I have recently been to see the new disaster movie Geostorm, but first let me paint the picture of where I am. As a professional paleontologist, I’m currently attending the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Seattle, Washington. I had realized earlier this week that I would be at this meeting with thousands of geologists at the same time that Geostorm was released, and I thought, “Hey! Awesome! This must be a sign”.
A few friends and I decided to brave the storm (pun intended?) and go see the movie, in 4D! That means seats that really move and vibrate (like at a Disney ride), wind blowing in your face and behind your head, water spray, and “lightning” effects. So despite the bad reviews, we decided to double down and spend $25 per ticket on this hopefully “so bad, it’s good” movie.
So there I am, with several other geologists, who are all at least slightly inebriated (as geologists tend to be), ready to enjoy the movie. And at the beginning, I was with it. The first few minutes are a climate change lecture, essentially about how mankind has been destroying our environment. In the near future (not so near? I really have no clue; they said a year but I don’t care enough to look it up) mankind has developed technology that can control the weather, to help abate that climate change. This technology involves a satellite net, nicknamed “Dutchboy”, that surrounds the globe and is operated from the International Space Station. The satellite net is designed to break up storms or whatever other global anomalies, before they become major incidents.
Fast forward to the future and some problems begin to develop in the system and weird weather anomalies start to pop up. These problems keep occurring and growing, causing more and more damage across the globe, and it’s the job of Gerard Butler’s character to go up to the space station and figure out what’s going wrong with the system and get everything back on track.
Now, the way I go into these movies is with a professor’s mind. I LOVE bad geology movies because I can use them as teaching tools to show what they got right and what they got wrong, and why they got it wrong. So with every scene in a disaster movie, I’ll sit back and think, “Now is that possible? How could that happen in real life? Is the science they are using (or even the science they are making up) valid to explain their process? (Seriously, this is what I think about).
After the first incident — when the network goes wrong and an entire village is flash-frozen — I’m thinking, “Okay, I can see how that might have happened”. After the second incident, I’m sitting back, completely puzzled. The satellites are causing a heat storm in Hong Kong, but the ground is getting super heated before the buildings? Basically nothing about it I can explain, and they start to lose me. It’s a quick downward spiral from there.
In the third incident, satellites flash-freeze an ocean/beach near Rio Di Janeiro (at least I think it was) where bikini clad girls run away from the coming chill. Basically the second anything touches this super-frozen air, it becomes instantly frozen as well, much the same way as the heat storm, when a character managed to get away from 180-degree heat by running and then driving away from it. This occurs despite the fact that these temperatures should at least dissipate a little outside of their impact zone. But no, it’s like atmospheric currents are completely irrelevant. Things freeze here instantly, but you’re fine as long as you’re a couple of inches outside of the impact zone.
By the mid-point of the movie, there is literally nothing I can justify anymore. It’s like they went in thinking it was a sci-fi disaster movie and they really didn’t need to scientifically explain any of it, so nothing ends up making sense. Why does this happen? Who cares, it just does. But you can’t do that. We just did. And so on.
The fourth (and thankfully final) event is the start of the titled “Geostorm;” a global storm that will leave humanity devastated. These multiple storms include hail the size of cars (maybe possible?), hundreds of practically simultaneous lightning strikes within a few hundred square feet (impossible), and tornadoes that are piling on top of each other (wha??), among other things.
Also by this point, the movie has completely dispensed with the idea that the satellites disperse the storms by dropping some sort of physical objects into the clouds. Now, the satellites are just pumping lasers into the ground for direct heat increase, or some other stupid feature. The climax of the movie comes when lightning is so well pinpointed that they it’s able to blow up a stadium with coordinated strikes.
There’s stupid, and then there is this movie, which defies any and all descriptive indicators.
So Bad It’s … Well, It’s Just Plain Bad
The 4D experience was rather interesting, though. What it basically boiled down to was: “I’m cold, now you blew air on me and I’m colder. Oh good. Water in my face.” I was freezing through a majority of the movie because of this. Being punched in the back by the hail effect didn’t make things better, although I did laugh out loud when the wind picked up my neighbor’s garbage and blew it across my face. Now that’s realism!
I expected more banter from my fellow geologists, but the wind, water, cold, and the movie itself had a tremendous ability to deaden our spirits during the show. They later told me the only reason they stayed awake during the movie was because they would have been thrown out of their chairs otherwise.
Despite all the terrible science and bad acting, I think the biggest sin of this movie is … SPOILER WARNING … TURN BACK NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED … Okay, yea I didn’t think so. You and I both know you have zero intention of seeing this movie, and even if you did, you’re still going to read this. The biggest sin of the movie was that the entire point of these massive storms erupting from the satellite network was a plot to kill the president and all his successors. This was engineered by the Secretary of State, so that he could become the new president.
So what you’re telling me is that the whole premise of the movie, that you spent forever building to with this mystery of why the storms were happening, was such a clichéd movie trope that you probably saw it in another movie and went, “Yeah, let’s do that”? That’s the point of all this?!?!
I was angry after realizing this. So very pissed. I could forget many things about a bad science movie, but this was unforgivable. All I could think about was how America would be viewed by murdering millions of people just so one douchecanoe could become president. F--k that.
Overall, the most anyone could say about the movie is summed up by my friend Rob Gay, who took this apt photo: