In recent years Roland Emmerich has been the king of destruction on a worldwide scale with films like “The Day After Tomorrow”, “2012” and “Independence Day” (now – bizarrely and to my view unwisely – with two sequels on the roadmap). This time though, with “San Andreas”, it is Brad Peyton who takes the helm in a mass orgy of destruction on the US west coast.
Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson plays Ray, a Fire & Rescue helicopter pilot whose skill and coolness are illustrated through a daring opening rescue.
But despite the joy from the regular rescuing of stupid people in perilous situations, Ray’s life isn’t all a bed of roses. For reasons of past tragedy, he is separating from his wife (Carla Gugino) and to rub salt into the wound her new beau – architect Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd) – has the temerity to step into his fatherly role of transporting his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) to college in San Francisco.
Meanwhile the excellent Paul Giamatti plays an expert seismologist who, with just astonishing – and some might say unbelievable – timing, discovers the Holy Grail for detecting earthquakes the very moment that a severe earthquake rocks Nevada! But that is just the start of the problems as the whole of the San Andreas fault opens up and disaster looms for the whole Western seaboard with – you’ve guessed it – San Francisco forecast to bear the brunt of the devastation. The scene is set for Ray to pursue a desperate mission to save his family.
There is a major fault in this movie, as reflected in the title. Unfortunately, that is not the only fault visible.
The early seventies were the golden age for the disaster movie genre, led by producer Irwin Allen with the classic “The Poseidon Adventure” in 1972 and “The Towering Inferno” two years later. I was pre-teen at the time and just adored these films. Where they worked so well (for the better ones anyway) was in putting a completely disparate group of people together, each with their own back-story, secrets and sins, and watching the drama play out as the disaster involving capsize/fire/earthquake/meteor/killer bees (delete as applicable) proceeded. What “San Andreas” visibly lacks is this sense of ‘will they/won’t they’ (die that is), since there are so few main characters available to be potentially bumped off. Granted that young Blake, with her true hotness amply illustrated through an early gratuitous poolside scene, picks up a prospective boyfriend and his younger brother in San Francisco to up the potential body count. However you know that the arc of the story, and the likely prospect of a ‘Hollywood ending’, is bound to limit the carnage. And this effectively pours a tsunami worth of cold water onto the tension.
The other major problem I had was with the 3D. I’m not a great fan, but had to admit that the effects used in the opening scenes of the film were pretty good and added to the excitement. However 3D effects always leave me feeling that the action seems – ironically – LESS real than in 2D, and this really strikes home when the wall-to-wall CGI of mass destruction arrives. To me it just looks insanely false, as typified in an early scene (no spoiler) involving lots and lots of water. It would actually be interesting to see a 2D cut to see whether it was the CGI that was bad or just the CGI in 3D.
Dwayne Johnson, although not having the most dynamic of dialogue to deliver, actually does a creditable acting job. Most of the rest of the cast seem to be sleepwalking through their roles, including a strangely irrelevant cameo from Kylie Minogue. Will Yun Lee is good as Giamatti’s brilliant young colleague. But the British actress Archie Panjabi (excellent as Kalinda from “The Good Wife”) seems to be completely wasted in a nothingness role of a TV news reporter.
All in all, the earth didn’t move for me with this flick.
Fad Rating: FFf.