Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
There are a multitude of reasons for loving movies that are “so bad, they’re good.” Those sorts of guilty pleasures are what fuel our souls during the dourest of times. However, lately those types of films have practically disappeared – and in their wake, a boring, maddening, substandard iteration of this subset have risen. “Not on my watch,” screams GEOSTORM! Director/co-writer Dean Devlin and co-writer Paul Guyot have gifted us with a thoroughly enjoyable (if not future Razzie-winner) epic disaster flick that’s self-aware almost to the point of being meta. Almost. Not only does this deliver on the promise of solid amounts of gargantuan destruction and mayhem, it also manages to re-invent a small handful of genre stereotypes.
Instead of writing a traditional review, “dragging it” (as the kids say these days), I wanted to take a moment to celebrate its magnificent commitment to the positive and outlandish bits.
The plot is simple: In order to combat climate change, which here is an accepted circumstance (yes, already it’s a fantasy to our sitting President), scientists and engineers from 17 countries devise technology to stop it. The “Dutch Boy” program operates through an intricate series of satellites, however, just as the US is about to be hand it off, it begins malfunctioning, weaponizing the weather. But is it a glitch or is there someone actually at the controls? We’re ahead of this, but don’t tell the characters as it’s too much “fun” seeing those dummies figure it out.
Now that I’ve set the stage, I’ll list all the hijinks and hilarity that ensues. I will give you proper warning when it gets to spoiler territory. Let’s dive in:
- Geostorm is said/ can be read a record fourteen times during. Each time is more glorious than the last.
- Engineers are the rock stars of this universe. Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), the loose cannon engineer who created Dutch Boy and is tasked to fix it, gets recognized on the street by a random security guard.
- Jake was NOT going to tell his plucky daughter Hannah (Talitha Bateman) he was leaving her during one of the two weekends he has custody of her. She only learned this detail whilst eavesdropping. What if she hadn’t been eavesdropping? Would she wonder where her Dad is?
- Hannah knows how to summon a Lyft and fix high tech solar panels her father built, but can’t figure out why her dad and his younger brother, Assistant Secretary of State Max (Jim Sturgess) aren’t talking. Does she not have the internet to find this out?
- They send a spaceship up to the space station with only one passenger – Jake. This isn’t economical, considering how many empty chairs there were.
- One genuine positive is the “secret” romance between Max and his girlfriend, Secret Service agent Sarah Wilson (Abbie Cornish), is a subversive one. He’s shown as the needy one in the relationship, pressuring her to get married and be romantic in public. This isn’t typical for the genre and that earns legit top marks.
- Diversity is part of the narrative as the space station is a multi-cultural hub. It’s the one effortless subtlety here. More points earned!
- Why is computer programmer Dana (Zazie Beetz, who’s this film’s MVP) so hung up on Max secretly dating Sarah? She brings it up three times, once condescendingly referring to her as “Secret Service Barbie.” She then turns nicer once she meets Sarah. Uh…Wut?
- These people are all scholars in their fields but CAN NOT figure out there’s a conspiracy a’foot. This is where we, the audience, is leaps ahead of their reveal.
I’m not kidding….
Here come the spoilers
- The mole, Duncan (Robert Sheehan) the UK tech guru on the space station, explains to Jake that his motive is for monetary gain. Jake questions this as the audience’s mouthpiece, “What good is money when there won’t be anything left to spend it on?!” Duncan’s lame-o response amounts to a shrug and an implied sassy, “Eh…Shut up.”
- Duncan, whose job it is to work the tech, didn’t wipe the video camera footage. How convenient! He also didn’t consult this footage to see where Mahkmood (Richard Regan Paul) was secretly storing classified information about the conspiracy.
- Ed Harris is in this movie. If you don’t know what’s going to happen based purely on this casting choice, then I can’t help you.
- The shooting and death of the baddie at the wheel during the car chase in a lightning storm is bloodless. The bullet holes in windshield are amongst the cleanest you’ve ever seen.
- Vice President Dekkom (Harris) keeps a rocket launcher and cache of weapons in the trunk of his Lincoln Town Car. As one does…
- Dekkom’s villainous exposition dump filled with moral high-horsing about “playing God,” is laughably ludicrous. A+
- There’s a self-destruct “back door” built into the space station’s programing. Jake explains that it’s to break it apart before it were to ever strike Earth. We know it’s for dramatic stakes. It’s the largest wink the filmmakers do.
- The ARMAGGEDON father-daughter facet to the narrative doesn’t work AT ALL. Not only was he going to leave FOR SPACE without telling her, he wasn’t even going to teleconference or phone her to say “Goodbye” when the space station is in the throes of self-destructing. Instead, he calls his brother to make amends, thus redeeming the two characters, rather than redeeming him as being a semi-deadbeat dad.
- German engineer Ute Fassbinder (Alexandra Maria Lara) stays behind to pop up at the exact right moment. Was she laying in wait for that past twenty minutes after saying goodbye to Jake? If you don’t mock her surprise, you’ve probably already left the theater.
- After a successful reboot, the space station still destructs. Womp, womp.
- Six months later, and having learned NOTHING from the events that transpired, the government is in the midst of rebuilding the station and programming. I smell a sequel!
GEOSTORM is now playing.