Film Review: Geostorm

STUDIO: Warner | DIRECTOR/CO-SCREENWRITER: Dean Devlin | CAST: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ed Harris, Andy Garcia, Richard Schiff
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 20, 2017
SPECS: PG-13 | 96 min. | Science fiction action thriller

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | 4DX Presentation

Geostorm centers around the threat of climate-controlling satellite creating a man-made global storm of epic proportions. Tasked to preventing it from happening is the chief engineer of an international space station (Gerard Butler, Machine Gun Preacher), who must head back into space to stop a weather satellite meltdown before a series of increasingly nutty weather patterns (freezing deserts, lightning storms, tidal waves and so on) decimate the planet. Meanwhile, back on earth, the engineer’s brother (Jim Sturgess) attempts to foil a plot to assassinate the president, one created by the satellite saboteurs.

The first film directed by Dean Devlin, best known as the producer of a handful of a wildly successful disaster flicks and event films frequently helmed by his former partner Roland Emmerich (Independence Day and Godzilla, anyone?), Geostorm‘s disaster bits play like a mash-up of at least a half-dozen previous disaster movies—Twister, San Andreas, The Core, The Wave, Armageddon and Emmerich’s own 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. This time around, though, there’s the added intrigue of a presidential assassination attempt thrown in.

It’s interesting to note that Geostorm was shot back in 2014 and originally scheduled to open more than a year-and-half ago, but the release date was pushed back a number of times for as many reasons. That this event film is opening NOW, following the real-life ecological tragedies that have struck Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico (among others) makes it feel like the film was destined to run into more trouble.

And there is trouble in that Geostorm simply doesn’t deliver. We’ve all seen the CGI destruction of the world at least a couple of dozen times over the past decade and Geostorm doesn’t bring nearly enough freshness to the chaos (save for the delightful vision of bikini-clad sunbathers freezing on the beaches of Rio). And there isn’t nearly enough chaos, for that matter. As a digital clock ticks down to the start of the titular apocalyptic storm, creating smaller storms as it draws near, I actually started rooting for the approaching cataclysm. Then there are the human stories in the film—Sturgess’s romance with the a Secret Service agent (Abbie Cornish), Butler’s friendship with a German space station officer (Alexandra Maria Lara), Ed Harris’s suspicious Secretary of State—which aren’t at all engaging.

So it appears that the strengths of first time helmer Dean Devlin lie in deal-making, talent-wrangling, packaging, and other non-directorial aspects of the filmmaking process.

But there was some fun to be had as I screened the film at New York City’s Regal Cinema in Union Square, where it was presented with 4DX motion picture technology!

This kind of tech (owned and developed by a South Korean company) finds the theater retrofitted with special equipment  including seats that movie move, shimmy, shake and vibrate, along with built-in leg and back “ticklers.” There’re also a bunch of physical effects discharged into the air, like water, wind, fog, “lightning,” sound effects and the occasional aroma. It’s all utilized in concert with the movie, so when a twister whooshes across the screen, a wind effect is discharged into your face; when an explosion rocks a building, an abrupt chair jerk shakes your tush; when a bullet is fired overhead, a gust of air shoots through your hair; and so on.

It’s a novelty, to be sure, and not for every film (my wife and I joked that a revival of Kramer vs. Kramer wouldn’t really benefit from the technology), but for an effects-filled flick like Geostorm, it livened up the proceedings.

At one point late in the film, there’s a furious nighttime car chase through downtown Orlando that transpires as lightning crackles all around, the earth rumbles, rain-filled twisters fills the air and falling buildings litter the highway—all as the speeding drivers fire guns as each other! All of this is reflected in the 4DX technology as our chairs careened, wind blew across our noses, lights flashed and rain splashed our grinning faces. It was a wild and fun couple of minutes and nearly made the movie worth attending. But then the moment ended and I remembered that most of the country will probably see Geostrom without the 4DX tech (there are only about a two dozen 4DX-equipped theaters in the country). And that made me sad…

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.