This review contains spoilers
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Ray, a search and rescue helicopter pilot for the LAFD, in the latest disaster epic San Andreas. Recently separated from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino), Ray decides he’s going to have a camping weekend with his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) on the way to drive her to college in San Francisco. These plans are soon thwarted as a disastrous earthquake hits Nevada, destroying the Hoover Dam in a spectacular display. Ray has to fly out to the rescue, and it’s up to Blake’s asshole millionaire stepdad Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) to deliver her safely to school. But, uh-oh, CalTech seismology professor Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) has a new earthquake prediction algorithm that foretells of terrible tremors that will rip their way from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Everything starts shaking and breaking, and with his wife Emma trapped in LA and his daughter Blake trapped in San Francisco, can Ray save them both?
We’ve seen San Andreas a couple dozen times in the past 30 years. Sure they were all under a different title, but the story, “Separated from loved ones during a impenetrable natural disaster” is a story very familiar to the modern moviegoer. San Andreas doesn’t do anything particularly special to move the genre forward, and for the most part had me kind of bored when the destruction took a back seat to the plot. I hope I’m not really spoiling anything by answering the rhetorical question at the end of my last paragraph, but you most likely answered it in your head immediately after reading it. Yes, of course he saves them both. This kind of movie isn’t about morally ambiguous life choices, or about lessons of personal sacrifice. It’s about a huge action man saving the day when the world is spectacularly falling apart all around him.
No, structurally San Andreas isn’t surprising. But it does have two things that really set it apart. The first being The Rock himself. Dwayne Johnson has proven time and again that he’s not the action hero we deserve, but the action hero we needed. He brings an unironic honesty to the roles he plays, and truly seems to have real heart in whatever he’s doing on screen. He doesn’t feel like an invincible badass that we had in the 80’s and early 90’s. He feels more genuine than that, even when placed within the ridiculous. There are even moments of actual vulnerability to his character.
The other thing going for San Andreas were the visuals. I’ve seen many cities destroyed and multiple landmarks demolished in my day, but the things they do in this movie were absolutely stunning. Yes, it’s representations of some of the worst devastation to befall mankind, but it’s sort of beautiful. I was boggled by how real it looked. A few scenes, especially the one depicting the collapse of the Golden Gate bridge, had me aghast in their wake. It felt powerful – in a scary way. There was some hinky physics going on, most noticeably in the resilience of some of the characters, but that’s to be expected in these kinds of movies, I guess. People should have totally died (or at least suffered massive internal injuries), only to walk away with the standard “dirty face and blood coming from hairline” thing. In a vacuum, were it not for fancy swooping camera movement and impossibly creative shots, I don’t think I’d be able to tell you if a lot of the destruction was real or fake. It all looked amazing.
(Also, if you’re a fan of great cleavage and boobs in general, I guess you could say San Andreas has a third thing really going for it.)
A cliche plot, among some good if not standard acting, all wrapped up in a gorgeous package set San Andreas slightly above standard disaster fare. I don’t know if I’m biting at the chomp to rewatch the whole thing, but I’d kill for a supercut of all the mayhem.
Leave a Reply