In Passionate Defense of Geostorm

Alright, now, you know I love ripping the piss out of bad films as much as any reviewer does. A terrible movie is a certain kind of gift: flex your shitting muscles and get ready to crap all over a deserving release, whether it’s Suicide Squad or Nocturnal Animals. I get it. I do.

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So when I saw a bunch of bad reviews for Gerard Butler’s new disaster movie, Geostorm, that almost made me even keener to see it: the trailer looked comically terrible and I’m a sucker for a great bad movie, so when I got a chance to see it, of course I took it. Gerard Butler, bad jokes, a ridiculous premise: what could possibly go right?

But you know what? For once, I’m here to lay my gauntlet down and say, no more. Because yeah, okay, Geostorm isn’t a masterpiece: obviously it isn’t, it never tried to be, and when was the last time you walked into a movie with Andy Garcia in it expecting Oscar bait anyway? But what it is is a perfectly acceptable blockbuster movie, and I feel like people are being overly harsh on it just because it doesn’t really fit into the blockbuster mould that has developed over the last few years.

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Because, to my mind at least, there’s a lot to recommend to this movie if you know what you’re walking into. The premise is of course fucking ridiculous; after years of controlling the weather through an international space station, America decides to fuck it all up for Plot Reasons and Gerard Butler’s super-scientist must return to the space station he created to stop it from unleashing a Geostorm. But it’s obvious that at least at some point during the film’s troubled production, someone really gave a shit about this story: the characters are relatively well-formed and have great chemistry, the plot is over-the-top but well-paced and all forward momentum, and a lot of it actually looks really great too. The performances aren’t going to scoop any awards and the writing slips over into cheesy more than once, but it’s a pleasingly earnest movie that displays at least a modicum of commitment to it’s end goal. The writers and director wanted to make a big, goofy action movie about catastrophic weather events that was also somehow to do with American politics, and they did that. I would even wager to say they made the best movie they could have based on that premise (and, I’ll tell you this for free, one that featured far better female characters than about 90% of the movies I’ve seen in the cinema in the last year).

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When I was but a bairne, I watched a whole lot of movies like Geostorm (and I’m not just talking about the obvious The Day After Tomorrow comparison): Twister, Independence Day, The Core, Armageddon, Deep Impact. And to this day, I completely believe that there’s a place for mindless entertainment in the vein of those movies, or at least there should be. First and foremost, movies and blockbusters especially should entertain – everything else is a bonus – and Geostorm entertained me. But in the last few years, when it comes to blockbusters, entertainment has taken a back seat. Look at the big-grossing movies of the last eighteen months or so: we’re talking your Batman vs Supermans, your Suicide Squads, your Civil Wars, your X-Men: Apocalypses. Superhero movies. Franchise movies. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a movie franchise, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t really seem to know what to do with big, goofy blockbuster movies that exist outside the established franchises we know and are familiar with. The last really successful non-franchise blockbuster I can recall was Pacific Rim and, whisper it, it’s sequel just got it’s first trailer.

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Look, I’m not trying to be a snob about the superhero franchises that are currently dominating our screens, but I feel like they have somewhat pushed aside the call for stuff like Geostorm. A lot of the movies that belong to these franchises are less an attempt to tell a story over the course of an hour and a half or so (though, let’s be real, more like a hundred and fifty minutes) and more a breakneck cavalcade of setting up future sequels, delivering on fan favourites, slapping on a big, messy, CGI-heavy third act, and attempting to work some pathos or intellectualism into the story somewhere. It feels like the rampant competition between franchises has put us in this odd spot where most of the movies produced feel very samey in order to keep them blandly marketable while finding odd, usually flailing ways to try and establish their own identities (see: the BvS po-faced greyscale). Geostorm is a brisk couple of hours telling the story it promised to in the trailer without a fifteen-minute diversion to set up an expanded universe, but it seems like we don’t have a place for films like that anymore.

I’m not trying to get on my high horse and argue that we need more movies like Geostorm or that we should abandon the superhero franchise business (because only this year that superhero franchise business struck gold with the excellent Logan), but just that I think Geostorm was unfortunate in that it came out at a time when the only blockbusters we really have time for are ones that come as part of a wider set, which Geostorm doesn’t seem that interested in. Yes, Geostorm is no masterpiece, but it does precisely what it promised us it would do – and for that, it doesn’t deserve the evisceration it’s getting at the hands of it’s critics.

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