Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Perspective on Geostorm

I have been fascinated with weather ever since I was little. Part of this stemmed from my not-quite-irrational fear of tornados. When I was very young, there was little that could convince me that every thunderstorm wasn’t going to send a twister after me. I even had nightmares of inky black funnel clouds descending like molasses right outside my window.

Thankfully, those panic attacks are a thing of the distant past. Severe and actual tornadic-warned weather still spike my adrenaline and ramp my anxiety; but I can still function instead of dissolving into a bawling, hyperventilating deer-in-headlights. This is partially thanks to some study on how weather works. I never got the bug to become a climatologist or even a meteorologist, however. Instead, I have maintained a rather morbid fascination with extreme weather. I’ve seen the tornado IMAX movies, watched the Discovery Channel’s storm chasing reality shows, and even white-knuckled my way through films such as Twister (1996) and Into the Storm (2014) – and liked them.

This movie seemed to be the perfect storm; blending sci-fi, extreme weather, the disaster genre, action, and star power.

There was a disaster, all right – but it wasn’t entirely within the story played out on the screen. It was the movie, itself. I wince as I say that, because I try not to be so harsh and I didn’t entirely hate the movie. I just think it just missed the mark for me to like it ‘enough.’ There were several interesting and entertaining parts, but I wasn’t wowed the way I wanted to be.

I was so excited to watch this film. I’ve been practically pacing while waiting for it to hit Netflix or Amazon – which is why this didn’t come up in one of our regular reviews. Xfinity beat the streaming services to the punch and have it in one of their movie channel package rotations. I’m just glad I did wait and didn’t spend extra money on the theater experience. (Though, I will be the first to admit that seeing it with the impact of, say, an IMAX screen and/or in 3D might have helped in the visual excitement department…slightly.)

What it felt like was some sort of mashup between The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and 2012 (2009) with a B-movie leaning and the budget high enough to get recognizable actors.

I don’t seem to be alone in these sentiments, considering that it is reported the studio had to dump millions into reshoots including new material after test audiences reacted poorly to the first cut. It’s unclear whether the original director’s vision was helped or hindered by the necessity of a second for the two weeks of additional shooting. One also has to wonder if the studio had enough faith in the project with the way the release date was shuffled around – that’s pure conjecture on my part, however.

Why did I have such a disconnect?

The first thing you notice in a movie like this is the visual aspect. There were quite a few stunning moments with the effects, but others just ended up looking like cut-scenes from a video game. This largely had to do with things in space not following the correct physics in addition to the rendering of the images in general. The imagery is something that would jump out to anyone, and not just science buffs. Further, they didn’t really show a whole lot of new visuals that weren’t already involved in ‘getting the t-shirt’ for other disaster flicks.

I need to come back to science for a minute, though. They didn’t explain well enough how the weather was generating tsunamis. Those happen after earthquakes – not weather events. Were they trying to claim that the walls of water were storm surge? I live in a coastal state where tropical weather is a rather regular thing – but that was just ludicrous. If I take a step back and try to connect the missing dots, I could guess that melting ice caps elevated sea levels and larger storms generate larger surges – but not on that level. Where were all the sea-walls that would have had to keep every-day higher sea levels at bay? The plot hole there was just too big. It makes for great disaster on the screen but feels like it was just thrown in because they could.

Another thing that bugged me was that while some scenes had appropriate humor or intensity, others just fell flat. Some of the film just seemed half-hearted… like it was on auto-pilot. I also feel that the cast was underutilized in some cases. 

The big names here, understandably, are Gerard Butler (The Ugly Truth, Machine Gun Preacher, Movie 43), Ed Harris (Man on a Ledge, Mother!, Westworld), Jim Sturgess (Upside Down, Cloud Atlas, Electric Slide), Abbie Cornish (Seven Psychopaths, RoboCop, Lavender), and Andy Garcia (Passengers, Max Steel, Book Club). However, Daniel Wu (Warcraft, Tomb Raider, Into the Badlands) is a legitimate badass and a star on the rise here in the States. His role, while integral to the film, was seriously underdeveloped. This, clearly, wasn’t any fault on his part.

All in all, it feels like the production team, which also included Butler, tried to give us too much – and, as a result, ended up with overall not enough.