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Geostorm (2017)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/23/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/11/2018

When filmmaking was first invented, people like Edison simply documented events in the beginning. As the idea of narrative movies evolved, one of the earliest genres to emerge was disaster movies, as directors realized that audiences were entertained by seeing things being destroyed. This idea continued through the decades, hitting a high in the 1970s with movies like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno. Things changed in 1996 with the premiere of Independence Day. Director Roland Emmerich and Producer Dean Deviln took advantage of modern visual effects and destroyed a lot of major cities. This is something which they would repeat in Godzilla. Emmerich would go on to annihilate the Earth in other movies, while Devlin moved to television. He is now making his feature-film directing debut with Geostorm, apparently picking up the destructive baton.

Geostorm is set in a near future where climate change has created storms which cause mass destruction. Because of this, Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) leads an international team which creates "Dutch Boy", a network of satellites which encircle the globe and which can control the weather, thus ending the chaos. However, because of his rebellious nature, Jake is pulled off of the project and his brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), is placed in charge. Three years later, "Dutch Boy" malfunctions, causing a deadly freeze in the desert and catastrophic heat in Hong Kong. Max convinces Jake to head into space to investigate the problem, where he finds that sabotage is afoot. Can Jake and Max set aside their differences and save the world?

In my recent review for M.F.A., I discussed how timeliness can really help a film either get its message across or to feel relevant. We certainly get the latter with Geostorm. As climate change is often prominently featured in the news today, it's not surprising that a movie would use this as a jumping off point. And the movie takes the idea one step further by presenting a science-fiction explanation for how to defeat this problem. Of course, Devlin's former partner Emmerich already tackled this in 2004's The Day After Tomorrow and, to an extent, in 2009's 2012. Given that, one would think that Devlin would have plenty of time to examine those films and avoid their pitfalls.

But, he doesn't. In fact, Devlin seems determined to embrace as many of the sub-genre's cliches as possible, borrowing liberally from the history of disaster films, much of Emmerich's work, and Armageddon, all the while throwing in a dash of a political thriller. I didn't expect Geostorm to be a shockingly original movie, but once you get past the initial premise...wait a minute...wasn't 1998's The Avengers about someone trying to destroy the Earth with a weather machine? OK, once you get past the modern-take on the initial premise, the movie turns into a cavalcade of moments which we've seen in other films. From the brothers who have to reconcile to save the day to the colorful international crew to the self-sacrificing in the third act, there isn't a moment in Geostorm which feels fresh. (The space-station finale was done much better in last year's Life.)

Those who weren't looking for originality no doubt tuned into Geostorm hoping to see some class disaster-movie action, as promised by the trailer and by the poster. Well, those people will be disappointed as well. The image from the poster, which appears to show Jake holding his daughter as a tidal wave approaches isn't even in the movie. We get a handful of scenes showing the destructive forces of the weather and save for a shot showing the fate of an airliner, they are all forgettable. The lightning strikes, sudden freezes, and big waves are well-depicted through the visual effects, but they carry little emotional weight, and just like most aspects of the story, they pale in comparison to things which we've seen before. The one silver lining here is that Devlin did not show The White House being destroyed yet again.

With Devlin serving as Director, Co-Writer, and Producer, he probably didn't have to convince too many other people to green-light the film. And, as noted above, while a movie about climate change probably seemed like a slam-dunk at the time, they really should have put some more work into providing some originality to the movie. The box-office results certainly show that the public had little interest in the movie. Of course, I would be willing to wager that many of them saw the trailer and didn't believe that the movie was real.

Geostorm will hopefully blow off to Altoona on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is impressive, as we can make out textures on objects, and the depth works quite well here. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. (Which is a high bitrate for Warner.) The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. While a 7.1 track which have been very welcomed on a movie like this, the audio included here does the job quite nicely. The subwoofer effects are prevalent and provide wall-shaking power during the disaster scenes and the finale. We feel every explosion and crumbling building. The surround sound effects are nicely detailed and we can pick out individual sounds at times. The stereo effects highlight sounds coming from off-screen.

The Geostorm Blu-ray Disc contains three extra features. "Wreaking Havoc" (7 minutes) allows the filmmakers a chance to discuss the film's visual effects and how the various weather disasters were created. (It's amazing to hear the amount of work went into these scenes.) "The Search for Answers" (4 minutes) examines the origin of the film's initial concept and how the script came together. The use of a global team and cast (ala Star Trek) is examined in "An International Event" (6 minutes).

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long