Will San Andreas leave the ground shaking or will it be a complete wash out?
One man is on a mission to rescue all that he holds dear, before it’s too late.After a series of minor tremors have been documented, a devastating earthquake hits San Francisco. In a race against time Ray, played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, must save his family from the ensuing dangers. Director Brad Peyton previously worked with Johnson on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island but has taken a side step away from the children’s films to work on this disaster movie centred around an earthquake which could potentially completely decimate a large portion of the US West Coast. Carlton Cuse who found success with the TV series Lost and The Returned wrote the screenplay based on the story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore.The pace and basic themes of the film are established from the get-go as Ray, a helicopter pilot for the LAFD, leads a team on a rescue mission to save a woman trapped inside a car crash. Ray is the all-American good guy trying to do his bit to make the world a safer place. Meanwhile over at Cal Tech university Dr Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti), a seismologist trying to discover a way to predict earthquake patterns, finally gets a break through and rushes over to the Hoover Dam to document a series of minor quakes. The celebration over his discovery is short lived as he soon realises that a much bigger quake, one bigger than ever previously recorded, is imminent.
Ray’s daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) gets caught up in the city of San Francisco as it starts to crumble. Along with her new found English friends, brothers Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Art Parkinson), the three of them must fight their way through the deteriorating city and find their way to high ground where father-come-hero Ray can rescue them. The film is split between Blake and Ray, who is also desperately trying to find his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino), with smaller sections from Dr Hayes at the university who is trying to warn the public about the rising threat of the quakes.
Johnson is no stranger to the action genre and manages to muster up the same degree of performance in San Andreas that we have seen in most of his previous films. Johnson doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but in a film which doesn’t really allow for award-winning performances, he doesn’t actually have much leeway, especially considering the limitations imposed by the poor script. Providing the muscle and some comedy relief, Johnson doesn’t do too badly in San Andreas all things considered. One thing that was questionable is Ray’s instant dismissal of his role as a search and rescue pilot in order to save his family but it’s this dedication that obviously drives the film; albeit at the expense of the numerous other people he probably could have saved.
Daddario gives a fairly decent performance as Ray’s daughter who apparently has conveniently inherited skills only the daughter of a rescue pilot who served in Afghanistan and who now works for the LAFD would know. Most of the performances are riddled with cheese and clichéd one liners — but you wouldn’t expect anything less from a film like this. Although the random and bizarre appearance of a musician in the film is strange and I'm still wondering what the reasoning behind it was...
If you put all the disaster films ever made into a blender, San Andreas is what you would be left with — various sized chunks of other films mixed together to create this medley.
San Andreas is no doubt a disaster movie but it simultaneously tries too hard to lend an emotional depth to the characters which feels unnecessary as they are likeable enough without having to delve into their history to generate a detailed backstory which ends up sticking out like a sore thumb within the film's progression. The ‘scientific’ elements of the film are brief and explain just enough to justify the incidents that unfold without going into too much detail. All the events that take place in San Andreas are convenient, and fortunately for the characters incredibly well timed, which makes the plausibility of the film entirely unbelievable but hey, this is Hollywood. For a film which is supposed to show what could happen should an earthquake of 9.5 on the Richter scale actually hit, the level of bloodshed and number of casualties are fairly minimal despite the sheer level of cataclysmic decimation shown; this could be down to the rating of the film but nonetheless it doesn’t help with the unbelievability.
The film is predominantly well shot, containing some beautiful rolling ariel shots of San Fransisco and some well executed CGI to show the level of devastation that takes place. However some of the shots in the film, where it tries too hard to show the frenzied action on screen, end up looking poor and amateurish as it actually obscures what's taking place, making it difficult to see what is happening. Most of the CGI is pleasant to watch with some amazing attention to detail but alas this is not consistent throughout the entire film as there are some scenes where it looks rushed and not rendered properly to achieve the polished finish featured elsewhere in the film.
San Andreas is predictable from the beginning and if you are familiar with the disaster movie recipe, you will be able to predict how the film will progress and definitely how it will end. It’s not a hard watch, in fact it's quite simple and certainly doesn’t require much brain power, so just sit back and enjoy the spectacle on show in front of you.
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