I love a good disaster movie, growing up in the 1970s when Disaster was king, and the era of photo-realistic CGI has made modern disaster movies even bigger and more spectacular from the 70s throwback Daylight to current offerings like 2012 and San Andreas. Of course, going back to the classic films the one thing a lot of them had in common was a focus on special effects and less-than-developed characters and stories. And unfortunately that has really carried over to the modern disaster movies where it’s more an excuse to come up with some great FX sequences and construct a story around them.
A couple of years ago, Warner Bros. had a hit with the Dwayne Johnson action/disaster flick San Andreas which had a completely silly and outlandishly unbelievable story with some terrific FX sequences wrapped around it. Of course the focus was mainly on the state of California, so the studio upped the ante with its latest disaster offering Geostorm, which has an even more preposterous story. Gerard Butler plays Jake Lawson, the mastermind behind a network of satellites which aid in controlling the planet’s severe weather (because of climate change). Some areas had been destroyed so the planet’s brightest minds came together to construct this web that encircles the planet and takes care of the weather. But after being under the sole control of the United States, the space station and network are on the verge of being handed over to the world when suddenly the system begins to malfunction, creating disastrous weather and severe climate events.
Jake and his brother, government lackey Max (Jim Sturgess), stumble onto the conclusion that someone has sabotaged the system so that it can remain under the US government’s control. With an election coming up, the culprit must be the president so the brothers, with Jake on the space station and Max on Earth, must work together to shut down the network, known as Dutch Boy, before it creates a massive planet-wide storm that will kill billions of people. But … is the president really the one behind the sabotage?
I’m going to be the lone voice in support of Geostorm (our own Justin Moore reviewed the film upon its release and panned it). This is a movie in which you have to completely suspend all disbelief and turn off your brain, even if the movie is attempting to get viewers to understand the very real dangers of climate change. After you let go of all that, the film has a pretty entertaining story with scenes of disaster interspersed with the whole government conspiracy plotline. Jake and Max have a strained relationship (don’t ask why because the film never fleshes that out) so Butler and Sturgess don’t have much chemistry … which makes sense, but I think both actors sell their characters well. My biggest problem was with Abbie Cornish’s Secret Service agent who is shacking up with Max despite some kind of vague, White House no fraternization policy. I get that she’s a “by the book” character but Cornish just comes off as terribly stiff. Overall though I actually enjoyed the movie, the conspiracy and, above all, the special effects. Geostorm is dumb but I still had more fun watching that expected.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s new Blu-ray release of the film (and I’m surprised they didn’t release a 4K version, but did a Best Buy exclusive 3D edition) is beautiful. The HD image is sharp — you can see individual raindrops in the opening montage — and colors are bold even if they skew towards the cooler end of the spectrum for the most part. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is sure to give your surround system a workout, lending nice directional touches to thunder, wind and various pieces of space debris whizzing by, and the dialog is presented clearly front and center. And even with headphones on, there is still nice directionality to the sound, at one point the thunder in the background sounded like my cat scratching hard on the side of the sofa, causing me to yell STOP at nothing. There is definitely nothing to complain about with this presentation.
Geostorm was a huge financial bomb for the studio but the disk still manages to include a few bonus items, something a lot of lesser films are afforded. The bonus material may be sparse but it’s there.
- Wreaking Havoc (6:30) looks at how the filmmakers combined practical and CG effects to create the look of the film, with even the SPFX director admitting some of what they created was preposterous.
- The Search for Answers (4:13) delves into the genesis of the idea for the film (director Dean Devlin’s young daughter, which explains the simplistic storytelling) and how only child Devlin worked with co-writer Paul Guyot to create a story about brothers at odds.
- An International Cast (5:40) looks at the film’s truly international cast befitting the film’s storyline, focusing heavily on Chinese movie star Daniel Wu’s (small) role which almost assured the film some success in that country if the crowds assembled to watch him film mean anything.
Is Geostorm a great disaster movie, or even a good one? No, but it’s a heck of a lot better than some of the late 70s schlock that basically ended the genre at that time. It’s goofy, it’s ridiculous and it avoids the real consequences of mass destruction (i.e. no dead bodies), but it’s still a bit of entertaining fluff with some eye-popping effects that will look and sound great on your home entertainment system.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray version of the film for reviewing purposes.