Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, May 31, 2018


Roland Emmerich may be the modern Master of Disaster but he didn't get there by himself. Emmerich's partner-in-crime through most of his career has been Dean Devlin. Devlin would co-write and/or produce Emmerich's first four features, including “Independence Day” and “Godzilla.” The two stopped collaborating for a while, though they would reunite for that “Independence Day” sequel nobody saw. During this time apart, Dean Devlin would begin work on his directorial debut. “Geostorm” would resemble the disaster movies Emmerich made both with and without Devlin. Filming concluded in 2015. Following highly negative test screenings, there would be a series of costly reshoots with a different script, writer, and director. The film's release date was changed multiple times. So it's not surprising that, when it finally came out, “Geostorm” flopped.

The year is 2019. The world is being turn apart by adverse weather. Scientist Jake Lawson suggests a solution. A massive satellite is put in orbit around Earth. By deploying special probes into the upper atmosphere, it can control the weather. The satellite, nicknamed Dutch Boy, saves the world. Lawson, however, has a problem with authority and gets kicked off the project. Three years later, something goes wrong with Dutch Boy. Extreme storms begin to sweep the globe again. Lawson is re-deployed, sent aboard Dutch Boy to find a problem. He quickly comes to believe that someone is intentionally sabotaging the satellite. While Jake tries to uncover the treachery in space, his younger brother on Earth, Max, attempts to find the responsible party.

It's not hard to imagine “Geostorm” as a sequel to Emmerich's “The Day After Tomorrow.” You can imagine the government in that film cooking up this movie's plot as a wacky solution to their problems. If Devlin's film is a refutation of the disaster movie Emmerich made without him, it's not a very confident one. “Geostorm” seems to include its disaster movie elements as a half-hearted obligation. Devlin freely mixes genres and seems more interested in the additions. Parts of “Geostorm” play out more like a sci-fi thriller. There's a lot of scenes of people investigating stuff on the satellite or squinting at computer screens in agitation. There's a zero-g race against the clock near the end. One moment, featuring an astronaut nearly set adrift into space, was clearly inspired by “Gravity.” Gerald Butler even gets into a totally superfluous melee fight abroad the space station.

Devlin's debut is not content to be just a disaster movie/sci-fi space thriller mash-up. It's also a laughably half-assed political thriller too. When not destroying cities, the film is split evenly between Jake's journey on the space station and Max's espionage-tinged adventure on the ground. He gets a hip sidekick, a hip computer expert played by hip black woman Zazie Beetz, leading to some hilariously bad hacking sequences. In maybe the movie's most ridiculous moment, Jake sends his brother a coded message using one of the goofiest methods I've ever seen. Eventually, Jake is tasked with protecting the president, allowing “Geostorm” to include some gun fights and car chases. Not only is this stuff pretty poorly done, it's also in service of a very silly plot twist. The justification for the villainous plan could not be more of an ass-pull.

I don't know if “Geostorm” focuses on these other plot points because its disaster scenes suck or if its disaster scenes suck because the filmmakers were focusing on other plot points. Whatever the reason, “Geostorm” features some of the weakest mass destruction this side of the Syfy Channel. The scenes of devastation are deeply uninspired. Volkswagen-sized hale stones fall on Tokyo. A tidal wave washes away Dubai. The Great Pyramids are torn apart by tornadoes. A firestorm levels Hong Kong. All of these scenes recall other disaster movies, especially “2012” when someone outraces an earthquake. “Geostorm” is the cheapest looking 120 million dollar movie I've ever seen. The CGI is unconvincing. Moreover, the ideas behind these scenes range from uninspired to goofy. A scene where a woman outruns a human-ice-cube-creating frost cloud – also ripped off from “The Day After Tomorrow” – in Rio, is badly executed and deeply goofy. “Geostorm's” attempt at spectacle leave a lot to be desired.

Like “San Andreas,” “Geostorm” is a modern disaster flick that stretches the definition of a star-studded cast. Gerald Butler and Andy Garcia, who plays the President, are stars. Ed Harris, as the vice president, is a highly recognized character actor. But what about Jim Sturgess and Abbie Cornish, would-be stars that never really broke through? Regardless of its wattage power, “Geostorm's” cast is underwhelming. Gerald Butler gruffly scowls his way through the movie, in a deeply uninspired fashion. Stuck in the movie's most ridiculous plot, Cornish and Sturgess seem totally lost. Garcia does what he can with some awful dialogue. Harris comes the closest to giving a decent performance, because he's an adamant professional even when stuck in a weak part like this. The international-flavored cast, which includes another genuine star in the form of Daniel Wu, makes no impression at all.

I have no idea what Dean Devlin's motivations behind making “Geostorm” were. Maybe he was just trying to give people more of what they wanted. Yet “Geostorm” comes off as either deeply calculating or incredibly lazy, throwing surprisingly uninventive disaster sequences into a cockamamie plot.  The movie made 221 million at the box office, which seems like an awful lot, but was still declared a major bomb. The reshoots and rewrites might have ruined a solid genre picture. Maybe. But the studio desperately trying to save a campy mess strikes me as more likely. Devlin has bounced back, I guess. His next movie, “Bad Samaritan,” is certainly playing to empty theaters all over the country. The disaster genre will probably survive but “Geostorm” is destined to be forgotten, a laughable attempt to emulate better, more entertaining popcorn flicks. [4/10]

[] Awards Bait Ballad
[X] Corrupt or Incompetent Authority Figures
[X] Destruction of Famous Landmarks
[X] Grim Predictions
[X] Group In-Fighting
[] Heroic Sacrifices
[X] Massive Collateral Damage or Explosions
[X] Pets or Kids are Imperiled but Survive
[X] Romantic Couple Resolves Problems
[] Star-Studded Cast

Disaster Movies Month is ready to blow out of here. Though not my favorite themed moth I've done, as the constant excess left me a little burnt out, I still had a lot of fun/ To everyone still standing, I hope you enjoyed the ride. There's certainly enough movies in the genre left that I may do another one of these some days. For now, I'm looking forward to getting back to Director Report Cards. Soon you soon.

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