Your relationship with Geostorm may be best measured by where you stand on 1994’s Charlie Sheen skydiving movie, Terminal Velocity. Terminal Velocity, by many, was dismissed as a trashy, throwaway action movie. But I always thought it was an absolute hoot. It was never going to challenge the awards season, but as a piece of filmed entertainment, it’s become the kind of film that Hollywood’s all-but-forgotten how to make. The joyously daft action and/or effects movie that the 90s at one stage thrived on.
What a pleasure, then, to report that Geostorm captures that spirit. I’m not sure if that’s by luck or design, either. Still, I happily confess it had me early on, with the idea that a raging weather movie was being crossed with a presidential assassination thriller. As it turns out – and this ain’t spoiling anything – the film also throws in an estranged father/daughter tale, a brotherly rivalry, and Gerard Butler pressing keys on a computer with the swagger of a man who’s never seen a keyboard in his life. At one stage, on a futuristic space station, he gingerly prods a touch screen interface, and nearly sends it flying. It’s that kind of movie.
But I’m convinced that writer-director Dean Devlin is in on it. That, or Danny Cannon, who came in to handle reshoots last year. One of them must be. Devlin has been mulling a directorial debut for some time I gather, and when his time has come, he’s gamely mashed together as many films as he can, and still kept the running time to only just north of 100 minutes. And yeah, it’s got a ridiculous plot. And yeah, there’s a sense of a man throwing darts at 15 boards at once.
But it’s so, so, so much fun.
The plot, then. We’re in the future, where the weather of the world has gone bananas. As such, a network of satellites, controlled via an enhanced International Space Station, regulate said weather via some method explained at the start of the film that I wasn’t paying much attention to. But then things start going wrong, and the perfect weather station doesn’t look so perfect anymore, as some people freeze in the middle of the desert.
Meanwhile, there’s our hero, manly Gerard Butler, the manly man man who built the weather station that goes by the name of Dutch Boy. Don’t ask. Anyway, Butler is his own man, and won’t take jibber jabber from a congressional hearing headed up by Toby from The West Wing. As such, his brother – Jim Sturgess – fires him from the Dutch Boy project, only to have to grovel when people start dying. And – oh shit, forgot something! – Sturgess is having a relationship with another government official played by Abbie Cornish that nobody is supposed to know about, because it could get them fired.
I mean this in the nicest sense, but there’s a lot of plot behind the setup of Geostorm, yet at few points did I get the feeling that there was a lot of plot. It’s no secret that there’s been some talk of reshoots and bad test screenings for this one – which may explain why the weather stuff makes for a surprisingly small segment of the film – but I made a conscious decision to buy its premise very early on, and realised half way through I was having so much fun watching the film. Not ironically: I had a massive grin on my face. A watching Fortress for the first time grin. I mean, everyone seems in a bad mood here, or panicked, or making obviously bad decisions, and the film breezily lets them do it, pulling in another sequence of bad weather when required. It zips along, wisely not letting you zero in on many of the details.
There are some pearlers in here on the dialogue front, too. Butler at one stage declares “I’d rather not catch fish with my family than catch 20 fish alone”, which is surely destined to be one of those motivational signs that offices tend to stick on the walls. You also get, for your money, the most bizarrely cryptic hiding of a message in a transmission I think I’ve ever seen in a movie. Yet Butler and Sturgess are so straight-faced, they somehow pull it off.
I know that there are going to be many people in the world who hate Geostorm. But I am firmly not one of them. It’s got so many things I like in a Friday night movie: it’s cheesy, it’s implausible, it’s funny, it’s fast, it’s utterly entertaining. It loses footing only when it tries to take itself too seriously with its effects, that look completely digital. But even in the midst of that, there’s cinema’s first shot of a camel running away from a tidal wave.
But give me this over a po-faced, dark, deathly serious weather film like 2012 anyday. In fact, imagine San Andreas with an upgrade patch, less desire to take itself seriously, and about 15 extra plots smashed in. Heck, you don’t get someone snarling “this isn’t a Chromebook” in San Andreas, do you?
Destroy me all you like in the comments, chums, but I left the screening with a massive grin on my face. I know Geostorm has all sorts of problems, and I ain’t blind to them. But also, for me, Geostorm is a blast of a night out. If some enterprising cinema wants to schedule it as a double bill with Terminal Velocity you can sign me up right now. The way I figure it with films like this: I can be a grown-up, perhaps a bit snobby, and sneer at it. Or I can admit I’ve already looked for the disc pre-order so I can watch it again.
I think you can guess which path I’ve taken.