A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Geostorm is an action/disaster movie starring Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess about a global superstorm that threatens to wipe out the planet. So you can expect tons of large-scale death and destruction (whole cities wiped out abruptly, etc.) -- as well as a fight, a shootout, a car chase, and a character dying after getting hit by a car -- but nothing particularly bloody/graphic. There's also occasional mild language ("s--t," "goddamn," etc.). Younger kids could be scared by images of people instantly freezing to death, but no suffering is conveyed. While the messages and characters are both pretty thin, the movie does portray women in multiple positions of skill and power and a young girl who's scientifically adept.
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What's the story?
In the near future of GEOSTORM, a global network of satellites is created to not just slow the effects of climate change but actually control the weather. When the maverick genius who created the system gets fired, accidents start happening -- with lethal results. But as these unexplained events grow in frequency, it turns out that they might not be accidents after all. Can big-brained bad boy outsider Jake (Gerard Butler) and his politically adept brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), solve the mystery before these events combine to create one, unstoppable storm that could kill us all?
Is it any good?
The forecast calls for a CGI haze that can't obscure increasing clouds of laughability, resulting in a Category 4 eye-rolling storm. When you buy a ticket for a sci-fi/disaster movie, you know you're signing a suspension-of-disbelief contract. No worries! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the CGI. But Geostorm strains that contract to its breaking point. We start with the notion that in 2019 (so soon!), a global network of satellites will shoot stuff into the air to control the weather. (Apparently, this will be necessary because climate change will kill two million people in one day in a major city.) OK. But within a film's world, people should still have to behave as if there are rules. Here, it seems to come as a total shock to everyone that anyone would think of weaponizing such godlike power ... even though it's in the hands of the country that created the atomic bomb.
Geostorm lives and dies by its visual effects; disaster junkies will get their fix of Hong Kong, Moscow, and other major cities getting destroyed by magic weather powers. But its true inspiration comes from whodunits and '70s paranoia thrillers, as the good guys try to unravel a conspiracy before the manipulated system creates the geostorm that will end us all. Bad boy Butler, who's becoming a bit of a warning sign for ticket buyers, battles/teams up with by-the-rules Sturgess (in a non-administration-approved haircut) to solve the mystery. Helping out are two criminally underused actresses, Alexandra Maria Lara as a space station commander and Abbie Cornish as a powerful Secret Service agent, plus rising star/scene stealer Zazie Beetz as a highly skilled IT tech. Beetz gets the laughs, Cornish provides the action, and the wonderful Lara deserves more screen time. But that's it for the highlights, as Geostorm clearly wasn't thought through too carefully. When things go wrong, instead of sending up 100 scientists to analyze it, the president sends one man (guess who?); the most basic questions of the investigation come as a surprise to all; there are one-passenger shuttle flights (think of the cost, even in coach); clumsy exposition hobbles many scenes; and an attempt at brotherly drama goes nowhere. Even the CGI destruction doesn't satisfy. The only interesting dialogue comes in one scene near the end, when the mystery is solved. The real mystery, though, is whether disaster movies have run their course for now, as we've all become inured to VFX. That's a question for another day, and Geostorm isn't the answer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Geostorm's violence. What's the appeal of disaster movies? The enormity and frequency of massive-scale destruction can be overwhelming. Is this kind of violence more or less upsetting than gory horror movies? Why?
How are real-world issues like climate change typically handled in movies? Is this film an effective way to examine that particular issue (i.e., does it make you think, does it seem like a realistic extension of that idea)?
Did the villain have a point at the end, in terms of what the "positive" result of these actions could be? What would you have done, if presented with the same choice?
How does this movie compare to other "disaster movies" you may have seen? Why has this genre always been so popular? Do you think a disaster like this could actually occur?
- In theaters: October 20, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: January 23, 2018
- Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Talitha Bateman
- Director: Dean Devlin
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Science and Nature
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: destruction, action and violence
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