When I was in first grade back in 2001, I experienced my first and only earthquake. I don’t remember much of it, except for the teacher shouting “Remember what we practiced!” over and over.
That was 14 years ago, and now the Pacific Northwest is supposedly due for a massive earthquake. Will it be as bad as the one in “San Andreas,” the new disaster film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Hopefully not; but it will definitely be more—ahem—groundbreaking.
Whoever came up with the idea to cast The Rock in a movie about a massive earthquake is either a marketing genius or a 13-year-old. Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot caught up in a—well—rocky marriage, as he is separated from his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) and daughter, Blake
Ray must find a way to San Francisco with his soon-to-be ex-wife in order to rescue his daughter from the worst earthquake ever. Johnson essentially gets to play himself—a macho, muscular guy with a heart of gold. He delivers most of the film’s one-liners with hit-or-miss success, but also gives some truly heartfelt moments that take you by surprise.
Daddario gives an entertainingly bold performance as the damsel in distress, who is actually not in as much distress as the movie wants you to think. She is perfectly capable of keeping herself alive (due to what her father has surely taught her), but of course she can’t possibly save herself because this is Hollywood—girls can’t be the heroes, can they?
Anyways, the movie follows a procedural recipe for disaster films, with each scene more over-the-top than the last. The devastation on screen is massive, and mostly looks the part, too. Aside from some moments that look more artificial than the cheese in a pack of Lunchables, “San Andreas” delivers on its promise for destruction. Entire panoramic views of wide-spread devastation are spectacular and exciting.
This comes with a caveat—with basically entire cities being destroyed, there somehow always manages to be working technology and cellphones with which to communicate. Phones in this movie miraculously survive through car wrecks and four-story-long drops in a collapsing building, but if I drop my phone two feet onto cement the screen gets completely obliterated? Yeah, right.
Carla Gugino does a sufficient job with a script that wasn’t exactly rife with meaty moments. She is courageous, forgiving and determined to rescue her daughter. There are a couple moments where she seems to run with the nature of the film, resulting in some awkward acting, but it is nothing unforgivable.
Paul Giamatti, who plays a seismologist named Lawrence, is there to explain exactly what is going on with the fault lines and tectonic plates. These scenes offer a nice respite from the bombastic collapsing buildings and random explosions, though he only seems like an expository character, not one that has any impact on the film itself considering that he has no relationship or contact with the other main characters at all.
Rounding out the main cast is Hugh Johnstone-Burt, who plays Ben, a young man who manages to get stuck with Blake in her attempts to find rescue. He and his brother, Ollie (Art Parkinson), don’t offer a whole lot and only serve as companions as she waits for her parents.
San Andreas is hardly an earth-shatteringly new disaster film. Despite the fact that it is big, predictable and raucous, it is still a surprisingly fun film that somehow manages to rise above some of the recent rubble of the disaster genre—though not without its fair share of plot-holes and conveniences. “San Andreas” won’t shake you to your core, but it also doesn’t destroy the chance for some enjoyment.
*Unfortunately this comes just a month after an earthquake devastated Nepal. In order to help out, I am taking an idea spawned in The Seattle Times and including a link to the World Vision website where you can donate money to help save some lives.
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