"I cannot emphasize this enough, you need to get out, and I mean now."
When you look at most disaster movies, they’re usually typical popcorn flicks. Big on spectacle and loose on character and plot. Even the best ones of recent years such as Twister (that’s recent-ish right) aren’t that great, and the older classics such as Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno have to be viewed with a good amount of leniency for the time at which they were made. So has this latest offering from Dwayne Johnson managed to defy expectations?
When a colossal earthquake rocks the west coast a Fire Department Helicopter pilot (Johnson) travels there to make sure his estranged family is safe. However, scientist Paul Giamatti predicts that the worst is far from over.
Director Brad… not that one… Payton has definitely harkened back to the days of B-Movie disaster flicks as inspiration for this one. Though the effects and scale of the destruction is astonishing to behold the character and plot are shaken away to make room for more magnificent, monster sized mayhem. Once upon a time Roland Emmerich was the master of this, but after 2012 many seem to think even he’s gone into self-parody and butchered the genre. All I can say is that if you live in San Francisco is must be tiresome to have tourists visit your city and expect to see it in ruins off the basis of these movies.
There’s a definite sense of fun though, as if the film knows it’s not reinventing the wheel or trying to break new ground, ironically. In many ways this is the film’s saving grace, if it had tried to be more serious than it is it would be doomed to the graveyard of blockbusters that are not good but rake in money, that plot of land is owned by Michael Bay.
Dwayne Johnson is another saving grace for San Andreas. His charisma and physical strength allows him to not only add a majority of the entertainment and full commitment to the situation that makes sure San Andreas avoids falling into the chasm of self-parody. There’s a perfect level of fortitude and strength to carry the role and just enough emotional weight to be mildly concerned when he is in danger, at least it stops you going to the bathroom halfway through. Given that most of the advertising focussed on making sure Johnson’s name was clearly visible, they certainly seemed to know that he was the best part of the movie.
While the Rock has good chemistry with his wife Carlo Gugino, who is also fine due to her experience with genre films, his daughter Alexandra Daddario seems to only be there to scream and run away, while fulfilling a very poorly written character arc that fails to evoke any kind of emotional attachment. Giamatti meanwhile has just a bit more to do, but not by a lot. Most of the time he appears to be around to provide exposition and never really becomes associated with Johnson and his dilemmas, meaning that you’re left wondering why he was really necessary. Giamatti does a fine job with what he’s given, but there’s not much to do.
Be honest though, were you really expecting a large amount of plot and characters. Were you expecting a concentration on emotion and left with a conclusion filled with humanity and a minimal use of CGI, NO! Anyone who goes to watch San Andreas will get exactly what they were expecting. The Rock saves people, destruction, earthquakes, science stuff you don’t really understand and probably never happens in real life, generic characters. Did I miss anything, no, because that’s what you get and in that respect San Andreas could be one of the best disaster films in recent years?
While the effects offer some moments of awe some are also obviously staged and as a result San Andreas suffers from a few bad attempts to concentrate on development after destruction and is decelerated slightly.