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Geostorm

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 11/03/17 01:39:48

"Mostly the right sort of dumb."
3 stars (Just Average)

"Geostorm" is a deeply stupid movie, but it's my favorite kind of stupid, where the cast gets big, shiny sets to play on, an international team of experts is genuinely international, there's a ton of 3D mayhem that's nevertheless easy to follow, and, most importantly, the whole thing is built around a belief in a brighter future where humanity can actually do amazing things to make the world better, even if there is incredible danger. It's ridiculous and the breeziness that makes it enjoyable is often wrong-headed, but it's capable as big dumb adventures go.

The premise, we're told, is that in the late 2010s, the extreme weather patterns get bad enough that humanity pulls together to create a climate-control system popularly known as "Dutchboy", with engineer Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) directing the project from the International Space Station, though he's abrasive and arrogant enough to be removed soon after it is made operational. Several years later, something is going wrong - a village in Afghanistan is flash-frozen weeks before the United States is to turn Dutchboy over to international control - and Jake is the natural choice to go up to work with the station's current captain, Ute Fassbinder (Alexandra Maria Lara) to figure out what went wrong. Meanwhile on the ground, Jake's brother Max (Jim Sturgess), a State Department official who had been charged with firing Jake before, learns from Hong Kong-based scientist Cheng Long (Daniel Wu) that it may have been sabotage rather than a malfunction, but the start of a series of cascading events that could cause a planet-wide "Geostorm", and he may not be able to trust anyone with this information.

It's still dumb as heck, of course, and even if there weren't a bunch of recent horrific real-life storms in the news, the filmmakers seem even more tone-deaf than usual in how they make terrible, city-destroying violence into effects scenes we're supposed to gape at and applaud (and it's not like further delaying a movie that has already been on the shelf for a while is a great option, because it's not like current climate models suggest storms are going to get milder and less frequent any time soon). The plotting is obvious, the dialogue tilts way more toward dumb than clever, and sometimes it seems like the writers really didn't bother to look something easy up, meaning a lot of procedural dialogue lands wrong. It's often hard to shake the feeling that director Dean Devlin and his co-writer Paul Guyot had the big, flashy bits in their heads but figured that the audience wasn't any more interested in what came between than they were, so they got lazy. Firing Jake only to re-hire him about ten minutes (as far as the audience is concerned), r stating that there were "rules" that keep Max and his Secret Service girlfriend from dating openly just seems cheap, a way to hang over-familiar storylines on a big fantasy story because the audience is presumed to need something relatable.

The uninspired nature of that stuff is doubly frustrating because, when Devlin and the other filmmakers play big, they do pretty well by that. Dutchboy is an impossibly large engineering accomplishment for the apparent time period involved, but it's built as much out of pure optimism as shiny polished steel, and even if the audience sees it used for destruction more often than its intended purpose, the scenes where it does break up hurricanes or melt snow do spark the imagination, and while some bits get used too often, Devlin (with the help of an uncredited Danny Cannon, brought in for reshoots) knows how to make the absurd look good. At a brisk 109 minutes, Geostorm is able to play as a zippy adventure rather than a bloated blockbuster. The visual effects and stereo conversion teams do their jobs well - impossible action is bright and clear, maybe more so than is realistic, but it feels right for this particular movie.

The cast mostly rolls with the tone as well. Gerard Butler, who usually grunts his way through this sort of movie, seems more laid-back than usual here, seemingly willing to err on the side of being too flip rather than too grim, with he and Alexandra Maria Lara making the best of bits of dialogue with not quite good enough to become banter. Jim Sturgess is not as bland as he could be as Max, although he's often better-paired with Zazie Beetz as a computer expert than Abbie Cornish's tough but helpful girlfriend. It's kind of instructive to watch Andy Garcia and Ed Harris as the President and Secretary of State, in that Harris seems to adapt to whatever a scene needs from this particular authority figure much more readily than Garcia does.

Harris and Butler, of course, have practice with this sort of dumb movie; they know what it needs and deserves; they're able to embrace what's silly and larger-than-life without winking at the audience. Devlin isn't quite so good at hiding the true horror behind the absurd excess, though, and when you miss the mark just a little with this sort of movie, it's not close to the sort of fun it's supposed to be.

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