- Movie Rating -

San Andreas (2015)

| May 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

San Andreas is exactly what you think it is – it’s a disaster movie with a capital D. The trailers deliver what they promise: a catastrophic event rocks Southern California while our foreground heroes run from falling concrete blocks, power lines, glass, tidal waves, wrecked cars and falling buildings. Meanwhile, your standard lone-nut scientist decries “I told you so!” while The Golden State shakes and shimmies and threatens to fall into the Pacific.  I appreciate a movie that, at the very base level, gives me what I want.  Last week I saw Poltergeist in which I didn’t see any ghosts.  This week at least I got the earthquake that I paid for. That’s progress, I suppose.

That doesn’t make the movie bad, it just means that it’s not all that surprising. You won’t be surprised by much, which means you get exactly what you pay for. You do get Dwayne Johnson (whose usual nickname would be appreciate here, but for some reason, they leave it off) as a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot who runs here, there and yonder to find his missing daughter amid all the wreckage – and he finds her in what must be the most bizarre coincidence in movie history.

The movie wastes very little time getting us into the thick of things. A massive 7.1 earthquake hits Nevada near the Colorado River just as good-hearted seismologist Dr. Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) and his assistant Dr. Chung are doing tests. The quake strikes and nearly crumbles Hoover Dam to pieces. What happens next is not exactly surprising. Dr. Lawrence calculates that the quake in Nevada was so severe that it will trigger a quake on the west coast that will begin in The Bay Area and move its way up the coast to Los Angeles. Sure enough, just as he’s trying to warn the citizenry, a massive 9.5 gives San Francisco what-for.

Naturally, caught in the middle are the usual cadre of husbands, wives, children, boyfriends and kids. The characters aren’t exactly well-defined. They have their one-dimensional roles and they stick to them like glue. Dwayne Johnson is Ray, a rescue helicopter pilot who is estranged from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) because he can’t openly deal with the death of their daughter in circumstances that have nothing to do with the quake. Emma is now dating Daniel Riddick (Ion Gruffudd) a rich architect who turns out to be the movie’s resident weasel. Luckily, the movie doesn’t lean on this.  The filmmakers succeed in making Daniel the bad guy while being very mindful of the fact that the real villain here is the earthquake.

The pride of Ray and Emma’s life is Blake (Alexandria Daddario) their pretty daughter who has eyes for Ben, a shy Brit who barely talks and who saddled with Ollie, his younger brother who barely shuts up. The actors give their all, but the script, by “Lost” scribe Carlton Cuse, isn’t willing to give them any more definition then is absolutely necessary. They stick to their roles, but they don’t deviate from them one tiny inch.

But you don’t care about characters anyway, you’re here to see the Earth move – and in that area the movie doesn’t disappoint. San Francisco and Los Angeles take quite a beating as buildings tumble, monuments crumble and the city is laid waste. Everything from the Transamerica Pyramid to The Golden Gate Bridge to The Hollywood Sign gets its death scene. Most of the effects are pretty solid, especially Ray’s aerial view of the city as the ground rolls like waves. That’s followed by tumbling and crumbling and eventually a pretty nasty Tsunami. The best scene in the movie occurs when Emma attempts to get to a helicopter from the roof of a building that is collapsing beneath her feet – that’s the film’s sole WOW moment.

The bigger effects work, but the smaller effects aren’t so lucky. For example, there’s a car at the film’s opening that tumbles down a hill, bouncing a little too quickly for a two-ton vehicle – there are a dozen shots like that.  The effects are almost all CGI.  Their nice, but after having been dazzled by the practical effects of Mad Max: Fury Road two weeks ago, coming back to computer generated effects is kind of a let-down.

There’s a lot of action in this movie, most of it kind of fun, especially an impromptu skydiving sequence that’s pretty neat and ends with a one-liner from Johnson that made me smile. Other than that, San Andreas is exactly what you want if you’re looking for a disaster movie. It’s far from what Irwin Allen might have produced 40 years ago, but it works. I think Allen might have looked at this movie, tinkered with the characters a bit, added a few dramatic subplots and then sighed and said to himself “George Kennedy? Where are you when I need you?”

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Action