★★ / ★★★★
Disaster films tend to entertain in two ways: expensive special and visual effects and a script that plays upon the emotions of the audience like a piano. Exaggeration when it comes to images and emotions is best utilized during the right moments as to plug in the holes in plot and logic in a systematic way. Get these two elements in shape and it is likely that success of a disaster flick is imminent. “Geostorm,” written by Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot, needs work not only on these important ingredients but also when it comes to its dramatic timing. It does not hold a candle against the strongest pictures in the sub-genre.
The opening sections of the film hold promise. Within ten minutes we learn plenty about the state of the world and why it is absolutely necessary for countries with enough power and resources to unite and build an international space station. The so-called net of satellites, termed Project Dutchboy, is designed to put the planet’s catastrophic weather patterns under control thereby preventing millions of deaths. But when a series of strange malfunctions begin to occur with Dutchboy, Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), the person who designed the net of satellites, is asked to look into the matter. Soon he discovers that a more nefarious plan is at work.
But the picture’s initial verve is doused just as quickly by the squabbling bothers (Butler, Jim Sturgess). The material might have gotten away with it had the script fleshed out Jake and Max, both when it comes to their personal lives and their respective occupations. For instance, Jake is supposed to be a brilliant engineer, a pioneer, and yet when he sets foot on the space station, not once do we get the opportunity to appreciate his genius or knack for problem-solving. One gets the impression that anybody who is familiar enough with the satellites combined with some level of leadership can do what he does. Meanwhile, Max is supposed to be a person with great talent in moving chess pieces across political landscapes and yet when he is required to convince minds to take a specific course of action, he is way over his head. What makes these protagonists special?
The computer graphic imagery, whether it be tornadoes causing destruction in India or tidal waves submerging skyscrapers in the United Arab Emirates, is impressive at first. But the sense of wonder and horror dissipates from the moment we realized we are being played with. Notice that there are more than a handful of cutscenes in which we return to the same individuals just so the viewers can see whether the subject is surviving amidst the chaos. A more ambitious disaster film—certainly one with more imagination—would have chosen to write characters living in each of these countries so that we get to know them on some level. Eventually, these cutscenes become as laughable and fake as the visual effects.
Those familiar with disaster movies know that tear-jerker moments are right around the corner—especially toward the second half of the film when destructions threaten the lives of our heroes or heroines. The screenplay does not bother to play upon our expectations and so viewers who are aware of the conventional rhythm and beats will likely fail to feel anything at all. When characters are sobbing and looking utterly miserable at the possibility that their loved ones are doomed, I sat in my chair counting the seconds till they finally realize that not all hope is lost. It took about ten minutes.