Crack your cheeks
A spate of intense storm activity across the world – hurricanes battering the US, storms ravaging Ireland, might have been the perfect pre-launch conditions for disaster movie Geostorm. Only a film of immense stupidity could prevent this would-be climate change blowout from cashing in on its zeitgeistian capital.
And surely, you say, a movie directed by Dean Devlin – a former Roland Emmerich collaborator, inculcated with the master’s deft touch and gift for grounded storytelling, stocked with vivid characters boasting great interiority and subtlety of purpose, starring Gerard Butler, whose leading men typically lend the blessed material a gravitas and dynamism it might otherwise have lacked – surely such a movie would be engrossing from end to end?
So I suppose Geostorm’s biggest, indeed only surprise, is how inconsequential, boring and idiotic it is. Against all the odds, Devlin’s film, despite an irresistible premise – Butler saves the world from an orbiting space station while rogue weather events batter the surface – somehow plays like a collection of Independence Day outtakes, monotonously staged and written with the stupidest audience member in mind.
Whether (heheheheh) it’s the environment control satellite sabotage conspiracy plot headed up by project coordinator and brother of Gerard, Jim Sturgess (with help from wax work secret service agent girlfriend Abbie Cornish) or the improbable space heroics of Butler, as he attempts to root out the plainly flagged traitor in his midst, the audience is left to spectate at some distance – perhaps greater than the gap between the Earth and the International Space Station, without danger of being pulled in.
Devlin, it seems, hasn’t had a new idea in 20 years. He still thinks you can build a movie from stock characters and their attendant relationship difficulties – strained affairs, dysfunctional families, and that cliché is a fine substitute for heart. If there’s a Mrs Devlin, it’s a safe bet she gets flowers every Valentine’s Day. Will Dean ever have an original thought? On this evidence, his wife may have to take matters into her own hands and cancel his Interflora account.
Sure, we can laugh at old standbys like the misguided patriot in the White House and the kid’s dog that survives a disaster while hundreds of insignificant humans perish, but if disaster movies used to feel a little more substantial, perhaps that’s because good actors took them seriously. Go on, tell me you didn’t have a lump in your throat when a bereaved and broken Ernest Borgnine gave Gene Hackman both barrels in the closing minutes of The Poseidon Adventure. A character we’d grown to care about lost the love of his life and it provoked an outpouring of grief and anger – real feeling amongst the pyrotechnics and grand sets. Geostorm offers a floating musculature effortlessly dodging hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris, emerging unscathed, having sacrificed nothing. It’s a computer game.