‘Geostorm,’ entertaining, somewhat disappointing

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The annual Hollywood apocalypse is upon us. The inconvenient truth is the hurricane in Puerto Rico and flooding in Houston were so much more terrifying than anything Hollywood could create with a hundred million dollars of “Geostorm.” The digital effects are first rate, but we’ve been jaded by the live events of the past several weeks.

Dean Devlin, writer and producer of “Independence Day” (1996) makes his feature length directorial debut, as he co-writes with Paul Guyat (“The Librarians”). Devlin brings to bear all the elements of a successful blockbuster, but the result cannot live up to the master of disaster, Roland Emmerich, (“Independence Day,” “Day After Tomorrow”).

In this “fictional” account, rising temperatures caused severe weather conditions, violent hurricanes and severe flooding from rising ocean levels. Who’d a thunk it? As nations were losing entire cities, a satellite network was initiated by seventeen nations, led by the U.S. and China, united in efforts to save the world from extinction.

In the lead role, Gerard Butler (“London has Fallen,” “Olympus has Fallen”) gives it his all, while earth has fallen. As Jake Lawson, he is the developer of a giant space station, called “Dutch Boy,” that manages the network of satellites controlling the earth’s climate.

The satellites surround the world with geo-engineering technologies designed to alter the weather and stave off the natural disasters. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature, so after successfully protecting the planet for two years, something starts to go very wrong. In the midst of the Afghan desert, a village is hit with a blizzard and its citizens frozen solid. Meanwhile, Hong Kong streets become a scalding incinerator.

The dazzling CGI effects start right from the get-go; even more so than prior features, if that’s possible. Devlin is meticulous in the slow motion mass destruction of urban dwellings and infrastructures. The craft is actually quite stunning. But after dozens of similar scenes, it seems less about advancing the storyline and more about a sadistic technological thrill. It has been said that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

After a sudden barrage of blizzards, tsunamis, tornadoes and lightning strikes, Dopler 7000 forecasts a high probability of a Geostorm, which is simultaneous cataclysmic weather events beyond what our earth can withstand. As it turns out, the American official in charge of the rescue project is Max Lawson (Jim Sturgess), Jake’s estranged younger brother. For the sake of the world, they must work together.

Butler and Sturgess are only nine years apart but seem more like twenty. Nevertheless, they effectively establish that brother tension and banter (he hit me first!). Making matters worse, they face a seemingly unhinged President bent on terminating coalitions with our allies. Setting aside petty differences, Jake and Max must solve the political and technical breakdowns before the looming worldwide Geostorm engulfs the planet.

Too often, this plays like a movie on the Sci-Fi channel, but the acting is better than average and digital effects range from astounding to spectacular. We see more cities getting annihilated, such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Moscow, Dubai, Mumbai and Rio, each by a different natural event. As in all good apocalyptic movies, there is a large digital clock, counting down the minutes and seconds to doomsday. Will they get there in time?

“Geostrom” is 109 minutes and rated PG-13 for destruction, action and violence. The strong supporting cast includes Andy Garcia, Ed Harris, Abbie Cornish, Richard Schiff and Mare Winningham. This movie was delayed almost a year due to re-writes and re-shoots, costing up to $15 million. Glad we didn’t see the prior version.

If you like this genre, you’ll be mostly entertained but somewhat disappointed. Not many scripts could live up to these effects and this is one of them. In fairness, the actors are likable; there is a level of suspense throughout and a satisfying grand finale that helps make it all worthwhile. Afterward, we did have to ask, “Should an insurance company compensate a church destroyed by an act of God?”

Ron’s Rating: C+
Leigh’s Rating: B-

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Ron & Leigh Martel