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‘Geostorm’: Review and Analysis of the Major Themes

By: Anjani Panchal, Ankita Yajnik, Cherish Mundhra, Dishari Malakar, Ishty Yadav, Pamela Modak, Yashika Tayal

The Hollywood disaster film “Geostorm” is based on the idea that mankind has found a way to control the Earth’s climate. Powerful satellite technology enables users to adjust the weather while overcoming the destructive effects of climate change. “Have a nice day, ciao”, until—spoiler—things stop going according to plan. 

Indeed, this movie is a novel set in a seemingly very unrealistic near future. Here’s a run-down of it. Shortly after one of the most violent hurricane seasons in recent history, hurricanes have hit the Bahamas, Bermuda, the East Coast of the United States, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Atlantic Canada. There have been tornadoes in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas. Floods and droughts have caused a devastating wave on our planet. Lower Manhattan has been swallowed by the river; within a day, a heatwave has claimed 2 million lives in Madrid, Spain. 

But there is something else the film makes clear. When we faced our own extinction, it was clear that no country could solve this problem alone. The world became united and we resisted. 

A poster of the film ‘Geostorm’

Scientists from 17 countries, led by the United States and China, worked tirelessly, not as representatives of their countries, but as representatives of humanity. They found a way to use a network of thousands of satellites to counteract the storm. Each satellite is an application environment for countermeasures against impacts. Basic elements like weather, heat, pressure and water are all controlled by the International Space Station. It might not be easy to imagine a world where we can regulate the weather. But is there any credible information behind Geostorm’s frivolity about the planetary government’s prospects and dangers?

This article is going to be a critical analysis of various pertinent themes of this movie. In doing so, we will draw upon various kinds of works and discourses: literary, philosophical, mythological, psychological, etc. We hope to open up a discussion about the value that can be found in science/speculative fiction films such as these, beyond the failures and marvels of science itself. 

Dystopian Aspect 

“Geostorm” is a movie set in an apocalyptic dystopia. But this isn’t a representation of utter absurdity. There is a focussed critique of a certain attitude towards power. The tendency to constantly prove that humans are the best/most advanced, has caused dystopia in society. Geostorm is an artificial conspiracy aimed at ending humanity. Jack Lawson is a construction worker who created “Dutchboy”. Dutchboy is a satellite network that can transform bad weather conditions on the earth into good weather conditions. 

Duncan Taylor, a technical expert, just for a few more dollars, decided to infect the Dutchboy system satellite with a virus, which actually caused all the chaos. Additionally, there are people like Leonard Deck whose power and status are also one of the leads behind the cause of this dystopia. Dekkom is also one of those who never wanted the United States to surrender or cooperate with other countries in the world. The Secretary of State of the United States wants to assassinate President Palma and become the next president, wanting to rule the world and continue totalitarianism.  

Dekkom’s totalitarian politics may be closely related to Ibopishak Singh’s poem, “The Land of the Half-Humans”. In this poem, we also find that the ruler of the land does not care about any of them. After being elected as the rulers, they showed their true colors to the people and wreaked havoc in the peaceful land. Dekkom’s plan is similar, and unlike President Palma, he has decided to get rid of them without giving other countries power and authority.

This movie is a warning to our future; we must be cautious about technology and our relationship with nature. But also, it is not too late: we need to work together. Drake and Ute Fassbinder successfully take advantage of this biblical storm. But we can clearly see the hierarchical advantages and mentality that still exist among the powerful.

Spacecraft

“What If” Theory

Dystopia as a genre raises the question of “what if?” And as the most intelligent species in the world, humans often share different fantasies and possibilities, which raises a general question: what if? 

What if people can fly? What if fish can talk? “

“What happens when a geostorm occurs?”

“To stop it is in our hands. But we can’t control nature.”

In this movie that depicts the potential future of the earth, humans eventually build satellites to control the weather, and natural disasters around the world seem to be increasing. However, it is still a machine and will inevitably face complications. All of this started when they started to launch the satellites. The world is bombarded by the effects of climate change thereupon. 

Given that human life is highly dependent on technology and machines and the global climate, do you think we will take similar steps in the future? 

