Geostorm (2017)

2018 #70
Dean Devlin | 109 mins | download (HD+3D) | 2.40:1 | USA / English, Cantonese, Russian, Hindi & Spanish | 12 / PG-13

Geostorm

Geostorm met with widespread derision when it hit the big screen last year, but, despite the many negative reviews (it has just 12% on Rotten Tomatoes), I heard someone say it was actually an entertaining popcorn blockbuster. I forget who that was, sadly, because they were wrong. Very wrong.

Set in the near-ish future, it’s about a giant weather-control system installed in orbit around the Earth that begins to malfunction and cause disastrous freak weather events, which have the potential to build into a so-called “geostorm” — a devastating planet-wide weather fuck-up, basically. And there’s only one man who can stop it… despite the fact he’s not been involved with the system for about three years and during that time it’s been successfully run by a massive team of no-doubt-highly-skilled people.

A lot of films of this type start out okay and get dumber as they go on. Geostorm hits the ground running with shit dialogue and nonsensical plot developments — I’d list some, but God, there are far too many for me to bother. That said, here’s my favourite: when someone advises the US President that they’ll need to send a whole team with various skills and abilities to fix the malfunctioning global satellite weather control system (because, you know, that must be a pretty complicated set of interrelated systems, and no one knows whether it’s software or hardware or whatever else), the President decides they’re only allowed to send… one person. And it isn’t even a specific person who he thinks is a whizz — his next instruction is “find me that person.” And everyone else in the room seems to think this is a reasonable course of action. I mean, there are no words for that kind of stupidity. Well, maybe “Trumpian”, but the film isn’t presenting it as satire. And, as I said before, there’s already a massive staff up there running operations — why would the President not assume the one person with the specific skill-set needed to diagnose and fix the problem is already up there? How do people get paid to write crap this stupid? How could any self-respecting writer generate this?!

From their expressions, I presume they're reading the screenplay

Well, quite frankly, I’m not sure Geostorm was even written by a writer. Exhibit A: About 56 minutes into the movie, one character says “it’s bigger than you and me”, and a supporting character corrects him: “you and I”. But “you and me” is grammatically correct in that situation. Any writer worth whatever you get paid for writing a $120 million movie should know that, ergo there can’t’ve been any writers involved. Or, yeah, the writers who were involved were really, really, really shit. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The film is littered with faults, minor and major, that draw attention to themselves like this. Apparently the original cut received poor reactions from test audiences, leading to extensive reshoots, which I imagine explains some of the inconsistent crap that goes down during the film’s finale. (Spoilers follow, should you care.) One of the significant establishing traits of the film’s primary hero, Jake (Gerard Butler’s character), is he has a daughter who he loves very much — there’s an emotional scene when he leaves her to go off to the weather satellite, and so on. But later, when he has just minutes to live, he seems to have no pressing desire to want to talk to her. He just tells his brother to stay in her life — which the brother wanted to do anyway, but earlier Jake had been stopping him. Written like this that almost plays like character development — how he’s accepted his brother again — but that’s not how it plays out.

Gerard Butler, thwarted by another door

Oh, but it gets worse. (More spoilers!) So, the station’s commander departed ages ago with the rest of the crew, leaving Jake alone to fix the problem and then die when the station blows up anyway (don’t worry about the logistics of that, the film doesn’t). But then Jake gets stuck when he has to… open a door. And suddenly the commander’s there, and she knows what to do to… yes, open a door. So that means she’s been hiding out somewhere on the station, making sure Jake doesn’t see she’s still there, until that precise moment when he needs help… to open a door. Oh, and then, by total chance and plot implausibility, they actually survive the destruction of the station, and get in a satellite and use it to return to Earth. Not an escape pod, a satellite. Why does a satellite have enough empty space to carry two people? There’s no way you could answer this stuff.

