There are summer blockbusters, and then there are movies that actually show entire city blocks busted. Occasionally the two intersect, and I imagine San Andreas will be one of those times. With Dwayne Johnson in the starring role and its arrival just after the Memorial Day weekend, the movie will surely make at least a little scratch at the box office. But is it worth it?
Yes. Yes it is.
San Andreas is the Twister of earthquake movies– complete schlock and destined for a long and lengthy career of Guilty Pleasure-ness. The story has more holes than a cheese grater, the script is so full of cliches and idiocy that you’ll wonder if a third grader wrote it (Lost‘s Carlton Cuse is actually to blame), and the acting is as melodramatic as a Spanish soap opera. But if you want (fictional) wanton destruction of not one but two American cities, it doesn’t get much better. Just leave your sense of belief and common sense at the door.
Johnson is Ray, an LAFD Fire and Rescue pilot who (presumably with a stern reprimand forthcoming) takes his city-owned helicopter and deserts Los Angeles (after rescuing his estranged wife Emma, played by Carla Gugino) and then high-tails it 400 miles up the coast to rescue his daughter in San Francisco. Sure, it’s only, oh, his job to protect and defend the people of, you know, Los Angeles, but when all hell is breaking loose, apparently it’s okay to steal a $10 million chopper and head to San Fran for a spell. (On top of all that, there’s no reason whatsoever that the whole movie couldn’t have just been set in Los Angeles… but I digress.)
Note that I mentioned that Ray and Emma are estranged. As with Twister (and, heck, 2012 and a whole slew of other disaster films), marital issues lay the groundwork for a tale of redemption and reconciliation. After a nifty little let’s-show-everyone-what-a-hero-The-Rock-is prologue, we find out that Emma has served Ray with divorce papers. And yes, we all know where this is heading once buildings start falling over and tsunamis threaten the entire West Coast.
Director Brad Peyton, whose last effort was the 2012 Rock starrer Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, proves he has the chops to steer a big-budget destruction epic. The pace is frenetic, and the catastrophes keep coming and coming; just seeing the single shot of the Los Angeles area wobbling like it’s an ocean wave is pretty insane. Sure, the whole film is entirely CGI, so I suppose most of the credit goes to Scanline, the visual effects studio behind the mayhem, but Peyton still manages to put together one heck of a movie.
San Andreas is much more burgers n’ beer than anything resembling fine wine and aged brie, but isn’t that what we want anyway? The day they make a thought-provoking, brilliantly crafted disaster film is the day I know the world really has come to an end.