San Andreas

by Cap'n Carrot on May 29, 2015 · 0 comments

in Film

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It’s hard to make either a great or truly awful disaster movie. Even setting out to craft memorable disaster porn (unless it’s centered around a completely ridiculous premise like sending oil riggers into space) is a challenge. Bucking the trend of world-ending disaster films where characters are fighting asteroids, a new Ice Age, or the core of the Earth disrupting all life on the planet, San Andreas is a bit of a throwback focusing just on California, and, for the most part, San Fransisco. A more localized disaster doesn’t have the doomsday cache of something like 2012 but San Andreas turns out to be a far better film.

Our main characters are fire and rescue expert Ray (Dwayne “It’s Okay to Call Me The Rock Again” Johnson), his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino), and their college-age daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who are separated when California begins experiencing a series of increasingly harsh earthquakes and spend the film working back to each other as, once again, a huge disaster seems to magically fix all relationship issues over two hours. Disaster couples counseling has been used so often in movies it has become its own cliche.

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Also along for the ride are Ioan Gruffudd as Emma’s rich douchebag boyfriend, Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson as brothers caught in the city who Blake befriends, and a climate scientist Paul Giamatti who uncovers the severity of the disaster before it hits and, with the help of college students and a local reporter (Archie Panjabi), attempts to get the word out to the rest of California. Although his storyline could be cut entirely to create a tighter script centered around Ray and his family (including a subplot involving another daughter that feels shoehorned in), Giamatti does well with explaining the basic science mumbo-jumbo and stealing a scene or two along the way.

The special effects of wanton destruction are about what you’d expect from this level of disaster porn (although the movie is almost completely bloodless, and despite the amount of destruction in the majority of the CGI-rendered shots no victims are shown making it hard to gauge how many perish over the course of the movie). Of course having a big action star doesn’t hurt as The Rock gets the opportunity to pull off a few miraculous saves even if the dramatic subplot about his other daughter disrupts the flow of the film on at least two occasions (but does offer one strong scene between Johnson and Gugino).

Along with its effects, San Andreas‘ main strength is its likable cast. We’re presented with a group of people we want to survive and a single character to root against (offering the script an all too easy end to his journey). Like pretty much ever disaster film you can name, San Andreas isn’t terrific or awful. I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Core (my personal favorite of this genre), but it stacks up well against films like The Day After Tomorrow and Deep Impact. Fans of the genre, and of these actors, should enjoy themselves with a fun (if largely forgettable) popcorn film with a bit more heart than you’d expect as they cheer on The Rock laying the smackdown on the disaster to save his family.

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