Director: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, and Will Yun Lee
I remember in grade school when my science teacher talked about how a big enough earthquake would eventually drop California into the Pacific Ocean. Call in the summer blockbuster movie makers to make this story a realization through the extravagance of special effects. We’ve seen New York flood and freeze over in “The Day After Tomorrow”, we’ve seen a dormant volcano spew lava over the streets of Los Angeles in “Volcano”, we’ve even already seen an earthquake destroy most of Los Angeles in 1974’s “Earthquake”, it was only a matter of time before the natural disaster would return to the big screen. This time the film adds exceptional special effects to make the collapsing Golden Gate Bridge and crumbing Los Angeles skyline feel as realistic as possible. For those that have seen the movie trailer, you know what you are getting into and why you are going. It’s not for science factual filmmaking or in depth narrative structure. It’s for the rumbling and tumbling visual stimulation of the disaster film; everything else is merely an afterthought..
Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is a rescue helicopter pilot in California. Fresh off a rescue that saved the life of a young woman, Ray is eager to help his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) move back to college. Unfortunately an earthquake forces Ray back to work and sends Blake to San Francisco with her mother’s (Carla Gugino) new boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd). A seismologist (Paul Giamatti) at CalTech discovers that a program he has been researching can predict earthquakes, however not before one destroys the Hoover Dam. Los Angeles is the next target, but it’s an appetizer for the main course of San Francisco. This leads Ray and his wife to venture across California to save their daughter.
“San Andreas” is directed by Brad Peyton, who last helmed “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”, and stars the frequently reliable Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson has a screen presence reminiscent of the larger-than-life action stars of the 80’s and a sense of humor, humility, and hubris that brands his characters; this quality has saved many of his films. However, in a film stuffed with this much visual flair as “San Andreas”, Johnson is surrendered to playing the heroic role from the back seat, yelling cautionary warnings and motivational one-liners amidst falling debris and shaking camera work. Though he is given the opportunity to rip the door off an SUV in one early scene.
While the script offers a few moments for the characters to grow, a glossed over storyline about a broken family dealing with the loss of their daughter offers a small glimmer of character development, most of the performances are reactionary or physical. These narrative moments are simply bridges to connect the demonstrations of destruction. While the film attempts to establish some sort of relationship between the viewer and characters, one that makes the viewer care about the spotlighted people in danger, the short interactions don’t allow proper time to establish a connection when all around them are millions of people perishing.
“San Andreas” is a spectacle of visual indulgence, an overload of devastation that somewhat lessens the impact and interest of the scenes. It’s a film that doesn’t waste time with an overwhelming plot, there is barely one here, or characters that do more than direct the film from one bang and boom scene to another. Instead “San Andreas” is comfortable with the simplistic quality associated with disaster film entertainment, which it achieves quite well, but unfortunately this alone is not enough.
2.50 out of 5.00