Geostorm (2017)

Directed by Dean Devlin


I chose to see Geostorm in theaters on a Wednesday night.  That’s on me.  I have to live with this.

Don’t look for meaning in Geostorm, there isn’t any.  I spent the last forty-five or so minutes investigating the making of this film, the career of director Dean Devlin and his connection to Roland Emmerich, the man I mistakenly assumed directed this film when I first saw the trailer.  The only point to this movie, one that tries to shoehorn in a message about global warming into a painfully cliche plot where movie tropes run free like old dogs at the farm you were told about as a child, is to make money, and it already has.

First of all, is Dean Devlin proud of this movie?  I only ask because if you look at his twitter page, he’s really pushing you to go see the new Rob Reiner movie LBJ.

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From a quick search into his filmography, Devlin seems to have no involvement whatsoever in the movie.  Is he just a Reiner fan or an LBJ buff?  It’s hard to say, but his recent photos are full of LBJ promotional material and nothing mentioning the premiere of his feature film directorial debut, Geostorm.

Devlin has worked as a writer and producer on such Roland Emmerich films as Universal Soldier, StargateIndependence Day and Godzilla.  He might as well be an Emmerich disciple.  Here are some examples of them collaborating:

Geostorm is just another Emmerich disaster movie, and the point is to copy a formula that works and makes money, mostly outside of the U.S.  So to understand Devlin and the reason this movie exists, it’s important to understand Emmerich’s career.  Don’t look at the critical reviews or read about the movie, just know that they made money.

  • Universal Soldier (1992) – $36 million at the box office
  • Stargate (1994) – $71 million domestic + $125 million domestic for a total of $196 million
  • Independence Day (1996) – $306 m. domestic + $511 m. foreign for a total of $817 million (off a $75 million budget)
  • Godzilla (1998) – $136 m. domestic + $242 m. foreign for a total of $379 m. worldwide. ($130 million budget)
  • The Patriot (2000) – $113 domestic + $101 foreign = $215 million worldwide (off a $110 m. budget) – Devlin a producer, not a writer; starts to be phased out.
  • The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – $186 domestic + $357 foreign = $544 million worldwide ($125 million budget)
  • 10,000 BC (2008) – $94 domestic + $175  foreign = $269 worldwide ($105 million budget)2012 (2009) – $166 domestic + $603 foreign = $769 worldwide ($200 million budget)

    Anonymous (2011) $4.5 million domestic + $10 million foreign = $15.5 million worldwide ($30 million budget)

    White House Down (2013) – $73 domestic + $132 foreign = $205 worldwide ($150 m. budget)

    Stonewall (2015) – made no money, no listed budget; box office bomb

    Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) – $103 domestic + $286 foreign = $389 worldwide ($165 million budget) – with Dean Devlin back as a producer

The first four movies were written and produced by Devlin, and he produced but didn’t write The Patriot.  Emmerich’s movies made money, particularly Independence Day and Godzilla.  It’s unimportant what he did after Devlin left his side, but it is fascinating to the way he rode his formula to financial success, then pivoted with 2011’s Anonymous, and when that didn’t work he went right back to the same old formula, doubling down on the cheesiness.  White House Down, like Geostorm or London Has Fallen or Olympus Has Fallen, has the macho white male protagonist.  In White House it’s played by Channing Tatum, in the other three it’s Gerard Butler.  All of those movies have a save the President (or President surrogate) storyline.  Fantastic.

So Geostorm is just another in a long line of crappy movies that stick to a script and make money, again mostly over seas.  In Geostorm, Butler plays [sighs] scientist Jake Lawson.  He created a shield that covers the earth and protects the planet from increasingly unpredictable weather phenomenons brought on by global warming.

One day he’s brought to Washington and ordered to give up “Dutch Boy,” his web.  The movie flashes forward three years, and his brother Max Lawson (Jim Sturgess) has taken over command of Dutch Boy, much to Jake’s chagrin.

When Dutch Boy malfunctions, Max must call on Jake who has essentially retired, now a disgruntled older man.  Jake has a daughter and an ex-wife, as you might have guessed.  When Max asks him to go up to the International Space Station to check in on the web, he almost jumps at the opportunity so long as he doesn’t have to answer to Max, because he’s mad at his younger brother for betraying him three years previous.

Jake’s daughter breaks down before him, saying she doesn’t want him to die before taking a Lyft to her mother’s house.  Yes, she took a Lyft.

The movie splits into two storylines, one following Jake in space and one following Max down in Washington where he helps uncover the plot behind Dutch Boy’s failure.  Working together occasionally, through long distance phone calls, they learn that these malfunctions were instead deliberate.

Jake theorizes that it might be the President (Andy Garcia) who’s running for re-election and needs to blah blah blah, something about how the perceived failures of Dutch Boy will help his case.  The President’s Chief of Staff… [sighs] Leonard Dekkom is played by Ed Harris so you say, ‘oh yeah, no he’s the bad guy,’ and he is.

Dekkom, we later learn, has orchestrated this plan to destroy much of the world as well as kill the President so he can take over as leader of the new world.  In a passionate, silly speech, Dekkom announces his plan to take the world back to 1945 in classic Make America Great Again fashion.

To backtrack for a second, Max and his… [sighs] secret service agent girlfriend, Sarah (Abbie Cornish) decide they need to kidnap the President in order to get his access to unlock Dutch Boy’s shield or something.  So they do, while at the Democratic National Convention in Orlando.

Then, following a long car chase and shootout as lightening shoots down around them, they are able to deliver the codes to Jake in space.  He then disarms or arms, I don’t know, the shield but has to die in the process for some reason that I don’t remember.  It’s going to self-destruct or something.

So Jake is prepared to die, but when he enters the code, it doesn’t work.  Then his cute love interest who has to be a cute love interest reveals that she never left the station.  She’s there to help Jake finish the job by saying, “it’s not that keypad, it’s this one.”  God, Jake’s one hell of a dumb scientist.  They enter the code on the keypad three feet to the right of the other keypad, and it works.

Then everything blows up despite the fact that there can be no fire in space, and everyone thinks they’ve died, but they make it into a small vessel and make it home alive.  Jesus Christ.

You know, for a movie about the destruction of the world, this is so boring.  I was hoping for at least a little more ‘world going to shit’ scenes, like in The Day After Tomorrow, but these moments were so brief.  Maybe my problem was going into this movie with any kind of hope.

There are scattered moments throughout the world, with those graphics announcing what country we’re in, as the weather goes crazy.  We start close on some random person who looks like the stereotypical version of what you expect people in that part of the world look like.  They’re going about their business, then they look over their shoulder dramatically, and suddenly a wave is cresting over the desert hills or an ice storm is chasing them down on South American beaches.  In the latter scene, frozen seagulls pelt the ground like missiles, and a jet airplane falls out of the sky.  Right on, that’s what I’m talking about, that’s all you want out of a movie like this.   And then… it ends in about a minute, and we’re back to listening to politicians and scientists talk about political issues like you read a passage in German and entered it into google translate and then typed that word for word into the script.

This movie is inexplicably made with no humor whatsoever.  There’s nothing, no sense of self-awareness, but because it hits every precise beat of a movie like this, is that the ultimate joke?  I have no idea, I just know it was horrible to sit through, and now I’m forever indebted to my roommate for somehow convincing him to go.  I have to live with this decision.

Up Next: Wind River (2017), 20th Century Women (2016), Grizzly Man (2005)

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