When writer-director Dean Devlin titled his handsomely budgeted new action tentpole Geostorm, he entered into an unspoken pact with his prospective audience. He chose a goofy, make-believe word, and in doing so, promised a goofy, make-believe movie. Nobody’s walking into the auditorium looking for lofty insights on the complexities of the human condition, or even a commentary on how the timebomb that is climate change continues ticking away due to political gridlock. It ain’t Citizen Kane and it ain’t An Inconvenient Truth, and there’s no sport in expecting it to be. All parties involved should understand the terms of this tacit agreement, an “if you build it, they will come” proposition in which “it” refers to nothing short of a natural apocalypse. All Devlin needed to do was deliver a storm, and no ordinary storm – a storm of geo-proportions. To put it in the parlance of our times, you had one job.
Imagine, then, a re-edit of Jaws in which Richard Dreyfuss and company get word from authorities at sea that a shark is on the way to savage their precious shores. They then spend most of the film doing everything in their power to prevent the shark’s arrival, and though Spielberg occasionally cuts to reveal a sliver of fin, they successfully ward off the leviathan before the beach turns bloodbath. Devlin lets out minute-long dribs and drabs of Mother Gaia’s terrible might, torching Hong Kong here and drowning Abu Dhabi there, but viewers take heed: there is no full-blown geostorm in Geostorm. We have been sold a false bill of goods.