I was saddened to hear from early critical response that the ludicrous environmental thriller Geostorm does not contain nearly as much geostorming as the marketing promised. Indeed, Geostorm features an official “Countown to Geostorm” at its climax that Gerard Butler’s alpha male hero cuts off early all by his lonesome to save the world from the titular global disaster, thus blocking the audience from receiving the payoff promised. There’s plenty of cheap CGI simulations of extreme weather leading up to that anticlimax, however, so it’s not like Geostorm cheats its audience on climate change action entirely. What most surprised me when I finally caught up with the movie, though, was that its over-the-top fretting over extreme weather was not at all what made it entertaining. Geostorm‘s entertainment value doesn’t lie in its titular threat at all, but rather in its Info Wars/Alex Jones style paranoia about governmental control over the daily lives of self-sufficient macho men.
From Geostorm‘s opening vision of a climate change-riddled 2019 in which the world is nearly destroyed by a series of floods, droughts, landslides, and so on, you might expect the film to be a kind of left-leaning warning to change our ways along the lines of a The Day After Tomorrow or 2012. Instead, this “extreme weather” dystopia is more in line with the Individualist, Conservative fantasy of Michael Bay’s Armageddon. An international team of scientists & a UN type coalition of governments are reported to have worked together to invent a satellite network that can control the weather to prevent this global crisis. Geostorm has no interest in celebrating this international collaboration & governmental triumph. Instead, it pits a tough guy American badass (played by a sleepwalking Butler) against the Big Bad Government, who he suspects of weaponizing the satellite system to create extreme weather events in a bid for world domination. Butler barges in to take over command of the international crew, stopping at nothing to get to the bottom of which US government entity (because America is all that matters) is threatening to destroy the world. Skepticism of surveillance, beaurocracy, and even the President of the United States swirls to such a ludicrous crescendo of Info Wars/Coast to Coast AM-style, conspiracy-minded paranoia that you almost forget the main draw of the film was supposed to be video game-level CGI simulations of manmade “Natural” disasters.
As amusing as Geostorm‘s Armageddon-style politics can be, the film is desperately lacking the collective charisma of Armageddon‘s cast, which featured outsized personalities as wide ranging as Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Stormare, Ben Affleck, Live Tyler, William Fichtner, etc., etc., etc. By contrast, Gerard Butler is a cardboard cutout of a leading man action hero, with exactly none of the charisma needed to carry the film on his back. The rest of the cast has a kind of CSI Miami vibe in their aggressive forgettability, underselling what could potentially be some fun, over the top dialogue. The space alien wording of “That I am calling bullshit on,” & the understandably incredulous “Hold on, what now?” response to the first utterance of the term “geostorm” (which is then amusingly defined at length) tickled me in particular, but could have been much more fun in sillier hands. Gerard Butler’s black hole of a personality is far more damaging to the entertainment potential of Geostorm than its deficiency of geostorms. The movie could have been a much better time with an action star like Schwarzenegger or Stallone in the lead role.
Butler is undeniably a bore as the film’s leading man and there certainly could have been more onscreen global disaster to help pass the time, but I still found Geostorm to be an adequately silly time at the movies. Its right-wing political paranoia, scenes of scientists dodging fireballs in Smart Cars, and basic premise of a weaponized, weather-controlling satellite network all help cover up the boredom threatened by its cast of non-characters. Watching Geostorm in New Orleans, where it was filmed, even has its own built-in entertainment value. The exact two buildings where I work being passed off as Washington, DC and the Superdome being blurred out in the background of a sequence set in “Orlando” were pleasant distractions from the placeholder dialogue they were decorating between whatever paranoid rants or monumental disasters bookended them. “Cheaper, dumber Armageddon” obviously isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun time at the movies, but I was at least moderately sated by the oddly geostorm-deficient Geostorm, Butler warts and all.