Del and Mladen review ‘Geostorm’

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Geostorm” Starring Gerald Butler as Jake Lawson, Jim Sturgess as Max Lawson, Abbie Cornish as Sarah Wilson, Talitha Eliana Bateman as Hannah Lawson, Alexandra Maria Lara as Ute Fassbinder, and others. Directed by Dean Devlin. PG-13. 109 minutes. Streaming on Hulu.

Del’s take

Every now and then a movie comes along that makes me feel pretty good about my own creative efforts. “Geostorm” makes me feel like a goddamn genius.

“Geostorm” is dumb even by Mladen’s low standards, which lie somewhere between root cellar and hell. I can tell how much I hate a movie by the number of times I roll my eyes. By the end of “Geostorm” I needed Dramamine and one of those little fold-out paper bags the airline puts in your seat pocket. It’s that bad.

Which is weird because they spent a lot of money making the damn thing – $120 million – and got some decent actors – Andy Garcia, Abbie Cornish, Jim Sturgess and Ed Harris – Ed freaking Harris! who should have won an Oscar for “The Truman Show” and might be my favorite actor of all time. How could a movie with such great talent go so terribly wrong?

Reason No. 1: Gerard Butler.

Giving Gerard Butler the lead was a mistake. Don’t get me wrong. I like Mr. Butler. He’s a reliable disaster movie performer – check “Greenland” and “Angel has Fallen.” Unfortunately, he’s also one of those actors whose face falls out of memory faster than giant hailstones fall out of the sky over Tokyo. I had to consult my Old Fart’s Digital Crutch, Msgr. Google, for other movies he’s starred in. Not a good sign.

Reason No. 2: Dean Devlin.

“Geostorm” was directed by Mr. Devlin, a graduate of the Roland Emmerich school of disaster filmmaking – except in this case he forgot to study for the final. For a disaster movie, you see remarkably few disasters. What you do see is a clunky whodunit plot that did little to pique my interest. I assumed the bad guy was either (a) an evil corporation dissatisfied with trillion-dollar profit margins, or (b) a Republican. Either way, the who was less important to me than the what. Dammit, Jim, I want my disaster movies to show disasters, not be disasters.

Reason No. 3: Some seriously freaking tectonic logic flaws.

“Geostorm” is predicated on the idea that escalating weather disasters will lead to a gigantic, all-consuming “geostorm,” the meteorological equivalent of Donald Trump’s political and business “empire.” So all nations on Earth marshal their resources to build a gigantic hairnet-kinda thing in orbit that has the ability to nip weather disasters in the bud.

First, let me point out the words “climate change” are not, to my recollection, ever uttered in this movie, which makes me wonder why, given that escalating weather disasters are the hallmark of climate change. Also, the suggestion that all nations (a) recognize the problem and (b) agree to cooperate isn’t science fiction. It’s fantasy. It destroys my willingness to suspend disbelief.

Second, the giant hairnet thingy is just – freaking – impossible. And building it would cost a helluva lot more than doing the things that already cause the hairpieces of conservatives and Republicans to spontaneously combust, things like planting trees, developing more efficient batteries, or inventing a fusion reactor. Is “Geostorm” a disaster flick or “Lord of the Rings”?

Speaking of which, it wouldn’t be a disaster movie unless there was (a) an MIA father who’s feeling guilty about his absence, (b) a child who’s pissed-off because Daddy “wasn’t there,” and (c) an estranged relationship that can only be mended by tens of millions of people dying in a global conflagration.

Yup, that’s “Geostorm,” a melding of all the worst aspects of “2012,” “Independence Day,” “Twister,” and maybe even “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure.” And to enhance your eye-rolling experience, it’s streaming on Hulu, which is the “Geostorm” of streaming services. I have never, ever streamed a movie on Hulu without something going wrong – the movie buffers, it locks up, the frame crashes and will not play, no matter how many times I clear my cache. I end up digging through my DVDs and watching it the old-fashioned way.

Movies like “Geostorm” are supposed to be dumb fun. Devlin forgot the “fun” part. I give it a D, and I don’t care how many insulting giant hailstones Mladen flings my way.

Mladen’s take

I like sci-fi that uses real-world happenings taking place on Earth to be plausible. So, when “Geostorm” showed moviegoers a low-orbit satellite mesh controlled by a space station that manipulates the planet’s weather to limit the impact of global warming, I was, like, this is silly. How could anyone, even a let-the-imagination-loose filmmaker, think that leashing the weather caused by Earth’s 4.2 billion cubic kilometers of atmosphere, 1.4 cubic km of ocean, and 510 million km of surface land area was doable as a realistic sci-fi movie?

Well, “Geostorm” writers and its director were much more on-target with their movie’s foundational theme than I figured. The October 2023 issue of Scientific American has a story titled, “A Stratospheric Gamble.” It covers some of the ways some scientists are hoping to alter Earth to lessen the impact of climate change. SRM (Solar Radiation Management), folks, is on its way. What is SRM? Injecting volcanic eruption-size quantities of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to bounce some sunlight back to space. Lab coat geeks and governments (including our own) are thinking seriously about using geoengineering technology on a PLANETARY scale to mitigate the climate crisis, which was caused by our transportation and power generation technologies. Same old story and a history lesson never learned. Using new technology to offset the dangerous side effects of old technology always fails long-term and it’s always the poor who suffer.

So, the “Geostorm” scenario ain’t so unrealistic as it seemed to me before I read the Sci Am piece. That fact, paradoxically, allowed me to enjoy the film, more or less. In “Geostorm” the weather control space station starts to malfunction, causing its weather-inducing satellites to go berserk. An Afghan village is frozen to death. A part of Hong Kong is blasted to bits by overheating natural gas infrastructure. Lawson (Butler), the principal architect of the space station and an imperfect brother and father, is sent back to his orbiting masterpiece to determine what the hell is going on. As human command and control of the space station and its satellites continues to deteriorate, so does the weather on Earth. Incessant, infrastructure-destroying lightning in Florida that, somehow, increases the value of Mar-a-Lago. OK, I made up the part about Mar-a-Lago. A tsunami flooding one of the Persian Gulf’s fascist states. A flock of tornadoes here and hail the size of Thanksgiving turkeys there.

Del, and his combustible grudges, be damned. It’s a wonder he didn’t mention how the female commander of the space station becomes a weakling leader when Lawson embarks to save the day. Look, I agree with Del that “Geostorm” is maudlin and too much political thriller troupe. But, he should’ve been paying attention to the portrayed weather disasters. Del, start digging that bunker, fill it with canned goods, and make sure it has a helluva water pump to keep it dry because a geostorm is on the way, though it’ll come with a much less dramatic name – solar radiation management. And, rather than stocking the bunker with Dramamine, I suggest Xanax to help you with anger management.

Del contends “Geostorm” is bad crap. Ignore him. The film is good crap.

Mladen Rudman is a former newspaper reporter and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.