Dir: Brad Peyton
Writer(s): Carlton Cuse (Story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore)
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson Kylie Minogue, Colton Haynes, Will Yun Lee and Paul Giamatti
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.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
There is something about disaster movies that we all love. Maybe because disaster movies are almost, and arguably, the ultimate form of escapism we have in movies today. Add in one of the biggest names in Hollywood in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and you are bound to have a damn fine entertaining movie. San Andreas is that movie, of course not without its faults and its unfortunate timing, after the earthquake in Nepal. Thankfully, the studio and crew made sure the movie’s promotional material have links to places where you can help with any natural disaster.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a L.A.F.D Search and Rescue pilot who has a great reputation of saves. Even though he’s great at his job, he is currently on the brink of divorce with his Emma (Gugino) after an accident that caused them to break away from each other. Ray however is also ready to go on a trip with his daughter, Blake (Daddario) before a massive earthquake hits and has to go on duty. Blake then heads to San Francisco with her Emma’s new boyfriend Daniel Riddick (Gruffudd), a big time architect. There she meets Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and his little brother Ollie (Parkinson) when another earthquake hits the city. Meanwhile, a Cal Tech seismologist Lawrence (Giamatti), and his team find out what is causing the earthquakes – and even when they can possibly hit – and tries to warn everyone on what is coming.
San Andreas is arguably the most summer popcorn movie you can have. It’s one of those movies where you can just sit down, watch, and not have a care in the world. Does it stand against other big disasters films like The Day After Tomorrow, Volcano, or 2012? Not entirely, but it does have some great moments that will make you invest in the characters and what’s going on. Finally, will it make you an earthquake expert survivor in case the San Andreas Fault actually happens to go off? Sort of.
Surprisingly, the best parts of the movie are not the full on destruction of California. In fact the best parts of the movie are the cast members, all lead by Johnson. Johnson doesn’t have to rely on his action chops so much, but more on his dramatic chops which he handles perfectly here. Johnson isn’t a large than life character – of course he is actually larger than life – he is just an ordinary guy. Next to Johnson, Daddario is the next best thing as his resourceful daughter that plays both the role of an strong female character helping Ben and Ollie through the city to get to higher ground so her father can come them, and a bit of a damsel-in-distress with having to really be saved by her father.
Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson brotherly duo work just fine as they have to trek through the city with Daddario’s Blake. Unfortunately there is a forced romance between Ben and Blake, which doesn’t necessarily hurt the movie and it’s in our faces, but it is there. Carla Gugino has her moments to shine, and Ioan Gruffudd’s role could have easily been played by someone else and it wouldn’t have matter that much.
The biggest underused character and actor is Paul Giamatti’s Lawrence. He is basically there to tell us, the audience, what exactly is going on. It doesn’t mean he’s not great in the role, he does the best he can with what he is given. I think what makes it a bit underwhelming is that he has no contact or shares any scenes with Johnson or the rest of the cast. The only connection to Johnson’s character – if you want to call it that – is the reporter, played by Archie Panjabi, who we see in the beginning of the movie with Ray and his team when they rescue a girl from an accident. She also happens to be there with Lawrence and his team as they try to find out what is happening. At the same time however, all of Giamatti’s scenes with his team slow the movie down a bit as they explain how plate tectonics work and what could possibly happen. Only reason I bring it up is because the science in the movie isn’t all that real, just a bit.
The science isn’t the only thing wrong with the movie. Some of the CGI during the mayhem has some cool looking moments, but other times it looks a bit cheesy and too cartoony. It doesn’t take you out of the movie completely, but knowing that they actually can’t destroy a city to get what they want, it’s bearable. But, what I believe is a missed opportunity or just a mistake on writer Carlton Cuse’s part, is not having Ray’s team throughout the movie. The team members are played by Colton Haynes, Todd Williams and Matt Gerald. With the expectation of Williams, they only have one scene together. The scene even makes it seem like they are going to be together and go save Blake together, but we never see or hear about them again. It’s a bit of shame, but this leads to the other part of the movie that, apparently, has made a lot of people question Ray’s character. He leaves his duty to go save his family.
Yes, people are questioning Ray’s character because once everything starts to go to hell, he decides to stop where he was going to help others and just help his family. I get why people would be upset about that and see why, but I guess they forgot the part of the movie where he does actually save others people’s lives from getting crushed to death near the end of the movie. Again, I can see that, and to be honest I didn’t even notice that until I read people were pointing it out. Is it “selfish?” I guess, but if you were in the same position, wouldn’t you do probably the same thing?
All in all, San Andreas has some great moments in the disaster movie sense and if that doesn’t do it for you (why are you really watching the movie?) it’s bearable to watch because of Johnson and Daddario’s performances. It really is one of those movies you can just sit back and enjoy what’s going on. It isn’t with its faults (pun intended), but it is enjoyable.
3 out of 5