As the American film industry reacts—on a delay of about two years—to the current political tumult gripping the country, one expects to see movies about authoritarian rule, about immigration, about police brutality, about myriad other injustices. They have indeed begun trickling in—this definitive Trump-era film premiering at Cannes (BlacKkKlansman), that definitive Trump-era film debuting at Toronto (Knives Out). They’re responsive, alert, cathartic in their temporary way. Hollywood is good at addressing the recent past pertinently enough to make it feel like the present.
But what about the future? Plenty of speculative films exist, sci-fi and satire most often, that imagine where all this mess might be headed. And yet the most tangibly credible future—one in which climate change has fundamentally altered life on Earth—has proven difficult for the movies to grapple with. Which is strange, and unfortunate, given how pressing the issue is to every single person on the planet. The topic is not only pressing, it’s distressingly cinematic: floods, superstorms, mass migrations of people. Why isn’t climate change what every other movie is about?
Of course Hollywood has tried to talk about the topic before. Most recently there was Dean Devlin’s 2017 disaster film, Geostorm, about a weather-controlling satellite system that is hijacked by bad guys and used to wreak havoc across the world. Horrifying heat spells and sudden deep freezes ravage the globe, while a muscled scientist played by Gerard Butler tries to save the day. It’s a B movie fine time, silly and grave in equal measure and certainly not correct in its science.
Only, Geostorm safely positions itself in a time past the immediate effects of climate change—the satellite network in question was invented to reverse the catastrophic changes in weather brought about by carbon emissions. “Everyone was warned, but no one listened,” a child’s voice says over the opening credits, before the planet’s solution to the problem—the “Dutch Boy” satellite system—is introduced. So, in essence, Geostorm has kind of already fixed the problem, which is not a reality we seem likely to meet here in the real world anytime soon.