Some people, even including some filmmakers, seem to think critics and “pretentious” filmgoers slag off movies like Geostorm based solely on the genre or concept or some other fundamental characteristic. And, yeah, there must be some people who won’t give certain genres a fair shot; but that’s not widely the case, as the praise attracted by better blockbusters proves time and again. No, films like this get slagged off when they’re shittily made. Geostorm is shittily made.

1 out of 5

Geostorm featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2018.

San Andreas (2015)

2017 #24
Brad Peyton | 110 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13

San Andreas

San Andreas is a most amusing movie. It’s not a comedy, just a generic effects-driven disaster movie in exactly the same style Hollywood has been producing for about 20 years.

In its favour it has the surprising likeability of Mr The Rock, Paul Giamatti hamming it up for a paycheque, and the mammarially blessed Alexandra Daddario running around, lazing in a bikini, getting wet, etc. There’s some solid spectacle, including a couple of nice long takes, which is what these movies are all about.

Conversely, it couldn’t be any cheesier if it had been entirely made out of dairy products.

3 out of 5

Daylight (1996)

2010 #87
Rob Cohen | 110 mins | TV (HD) | 12 / PG-13

Daylight is a disaster movie; the kind they apparently made lots of in the ’70s, and has seen a revival (to some degree) thanks to Roland Emmerich and his brand of apocalypse-bringing. This was made in the ’90s though and, lacking any self-aware qualities, might be seen as a throwback. Whether that matters is probably an issue for more well-versed disaster movie fans than I.

The plot concerns the collapse of an underwater car tunnel, trapping people inside (naturally). It’s a tunnel that connects Manhattan to another bit of New York. Or possibly New Jersey. To be honest, I can’t remember now. Suffice to say, it doesn’t matter, besides the points that, a) who doesn’t like a movie set in New York?, and b) it allows for a moderately diverse array of victims-in-waiting. How diverse? Not very. But a bit.

Following the collapse, a fireball rips through the tunnel. It seems to destroy most cars and kill most people, except for about a dozen survivors. How are they not killed by the fireball? Well, it seems to be by the good fortune of Because We Need Some Characters. Should you ever get stuck in an exploding tunnel, pray you find yourself in a disaster movie and had been doing something mundane yet passably interesting earlier on, and you might get to survive. Naturally some of these will die later, because a disaster movie works in more-or-less the same way as a slasher movie, only with less jumps. After a few “well, they sort of deserved it” characters are dispatched with, screenwriter Leslie Bohem seems to have drawn up a list of Which Characters Would It Be Most Tragic To Lose and started to work his way through them until he reached the end of the screenplay. I suppose it’s flat-out good advice for a disaster movie, but, try not to get too attached.

The film continues to stretch credibility to the max at every turn. Are there really a series of giant fans that Stallone could conceivably lower himself through to get into the tunnel? Maybe there are — it’s got to be ventilated somehow — but it doesn’t stop the sequence in which he does it from feeling like a science-fiction movie. On the bright side, the lack of concern for plausibility makes for a couple of moderately impressive effects sequences. Despite the notion that CGI has somehow made everything look more realistic, sometimes the limits of ’90s technology help. OK, most of Daylight’s effects still look like effects, but they’re at least as believable as the plasticky sheen that still pervades most CGI.

A closing pan up to the twin towers of the World Trade Center provides, thanks to hindsight, a crushing reminder of reality when it comes to disasters. It’s a shame that an arbitrary shot of a New York landmark almost inadvertently overshadows the whole film. I suppose any shot of the Center calls up those memories now, but it’s unfortunate that this one comes at the end of a disaster movie.

All things considered, Daylight’s pretty ridiculous; in fact, it’s so daft you might begin to wonder if someone actually researched the facts of what might happen in such a disaster and it’s all a case of Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction. Or perhaps it really is just The Movies. If you don’t care for disaster movies then it’s certainly not going to change your mind, but for anyone who is prone to liking them, Daylight is, for all its faults, an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

3 out of 5

Daylight is on ITV tonight, Friday 21st November 2014, at 11:15pm.