' ' Cinema Romantico: Shout-Out to the Extra(s): Geostorm Version

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Shout-Out to the Extra(s): Geostorm Version

Shout-Out to the Extra is a sporadic series in which Cinema Romantico shouts out the extras, the background actors, the bit part players, the almost out of your sight line performers who expertly round out our movies with epic blink & you’ll miss it care. 

Disaster movies are inherently obligated to spend large swaths of time simply filling the screen with their chosen calamities, whether it’s monsters or meteorological events or some mixture of the two. No matter how impressively rendered these disasters might be, however, they are often not enough to in and of themselves communicate the full weight of terror. No, that requires a human counterpoint, and so for ages directors have employed standby reaction shots, cutting from the disaster to some nameless, slack-jawed extra staring up at a green screen, or capturing some nimble-footed extra fleeing the impending doom wrecker. If so many of these stock scenes are forgettable even as they are happening, some occasionally, whether through intentional or unintentional inspiration, can achieve glory, like the Margarita Guy from “Jurassic World.”

Dean Devlin’s “Geostorm” is packed with these stock scenes. The scenic beaches of Rio de Janeiro, for instance, are swallowed whole by an icy tidal wave, blotting out the sunshine and sending scantily clad beachgoers scrambling, including one young — expositorily deemed Bikini Girl in the closing credits — the camera locks onto as she runs, and runs, and runs, somehow staying not only one step ahead of the looming tidal wave but evading a jetliner that ices over in the sky and crashes directly behind her. The latter happens directly behind her as she comes up against a no-way-out wall in some alley, which seems like far too small a space to accomodate such a theoretically smashing sequence, never mind allowing her to escape unharmed, which she apparently does, despite doing nothing more than covering her head as the plane smashes apart, though who knows because we never see her again. Once the tidal wave sequence is complete, the movie’s use for her ceases, as is the case with so many valiant disaster movie extras.

If it’s not the funniest scene in the movie, that’s only because there are so many to choose from, like the Democratic National Convention getting incinerated by lightning. To explain why our extra in that scene rules, we have to set up the scene fully, which requires us to explain the whole movie, which is to say that a global satellite system designed to control the weather has been hacked in order to unleash the eponymous Geostorm on an unsuspecting Earth. Only the President of the United States (Andy Garcia) has access to the codes that can kill the Geostorm, and to get to the President, the film’s co-hero (Jim Sturgess) and his secret service agent lady friend (Abbie Cornish) stage an assassination attempt at the Democratic National Convention by firing a few shots into the air. This naturally causes everyone to panic and flee, though the Secret Service, if you watch closely, is really, really slow on the draw in getting to POTUS in the aftermath of those shots, and, long story short, the President winds up in a car with the film’s co-hero and his secret service agent lady friend as the Geostorm is about to devour the arena where hosting the DNC where they just were.

Okay. So. While simply showing the arena from the outside as it is incinerated does allow for some prime LOOK CONCERNED WHILE LOOKING AT THE GREEN SCREEN! reaction shots from Andy Garcia and Jim Sturgess, that is nothing compared to the brief scene back inside the arena just before it gets blown to smithereens, a scene involving a nameless extra we will simply deem Dr. Phil Lookalike. This extra.....

If most everyone else has fled on account of, you know, an assassination attempt and an impending Geostorm, Dr. Phil Lookalike is still sitting there on his folding chair with this miniature American flag waiting for...who knows what. Obviously he is just planted there by the film’s director to proffer the aforementioned human counterpoint to the arena being incinerated a couple seconds later, but the make-believe backstory that emerges in one’s mind over Dr. Phil Lookalike waiting the Geostorm out is nonetheless pretty comical. And, of course, that comicality is brought home in his expression, which is brilliantly juxtaposed against the more conventional Oh No expression of the extra in the lower left hand corner of the frame. Dr. Phil Lookalike’s expression is more crabbily fatalistic, seeming to suggest a man who chose to shelter in place and now realizes, a split-second before he merges with the infinite that, hells bells, he choose wrong. Godspeed, Dr. Phil Lookalike, we hardly knew ye.

Pour one out for the extra(s).....

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