Now is the time to take action and prevent the situation from getting worse. It is not too late, and we can still prevent our own home planet from splitting from within. Another question we must ask ourselves is: What if we do nothing about climate change? Somewhere in our minds, we know the answer. Nature is stronger than us. It is meaningless to believe otherwise. The only thing we need to remember is not only not to play with nature, but also Newton’s wisdom: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Perhaps the movie can be seen as a “what if” offshoot of what happens if we don’t take action until it’s too late. You can also see it as a part of the human effort that is trying to strive towards collective action for environmental change: and not just environmental change, but also an overhaul in how we see power and human relations.

Geostorm

Humanitarian Aspect

Speaking of human relations, the humanitarian aspect of the film is commendable. The film humanizes the catastrophic events in it. It protects the nature of the family and its importance in times of crisis, and embodies various human qualities such as friendship, loyalty, love, care, and not selfish interest. This seems to be common in a lot of great science fiction films. Consider “Interstellar”, for instance. The entire crux of that movie is related to the strengths and complexities of human bonds. 

Interestingly, if we study “Geostorm” in-depth, we will find references to Greek mythology in it. The project related to Geostorm is called Project Zeus, and it allows us to question the divinity of God in the context of natural disasters.   

Project Zeus is an evil act of mankind, designed to cause catastrophic natural disasters to destroy most animal races. Therefore, if we analyze this movie carefully, we will end up thinking about the boundary between death and divinity.   

The operators of Project Zeus are all sitting on Mount Olympus, and only the civilians suffer. Therefore, this can be seen as a severe criticism of the social hierarchy that exists in society. Several other cases support this statement.

Science and Technology

In the apocalyptic movie “Geostorm”, the President of the United States says: “Thanks to the satellite system, natural disasters are a thing of the past.” “We have completely controlled the climate.”   

There have been many discussions about human interference with the climate. When it comes to satellite technology, there are many ideas that are expected to control bad weather. For example, James Earley suggested establishing a “satellite constellation” between the earth and the sun to reduce radiation. Recently, Ross Hoffman has been studying the possibility of wind shifting the intensity of a hurricane.​​​   

Human intervention in air conditioning is called geoengineering. The idea of ​​geoengineering in the movie is not a lie. Recently, the UAE government used drones to create artificial rainfall in response to a very high temperature. This rain is produced using a method called cloud seeding. The process of condensation in clouds results in the formation of rain or snow.

How have we been handling our interactions with technology? How will this change in the future?

Technology and Humans

This popular Devlin movie “Geostorm” proves to be a comprehensive (but not credible) science fiction piece that describes when humans are “out of control”. The ability to control nature technically is borne as a result of global warming. Discussing the narrative of the film can lead to the revelation of the technical thinking behind the plot, which boils down to the belief that technology can provide the means to overcome extreme human-made (ultimately human action and inaction has led to the disasters)  natural processes and phenomena in this sense. In order to correctly view the technical philosophy behind “Geostorm”, Gil Germain’s (2017) work on technology is analyzed and used to interpret the film. 

The film in question illustrates what Germain calls a “technical misunderstanding of reality”, which means that this “misunderstanding” does not take into account science and modern technology related to it but is just a concrete explanation of “Reality” (Below other)—or what Jacques Lacan calls “reality”—not a “real” reflection of the essence of “reality,” as the technology enthusiast culture today calls it. 

This is an acceptable explanation. Relevant aspects of Germain’s work—such as the concept of “return”—have been clarified to reflect that although technology is regarded as a panacea for the modern world, it is ultimately a ballast that affects human and natural life and threatens to destroy ecology. However, movies like “Geostorm” can be seen to hide this from the public. Convincing simulations of the technical control of extreme weather events through the use of computer-generated images might be intended towards this.

