From the director of Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (Brad Peyton) comes the big budget, high-octane disaster movie San Andreas starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the heroic Los Angeles Fire Department Air Rescue pilot Ray Gaines. He breaks every rule in the book to save his family from crumbling Los Angeles and San Francisco after a devastating series of earthquakes tear through the San Andreas Fault line, destroying everything in its wake.
In a nutshell, that is about all this film is about. It’s a disaster movie where multiple cities are decimated by an earthquake and Dwayne Johnson does what he can to save his family. Whilst that may be the plot, that isn’t really what this film is about. It’s a vessel for Dwayne Johnson to play the Hollywood blockbuster action hero and an opportunity for the visual effects team to flex their muscles and earn their pay checks. All the while providing a classically clichéd action flick that is gripping enough that you will see it through its entire duration but lacking in any kind of credibility, depth or artistic integrity. A movie starring Dwayne Johnson about earthquakes is going to be exactly what you expect it to be so don’t expect it to be anything other than that and you will probably really enjoy it.
The action sequences are pretty epic and they have used every trick in the book to have you white-knuckling your way through it, all of which have been overused in the genre but purely because they work so well. One such scene that was especially playful was the opening scene where a young girl is driving her car through a curvy mountain road. She’s looking at her phone, changing the music, not really paying attention and you think she is going to crash her car because she is driving rather irresponsibly but actually an earthquake happens and causes her to drive off the edge of the cliff. Have no fear though, Ray Gaines is nearby in his helicopter to work his magic and save her from plummeting to a fiery grave. He does that a lot in this film.
The most irritating but probably in some way essential elements of this film are all the little sub-stories that no one could really give a shit about. For example, Ray is going through a divorce with his very attractive wife Emma and caught up in the middle of it is their California sweetheart daughter Blake, who is actually probably one of the better characters in the film. She encounters two brothers, one of whom is her age and the other is much younger and there is an instant romance between the older one and her. The first earthquake hits and the three of them are fighting for survival together, which is a bit strange because you would think that it would be every man for himself and he would be more interested in focussing all his efforts in getting his little brother to safety, but that wouldn’t make a very good story now would it? That said, Blake is the only one who offers any kind of realistic reaction to the disaster happening around her and she is a smart girl with smart survival solutions, thus rendering the boys useless. Go Blake! However, Emma is completely and utterly hopeless, it’s no wonder they’re getting divorced. She isn’t doing women any favors. She’s basically a rich mom who drives a nice car, has expensive lunches with Kylie Minogue and has a very successful and rich new boyfriend who has the personality of a peanut.
The strangest casting in this film was Paul Giamatti as the voice of science who predicts the disasters from his very cool lab/office which is full of whiteboards with nonsensical scribblings (seriously, I’m no scientist but I know that’s just someone’s doodles up there). I’m not used to seeing Giamatti in these kinds of films, to be honest, but he manages to deliver some pretty mediocre lines with a fair amount of believability. His best scene is the one on the Hoover Dam, which is arguably one of the best scenes in the whole film. I won’t spoil it for you, but I’m sure you can imagine what happens and it’s spectacularly executed.
The problem with adding these sub-plots to films like this is that they are hardly ever believable and you spend your time fast forwarding through heart-warming scenes emphasising the value of family just to get to all the explosions and action bits. It’s very difficult to care about characters who are so poorly underdeveloped, but without their back stories, the film would probably only be about an hour long. It follows every convention of an action movie, instead of attempting to break with those conventions and try something different it just became a massive cliché instead, which isn’t always a bad thing, it’s a tried and tested formula that works and as the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Dwayne Johnson is the perfect action hero, he’s strong, handsome and has a big heart which often over rules logical thinking. He loves his family and would do anything for them, no matter what it takes and no matter how dull his soon to be ex-wife is, he will save them all and be the slow-motion action hero he was born to be. If you are expecting deep and meaningful storylines, relatable characters or realistic plot development then you have come to the wrong place, but if you want your face blown off by brilliant special effects and some cheesy action-movie one liners from the King of Cheese himself, then you will love it. San Andreas will make its debut on HBO on Saturday, February 27.
Oh, but if you like Dwayne Johnson? Take a look at this!