Gerard Butler had his moment.
Great fame didn’t come to him in the title role of “The Phantom of the Opera,” or via that sweet, sentimental indie romance, “Dear Frankie.”
But when it did, by virtue of his brutish, manly turn as King Leonidas in “300” (2006), he made hay while the sun shone. Romantic comedies with the likes of Jennifer Aniston, romantic weepers (“P.S. I Love You”) and engaging, blustery supporting work in “Nim’s Island,” a turn with “Guy Ritchie (“RocknRolla”), even a little Shakepeare (“Coriolanus”).
Far too many of these flopped, however. Comedies (“Playing for Keeps”) dried up, offbeat fare (“Chasing Mavericks,” A Family Man”) wouldn’t pay the bills.
Which is why we’ve seen the Scot morph into an utterly generic B-list man of action, the star Hollywood calls if Dwayne Johnson, Liam Neeson, Denzel or one of the younger versions of them (Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, etc) aren’t interested.
“Geostorm” isn’t “Olympus Has Fallen” or “Gods of Egypt.” It’s no better or worse than any of them, but it gives one little hope for the upcoming “Hunter Killer” (sub captain tries to save the Russian president) or “Den of Thieves” (ruthless cops vs. ruthless robbers) or, for that matter, “Angel Has Fallen,” sequel to “London Has Fallen” which was a sequel to “Olympus Has Fallen.” Butler is in a bad-movie rut.
Directed by the producing partner of “2012,” “Independence Day,” etc. it’s an effects-driven extravaganza with cities torched or flooded, an outer space element and a largely international cast. None of which adds up to a feather in the Great Scot’s bonnet.
He’s the renegade, can-do scientist whose work on “Dutch Boy,” a vast weather-controlling satellite network, could have been a great gift to the world.
“It works. You’re welcome.”
Until, of course, something goes wrong. And he’s lost in the sea of other faces, storylines that send him into space when much of the mayhem, conspiracies and what not are faced by his scientist-brother (Jim Sturgess) here on Earth.
Sturgess gets the love interest (Abbie Cornish, as a Secret Service agent), the tech hottie to flirt with (Zazie Beetz), the car chase and the bullets to dodge. Butler? He’s got the little girl (Tabitha Bateman) he’s “promised” to come home to. From space. He’s bickering with the Mexican (comic Eugenio Derbez), the Egyptian with a British character name (Amr Waked) or the German station commander (Alexandra Maria Lara) on a vast space station, trying to figure out why these satellites have started cooking Hong Kong and freezing Afghanistan.
Dean Devlin sees to it that the effects come off.
The one “cute” bit sees Sturgess, the government intermediary for all this, get schooled and insulted with his first-ever old-age joke by the tech whiz.
“Awww, Grandpa needs help fixing his phone?”
The rest — you’re two steps ahead of the plot, from the first city to face the true apocalypse of the Geostorm (Orlando) to the villain who is behind all this (Read the cast list below, and guess).
And Butler, a great favorite of mine and legions of little old ladies who swooned over his “Phantom” (“Gerry-atrics,” we call them)? Maybe it’s apt that he’s lost in space here.
One thing easily recognized when you see a leading man trapped in mid-Nicolas Cage free fall is an actor in eclipse.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for destruction, action and violence
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Adepero Oduye, Andy Garcia, Eugenio Derbuez, Ed Harris, Daniel Wu, Richard Schiff, Talitha Bateman
Running time: 1:49