It should be remembered that in the narrative of “Geostorm”, the human response to increasingly severe and extreme natural events such as typhoons and droughts caused by human-made global warming is to create a global satellite system that controls the climate. With this system, the earth’s climate interacts with the myopia management practices of people to cause large scale disasters. To understand the stakes here, and how the creators of “Geostorm” misinterpreted the relationship between humans and non-human nature, please note that Gil Germain talked about how thought interacts with technology, as visible in the subtitle of his recent book Thinking about Technology (2017): How the Technical Mind Misreads Reality

In movies like “Geostorm”, how do people use technical and scientific-technical means to control reality, because this is impossible in principle? The reason mentioned above (abstractly) is that science and technology represent only a few possible interpretations of viewpoints about reality—or more precisely what Jacques Lacan calls “reality”, that is, “something” in which symbolization or human cognition is resisted, and we usually experience it as a “lost encounter” at a traumatic moment. Since science and/or literature provides very different views on “reality”, there are also different and divergent “paradigms” in “a” scientific discipline, and each paradigm describes reality differently.

In short, the relationship between science/technology and humans is fraught and more complicated than is visible, because reality itself is often perceived inadequately. And there is a lack of self-awareness in such incomplete perceptions.

Geostorm

Real-World Scenarios

This movie has an epic motto: save the world from the dangers of the future. It is primarily based on the idea that humans can find a way to control the Earth’s climate. Well, what most of us can think of is, “Great!” But let’s look at some facts. 

Has NASA been working on climate control for many years? Think of how NASA collaborates with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NASA-operated satellites measure liquefied ice caps and the carbon dioxide that passes through them. The organization also operates aircraft to collect information about planetary changes and has an extensive, leading environmental research team. As everyone would agree, the first step is the most important.   

NASA plans to begin research on Libera, which will be put on the market in 2027 to measure solar radiation. Although the plan is still in its infancy, it looks like we will catch up with climatology soon.   

Speaking of India, Kalpana1, INSAT 3A, INSAT 3D, Megha Tropiques and other satellites were launched into the geostationary orbit to observe it.   

Groups of earth engineers from all over the world put forward several suggestions to prevent or reverse climate change:   

  • Cool the earth’s surface by pouring reflective particles into the upper-medium to diffuse sunlight and return to space for reflection. 
  • The ocean is treated with iron to revitalize phytoplankton in this sense and to remove carbon dioxide from the climate through photosynthesis.

As is clear, a lot of work is going on that is aiming at high-tech management of the climate. But this is not all that’s required, and it isn’t immune to problems either, as is clear from all the points raised. What is needed is a change in the way humans look at this world, at themselves, and at the future. While technology is becoming advanced to an extent that it might mitigate certain extreme conditions, this won’t be sufficient. 

Conclusion

Given the extensive engineering modeling of extreme weather events in Devlin’s “Geostorm”, it is important that modeling (or rather its “impact”) becomes the most common example of “retaliation” in today’s tech-savvy society. When images copied in any way are purely for technical efficiency (such as idealized forms of reality), intrusive modeling can lead to what Baudrillard calls “surreal” because of the words circulating in the modern communication and information world. The concept of harmony represents an important “liberation”. 

Beginning when the public was already worried or even panicked about extreme weather conditions, “Geostorm” was absolutely impressed with its effect-based performances. It has everything you expect from a movie threat script: the dystopia of human existence. The familiar warmth, a wealth of scientific facts which may not even make sense to most viewers, the general feeling of mission failure until the last minute, and the basic tone of sympathy throughout the film. It should be noted that at first glance, from the perspective of political disasters rather than natural disasters, the impact of earth storms is greater.

But what can be most effectively learned from this film, despite its shortcomings, is that human power relations and manoeuvring have a lot to do with the state of the planet. And on the other side of the coin, so do human relationships. While we change the world, we change ourselves. Or perhaps the former is impossible without the latter. Films like “Geostorm” make us ponder on these questions and perhaps that is their biggest strength. 

Bibliography

https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poem/6318/auto/0/0/Thangjam-Ibopishak-Singh/THE-LAND-OF-THE-HALF-HUMANS/en/tile

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/science-behind-geostorm-newest-weather-fueled-doomsday-flick-180965303/

https://www.cnbctv18.com/science/artificial-rain-explained-are-dubais-drone-powered-clouds-a-silver-lining-for-future-10119711.htm

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