I never really liked disaster movies. I was not all interested in the likes of The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon or Independence Day. So when I heard about San Andreas I was more than a little sceptical that it was just going to be scene after scene of destruction. I was right in my deduction, but it didn’t stop the film from being a fun ride that wouldn’t let up until the very end.
San Andreas stars Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, Alex Daddario, Carla Guggino, Ioan Gruffudd, Paul Giamatti and oddly enough Kyle Minogue. When the famous San Andreas Fault line on the west coast of America finally gives, a massive earthquake stands between Ray (Johnson) from his ex wife and his daughter.
If you’ve even seen half of a disaster movie in the past ten years you know the gist of the story. Absent dad, divorced mother, child in need, evil new stepdad, contrived romance, old people dying together, annoying kid you wished would get swept up in the destruction, yadda yadda yadda. It got to the point where I was fighting the urge to laugh in my cinema seat when some clichéd disaster movie story stereotype was brought up. But we all knew San Andreas’ story wasn’t going to be its strong point, we are here for the stunning destruction Mother Nature leaves in her wake. And it’s awesome.
Steve Yedin, cinematographer of Looper and the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII gives us several gorgeous panoramic shots of San Francisco being destroyed again and again throughout, with aerial photography being one of the greatest achievements in the film. Even though CGI fills in most of the fire, smoke and rubble, it wouldn’t look half as good if the entire thing was CGI. You can still spot it in certain occasions when close-ups on actors betray the green screen behind them, but overall the effects are well done.
The acting is deliciously overdone, with everyone seeming to just role with it and have fun while the world burns around them. The Rock gives a solid performance as basically himself, a super powered beefcake who is the nicest person anyone can ask for as well has being a Fire and Rescue operator, just in case you weren’t 100% on his side. Carla Guggino plays his ex-wife (very important to remember she’s his ex-wife, if the film doesn’t bash you around the head with that idea within the first couple of minutes) and Alex Daddiaro is his daughter, who has been taught by her superhero father how to save herself from the worst of the earthquake. We are also introduced to two young men, Ben (played by Colton Haynes) and his kid brother Ollie (Art Parkinson), neither of whom are from England in real life but both sporting stereotypical English accents in the film.
To go along with the over-the-top acting, the screenplay is delightfully hammy, with several lines making me crack up/shake my head in disbelief. The final line of the film is its best, sending several members of the audience into laughter. The film is one step short of just shouting “’MURICA” at the end while punching the air, but it pulls back just enough to be the clichéd Hollywood ending that most disaster films take.
The science of the film, given to us on a drip feed by a super serious Paul Giamatti seems to be accurate. The film creates a more realistic disaster than whatever 2012 threw at the audience, but it’s all still tied up in science techno-babble. All you really need to know is that big numbers are really bad and usually come with severe ground-shaking.
The film at 107 minutes feels a bit long for such a simple set up, and with only a few minutes where the pace drops to a snails pace so that we can find out how much The Rock loves his family. The film moves along at a fairly quick pace, even though it does starts getting repetitive after a while.
In summary, San Andreas has nothing new in its characters or its story arc. It’s a once-a-minute thrill that doesn’t let up, but there is really nothing that will make it any more than what it is, a simple disaster film. But if you are looking for the next wave of destruction on a cinema screen, look no further.
Score: 6/10 Fun while it lasts, but nothing below the surface