even dislike it all that much.

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It’s a weather controlling satellite… but it also has a laser beam!?  Sure, why not…

There’s honestly a whole lot to like here if you have an affinity for over the top space operas which this clearly is for the most part, and I’ll usually give a movie a bonus point if it incorporates SPACE in some way.  There’s also very little to slow this movie down as we aren’t caught up in technobabble minutia or fretting about things being “plausible” like the fact that you can call someone from space at any time with zero delays.  It’s basically the opposite of something like The Martian where the joy and excitement came from pedantically analyzing and planning out each step in his survival as well as his eventual escape.  What works in THIS movie though is the over the top melodrama, the rather creative and fun to watch action set pieces (particularly one involving space suit) and a winking sense of humor about the whole thing that lets us know the film is in on the joke while ALSO working its ass off to deliver on more than that.  While the technology on display isn’t the slightest bit realistic, the movie does a decent job of selling you on its premise once the plot starts going.  Okay, the film never really goes into how the hell they managed to make this net around the Earth or even how it’s supposed to freaking stop weather events, but the space station itself feels believable enough and rather hospitable which is something severely missing in other outer space films that prefer cramped hallways and crappy lighting.  Despite its dire story and the countless deaths that ensue, it’s a rather optimistic movie about how far we can go and how much we can accomplish when we work together in the pursuit of SCIENCE!  Okay, a bit sappy and cliché, but more often than not I’ll take it over grim and portentous which can be just as stupid if not incredibly more so (*cough* Batman v Superman *cough*).

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“Can you hear me now?”     “Of course I can!  Our coverage extends to Saturn!”

Now don’t get me wrong.  This movie has problems, even while I was enjoying the goofy camp of it all.  It presents itself as a story about global harmony and humanity being better than the lowest common denominator which is a message I can get behind… but it feels like a surface level element as the rest of the film somewhat contradicts (or at least unintentionally undercuts) the inclusive veneer.  The movie makes the mistake of assuming that NOT being overtly offensive or insensitive is enough to sell itself as diverse which simply isn’t the case as the heroes are white people, the villains are white people, and the majority of the supporting cast (at least the ones who get more than a single line) is still white people.  The filmmakers made sure to have plenty of people of color as extras, but aside from Daniel Wu and Zazie Beetz (neither of whom have THAT much substance to their roles) the film is basically white people trying to save non-white people from being killed by bad weather.  Even Andy Garcia who has the biggest non-white role in the film as THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES feels more like a plot device than anything else and is only on hand to fix a MacGuffin and to give an admittedly badass little speech to the true bad guy at the end.  I mean it’s not as patriotic and cheesy as Bill Pullman’s speech from Independence Day, but then what is?

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“AMERICA!!  FUCK YEAH!!”

In addition to that, the third act is a disappointment as things went just a bit too far into outright absurdity to the point that it started to lose me; not necessarily because I wasn’t interested in what was going to happen but because the set pieces were much more shoddily constructed and the ticking clock they put in this has to be the most arbitrary one since Resident Evil The Final Chapter.  I was willing to go with all the goofy sci-fi concepts this movie had used to force this premise to make sense, but what they do here feels like it’s not even working within those rules that were set up.  You’re telling me that video conferencing and telecommunication technology has gotten so advanced that you can get full bar reception in orbit, but there’s not a single point of entry for an override; even by the freaking President!?  I won’t say WHAT cannot be overridden, but it’s like THE ONE THING you’d want to make sure you had a backup for in case something went wrong or the process was started by accident.  On top of that, the villain’s plan once finally revealed is not only clichéd (ESPECIALLY for this particular actor) but doesn’t make much sense.  I mean, even if you can control the weather there’s like a MILLION ways that this could have fallen apart and sure enough is thwarted by two people being in the right place at the right time.  There are just too many plates the film is trying to spin and none of them are frankly all that compelling compared to the much more interesting and enjoyably absurd investigation scenes from earlier in the movie.  Still, the story does end on a message of hope for the future and doesn’t demonize technology in and of itself (just those who will use it selfishly) so I guess the third act isn’t ALL bad even if it’s the weakest link here.

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HOW WOULD YOU EVEN MEASURE THAT!?

If you can groove on its absurdly silly vibe and appreciate it as something not worth taking all that seriously, there’s certainly something there to enjoy.  I can understand why a lot of people wouldn’t like it though, and not just because the premise itself is incredibly stupid and on the nose.  There’s no getting around the poor timing of this film’s release after its numerous delays and its message about global harmony rings a bit too hollow for me to overlook, but the sheer optimism (misguided as it may be at points) did win me over as did its solid action scenes and tongue in cheek sense of humor.  Considering the freaking weekend I just had seeing The Snowman and a Madea movie, I’ll gladly take the dumb fun of this film as a pallet cleanser to… whatever the hell THOSE films were supposed to be.

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