We saw Geostorm in 4DX. Here are our thoughts.

The Plot

Geostorm is the rare big-budget disaster film that directly addresses climate change, and more specifically the fact that it’s borne of humans. Its central question is, if humans started this, how can we fix it… and then fuck it up again, and then fix it again? The concept that homo sapiens is an inherently self-destructive species is sound, though all too ominously timed. What all that amounts to here is a lot of plot. Way too much plot.

In the recent documentary Spielberg, it’s revealed that George Lucas, upon showing his director friends an early cut of Star Wars, was bombarded with the critique that the plot was too confusing. Perhaps, suggested his friend Brian De Palma, he should explain the backstory by running some expository text at the beginning? Geostorm seems to understand its own similar limitations, and so opens with a voiceover: in 2018, extreme weather destroyed a bunch of Earth, and so a global coalition of countries united to create a weather-control system called Dutch Boy, which is a space station controlling a series of satellites that form an actual net around the entire planet, an optimistic solution that is very likely impossible. So what happens is, when, say, a massive super-hurricane forms on earth, a satellite recognizes it and then just shoots little bombs in it to make it disperse. No sweat!

The genius who invented this program, and seems to have put it together almost in its entirety as some sort of multidisciplinary super-scientist is, of course, Gerard Butler as Jake Lawson. Not only is Jake Lawson the chiseled masculine ideal of an action-hero-type as savior of earth, he is also extremely averse to any sort of authority. Yet his grumbling astrophysicist bad-boy steez obscures what seems to be an even deeper emotional fissure as embodied by his brother, Max (a weirdly cast Jim Sturgiss), a State Department employee who just wants his brother to love him and also chill the fuck out.

Dutch Boy seems like the perfect unilateral solution to a global ecological problem, at least until the US is meant to hand over the reigns to a united coalition of countries and shit goes the hell down. We have our first inkling that something’s amiss when a UN convoy in Afghanistan, faced with 120-degree heat, happens upon an entire village frozen in place, as if they were zapped with nitrogen from above. Hmm, what could possibly have done that? Could it be… a satellite hacker? Who wants to create a series of satellite-generated storms from above so that they will converge into one giant natural storm on earth... a GEOSTORM?

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Jake, who got ousted from Dutch Boy because he was too belligerent to some senators (as he tells us several times, he loathes politicians) is the only person who can figure out if and how someone has hacked into the satellites, and so his brother reluctantly sends him back to space, which also involves some rather unnecessary emotional backstory involving their estranged relationship, his 13-year-old daughter, and the fact that their parents died at the same time, somehow, years ago. The rest of the film is a mystery in which Jake, now in space, does scientist things while Max, back on Earth, tries to figure out who might have the gumption to destroy entire populations through extreme weather. Could it be… a US government conspiracy?!?

There is an overabundance of pathos in a film we want to see exclusively for expensive CGI of buildings toppling each other like dominos (it happens! It rules!). In addition to much of the plot hinging on Max and Jake’s weirdly flat relationship to their father, we also get a love story between Max and a secret service agent (Abbie Cornish, aka Australian rapper Dusk), which does become convenient later on; the abandonment issues of Jake’s daughter; the estrangement between Jake and his ex-wife and, perhaps, a corny step-dad; and, in case you hate people, a couple scenes involving pets to truly pull at your heartstrings and emphasize that extreme weather events are a danger for the animals, too!

In short, Geostorm is a fine time for a Saturday afternoon, but could have eliminated maybe three actors in total and spent their salaries on more GEOSTORM. —Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

The Effects

Geostorm is the perfect movie to watch as a first-time 4DX-er, but you’ll have to wade through an unnecessarily thick storyline to get to the good stuff. The real meat of a disaster movie is rooted in its special effects—those surreal tsunamis, explosions, snowstorms and tornados that demolish property, people, and psyches—and the ability to fuse those effects with good plot. Geostorm is lucky it had 4DX to back it up. Two dimensions alone is visceral enough for me, if executed correctly, so I went into this experience with my imagination on high alert, ready to feel the vague impact of whatever a geostorm was supposed to be.

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To state the obvious, Geostorm is a movie about freak weather conditions, released weeks after a series of real-life deadly hurricanes and flooding, so as you’re watching a movie about the absurd possibility of a geostorm, you’re inevitably thinking of all the real people affected by extreme weather conditions. This consciousness is made weirder by the fact that your own body is made to feel the impact of the special effects in the theater, although the storm scenes in this case were so fanciful that it made it easier to focus on the fantasy aspect. Before the previews, the 4DX primer gave me an indication of the Geostorm seat’s power, which revved up more in the movie’s second and third act (thankfully) after too much talking and excessive story that, again, I don’t want in a disaster movie unless it’s eloquently executed and Geostorm was not. I found the dialogue to be blandly sentimental, especially the scenes with the guy who plays Gerard Butler’s brother (Sturgiss).

Because much of the movie is spent avoiding the geostorm as opposed to experiencing it, the stakes seemed lower than what classic disaster films tend to offer. Would’ve been a bore if not for the 4DX. (That said, I did slightly tear up at the end because the state of the world has weakened my emotional blocks.)

Me

Geostorm relies on the havoc of global weather paradoxes: a flash heat wave, a sudden ice storm in the desert. So what happens to your body? During flooding scenes, water sprayed from the theater’s ceiling just enough to leave droplets on my 3D glasses. (I giggled a lot.) And during violent car chases, the seat shook and turned into one of those Six Flags rides you’re peer-pressured to get on even though your “friends” know how much rollercoasters leave you traumatized. I get that they want to create as many physical moments for the moviegoer as possible, but the shift in visual perspective threw me off at certain points—sometimes it’s first-person virtual reality and other times it’s your body bracing the impact as a spectator.

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At one or more points, the chair playfully struck me in the back as if I did something to it and this was not unlike a massage chair malfunctioning and rebelling against me. Though my body and soul weren’t prepared for that type of intensity, I have to say I enjoyed it. In fact, I wish there was MORE. That would have truly transformed Geostorm into a ludicrous 4DX sensory overload totality. If you’re giving me an elaborate flat story, then why not pair it with intense smells, bonkers lighting effects and a wild physical experience in the theater (and lower the price for it). When someone in the family next to me joked about the need for a seatbelt, I thought, honestly that would be a nice idea. And also, that 4DX is kind of a masochist experience if you think about it. —Clover Hope