Synopsis: In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter. (From IMDb)
Review: As civilization crumbles, from the ashes there shall arise THE ROCK! Also known as Ray in this film. San Andreas is a disaster flick set in California and about the San Andreas fault finally breaking off and opening up some beach front property in Nevada. The trailers promised the complete and total disaster of California. There are some excellent thrills and then there are not one but two apocalyptic earthquakes followed by a tsunami. And I should point out that the tsunami, while completely plausible, defied science and moved in the wrong direction. But I do not go to natural disaster films expecting geologically correct science. Brad Peyton and Dwayne Johnson previously worked together on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, so they apparently liked working together. Or Johnson knows how to hold his own amongst overwhelming visual effects. I do not think another actor could hold the movie together. Despite a rather thin screenplay, Johnson is quite charismatic and nearly succeeds in carrying the movie on his extremely jacked shoulders.
In San Andreas, The Rock plays Ray, the most stress-free LA Rescue Pilot in existence. Over the course of the film Ray is sent divorce papers from his wife, learns she and his daughter are moving into her new boyfriend’s luxury abode, he has to watch someone else take his daughter back to college, an earthquake strikes, and then he has to go rescue both his wife and daughter from crumbling buildings with a helicopter on the fritz and he does all of this without breaking a sweat. San Francisco has never looked less welcoming to tourists. Ray and Emma, his soon-to-be ex-wife, are stuck in LA and Blake, their daughter, is in San Francisco. But there are a couple of eager young Brits, Ben the aspiring architect and Ollie the enthusiastic younger brother, who stick around Blake in order to survive the earthquake of a lifetime. San Andreas is about nature at its most extreme and slightly ludicrous. Though no one ever goes to a disaster movie for the science.
Disaster films have been a staple of summer movie releases, with varying degrees of quality. Hollywood has always taken advantage of the potential for natural disasters, tending to mainly focus on volcanoes and earthquakes. Besides the explosions and carnage, disaster films always include the mild-mannered scientist. In this instance the role is filled by Paul Giamatti, a seismology expert at the California Institute of Technology. He spends most of the film saying a lot of semi-accurate predictions and muttering warnings. And he draws a lot of diagrams. In the beginning of the film he and a colleague go to Nevada to study an occurrence of “mini-quakes”. They do this by measuring something that sort of resembles magnetic pulses. Though they make all these readings while holding the magnetic measuring wand next to a metal pole. I think that might have skewed the results. Then there is a dramatic sequence and some people die horrifically in order to showcase the seriousness of the coming earthquake. Giamatti then spends the rest of the film trying to warn the rest of California about the coming super-quake. The material is definitely below Giamatti’s acting talent but he seemed to be having a fun time. He certainly delivered one of the funniest lines in the movie. While the filmmakers skimped on the science, they did accurately portray the average geology professor wardrobe.
Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play Ray and Emma, the main characters of the film. They are in the middle of a divorce. I have to say that I am glad to see a major blockbuster cast a male and female leads who are similar in age. And Emma’s new boyfriend is played by Ioan Gruffudd, another age appropriate choice. Though how Dwayne and Carla were supposed to create Alexandra Daddario is a genetic mind bender. Anyways, there was some definite chemistry between the two actors and they did a credible job creating depth out of thin material. Daddario plays Blake and she is her father’s daughter. Tall, athletic and prepared for any and all disasters. She has a great screen presence and more than held her own during solo scenes. When trying to survive a disaster just remember: make sure you know an engineer. After all most problems are merely an engineering problem. In any case, only six characters actually seem to matter. Ray, Emma, Blake, Ben, and Ollie are the main cast and they are the only ones who make it through the whole movie looking as clean as possible. Really, for being in the middle of a disaster zone they are all remarkably well groomed.
Overall, this is a solid disaster film. It is not high-brow by any means. However, it is a fun ride and is a nice piece of escapism entertainment. Even the Golden Gate Bridge manages to survive almost the entire film before succumbing to disaster, which I think is a first. Usually the Bridge is the first thing to go in California based disaster films. The Rock continues his box office domination, he just seems like a genuinely nice guy and this comes through on screen. San Andreas will not teach you anything about actual geology. I recommend this website if you want to learn about the actual science behind the San Andreas fault line. The film is gorgeously shot, the CGI never seemed out-of-place. For the most part the scenes depicting the actual earthquake were as authentic looking as possible. This is a film filled with the loss of property, life, catastrophe, calamity, and the normal disaster film clichés. However, it was enjoyable and I will probably buy it once it is released on DVD.