“When this hits, you’re gonna feel it on the east coast..”
In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter.
Disaster films are certainly a different breed in cinema. With every one of these world ending plunders there has two be a few things formulaically. There of course has to be a scientifically, biologically, and universally unfathomable catastrophic event. Secondly there has to be a human element, some sort of dynamic that centers the destruction and gives the audience something to cheer for. Thirdly, and this is key, it has to lack all believability and have terrible, and I mean world ending terrible, dialogue.
San Andreas is the ultimate disaster movie. It’s a CGI filled monster complete with toppled buildings, massive explosions, and even a giant tsunami. You name it this film has it. We even get two outrageously gorgeous female stars, and a name synonymous with mega action and over the top cheese, The Rock! San Andreas promised to be one of the most mindless, epic, action packed films of the summer and it delivers in spades.
The story centers on the Ray (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Emma (Carla Gugino), along with their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), Emma’s new boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd), and Blake’s delightful British buddies Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Art Parkinson). This group of beautiful people are about as superficial as they come. Each with a story more stereotypically predictable then the last. From the trailer it’s safe to say that very few would believe any of these people are ever in any real danger. They’re all just too pretty to die with the rest of the peasants in this tragedy. Then of course there is Ioan, who, from the moment he steps into frame, you just can’t wait to see him die! It’s all just so wonderfully contrived. The “plot” essentially centers on our white knight and his ex wife braving the elements of the world’s largest recorded seismic event to save their daughter. It’s just so beautifully heartwarming, and original, and not in an way manipulative… Oh wait, awkward.
Okay so San Andreas isn’t Shakespearean. It falls down the disaster movie well and hits every single trope on it’s way to the abyss, but one thing San Andreas is, is fun. It is visceral and electrifying. It is action packed, and semi suspenseful. It is even a little funny,and at times, although manipulatively so, kind of emotionally poignant. It is a summer blockbuster on steroids, and it is B-movie disastrous fun. The visuals are some of the best we have seen from any film in quite sometime. It certainly felt like California was splitting in half. The skyscrapers crashing down and the people running for their lives, are all tragically beautiful. This has wide appeal, and it is mindless gluttonous unabashed amusement. The landscape is used to perfection, and we’re left with a setting that becomes the film’s only decent character. The action choreography is over the top, but still a spectacle in and of itself. We’re scaling hilly city streets and jumping and swimming all over San Francisco. The Rock is, well The Rock. He brings with him is hulking charisma and machismo, and he makes you believe his character is a surreally supermanish figure, as The Rock does with all his characters. He leaps, he swims, he flies.. No seriously he is a rescue helicopter pilot so he really does fly. He even skydives, because when you’re a rescue pilot it pays to just say screw it and abandon ship. He is the jack of all trades, and literally has virtually no flaws other than he is slightly, and I do mean slightly, emotionally unavailable.
The rest of the cast is as serviceable as the direction and script call for them to be. Let’s face it, no one’s paying ten bucks to see these people act. No the audience wants to see them battle insurmountable odds, while their world falls to visually pleasing ruins. That being said, it’s a wonder Ioan Gruffudd is in anything ever. He is as terrible here as he is in all things, and quite literally the audience spends a nice chunk of this film rooting for is potential demise. Which is funny because he is one of the individuals responsible for nearly killing a major comic book franchise. Yep that is a wink to the Fantastic 4 films where he starred as mister Fantastic. Though there was nothing fantastic about his performance, or any of his performances, he gives the audience a scapegoat for the carnage by allowing them to literally cheer for death.
Look, San Andreas isn’t winning any major awards. It’s not best directed, or best screenplay, and it definitely is not best picture by any stretch, but it is crazy fun and that is all it promised it would be. Like titles such as Furious 7, or Taken 3, this is just meant to be in good fun. If you come into this film with the idea that you are getting anything deeper than surface level blockbuster kickassery then you’re.. Well very misguided because the marketing did not even hint at that in any way. This is a sci-fi channel disaster movie with a huge budget, some pretty stars, and a ton of chaos. San Andreas lacks all subtlety, it’s an in your face action thrill ride. Dwayne Johnson does it again with his million dollar smile and uncontrollable charm. Gugino and Daddario are scintillatingly hot, and also relatively solid. Even Paul Giamatti’s turn as the psychic seismologists is all in good fun. Do yourself a favor, grab a bunch of your friends, check this thing out in theaters, grab some extra buttery popcorn to stuff your face with, and just go have some fun with it. San Andreas never asks too much of it’s audience, so it’s only fair the audience return that favor.
3.5/5 Not Bad Bro