San Andreas

Release: Friday, May 29, 2015


Written by: Carlton Cuse

Directed by: Brad Peyton

San Andreas turns a massive crack in the earth into the Ultron of natural disaster villains, and Dwayne Johnson seems to be the only man fit to star opposite in this chunk of supposed summer entertainment.

The former wrestler fits in well with his surroundings as rescue helicopter pilot Ray Gaines, although it’s anyone’s guess as to how the guy actually fits inside a chopper. In a tense opening sequence involving a girl and her car stuck between a couple of rocks and a hard place, we are privy to Ray’s death-defying abilities. (Those will come in handy later.) A respected member of the L.A. Fire Department, Ray is of course no model human. An impending divorce from wife Emma (Carla Gugino) is putting pressure on him as he wants his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) to remain in his life as much as possible. Both relationships remain fraught with tension since the loss of a fourth family member in a drowning incident some years ago.

While the strategy is far from original, getting us to invest in this particular family’s affairs works because Johnson and Gugino exude charisma as a couple on the brink of divorce. Strange as that sounds, the pair are suitably cast and make ridiculously cheesy character development somehow watchable. Or at least tolerable. For the world — make that the western American seaboard . . . er, no, strike that: the California coastline as far as Ray and his family are concerned — is about to fall apart in more ways than one.

Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) is a scientist (you know this because of his permanent frown and a hairline that suggests his scalp and Rogaine have never met) at Caltech who is on the brink of discovering more accurate ways of predicting seismic activity. Unfortunately he isn’t too good at predicting that which strikes the Hoover Dam and claims the life of a long-time colleague. “Uhh, yeah — that fault line wasn’t supposed to be there. That was . . . my bad.” Or so says his furrowed brow in the ensuing scene, a retreat back to the university, when a local news crew inundate him with questions about any progress he might be making. Oh, such poor timing.

The incident at the dam is merely a precursor to a series of escalating, catastrophic earthquakes that come to define the plot, the characters, essentially the film’s score, ultimately any lasting memories of what you’ve just seen upon leaving the theater. However long those memories last may well depend on the magnitude of the ‘quake. The best way I know how to criticize San Andreas while sounding like I had a good time is that it is far too eager to get to these big CGI set pieces.

Everything is rushed, the biggest victim being the characters. For an action/disaster flick in 2015 there need not be a poetic fascination with them but there should be more discovery than what we get. Peyton clearly favors pushing past all that icky stuff to the visual goodies. A tidal wave engulfs many a Californian landmark; buildings collapse as though they are built from Jenga pieces; fires scorch the afternoon sky at the tops of those remaining upright. We certainly get the sense that not even Giamatti’s math could save millions from the carnage.

But the concluding sequence all but confirms the only interest Peyton and his writers have in showcasing the power of Mother Nature — the raging, pissed off one living beneath our feet apparently — is parading this year’s minuscule improvement in special effects technology. This is a visual feast and nearly two hours’ worth of society falling apart implies that, while the world may collapse, CGI will be here to stay. Like cockroaches living long after nuclear fallout. CGI is rapidly becoming the main vein feeding the industry, the lifeblood of many a filmmaker with eyes larger than their intellect.

Even by disaster movie standards, the chaotic (but beautiful) computer graphics dominate, rendering any human-related drama as deep as a paper cut. While science can at least somewhat support Peyton’s vision of a California torn asunder by massively destructive earthquakes — it has been three centuries since the southern portion of the fault line has made its presence known, and seismologists do in fact predict it is overdue for some kind of rupture — what begins as hypothetical quickly devolves into laughable.

Recommendation: Yes, San Andreas is harmless and mindless summer escapism but this is a film that had greater potential. I could smell The Rock cooking up a more memorable performance than this as well, but he and his co-star Carla Gugino pull off a marriage in trouble convincingly enough. But given the rest of the cast, they are outliers. There’s not enough in this action spectacular to recommend to the casual viewer of these sorts of things; diehards, on the other hand. . . .

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 114 mins.

Quoted: “The earth will literally crack and you will feel it on the East Coast.”

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24 thoughts on “San Andreas

  1. I’m glad I saw this in theaters to be honest.

    …but I’m also incredibly biased towards The Rock. Without him as the lead, I doubt I would have loved this. However, since his charisma was indeed present, I walked out feeling like I got my moneys worth haha.


    • That’s always good man, I’m reading a lot of positive things for this and Dwayne Johnson is all good in my book. I can’t say exactly what it is that I was expecting more from this given the trailers and all, but I was hoping for something a bit more. . . cracking. Boom. Pun #2. See below for the first.


    • Low standards come in handy here! I set mine pretty low but I couldn’t get past some of San Andreas’. . . e-hem. . . bigger faults. Sorry, I just had to make a terrible pun. The awful script aside, the visual effects are great here, and I have seen far far FAR worse disaster flicks. These things are all pretty one-dimensional, anyway. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thoroughly enjoy The Rock and all that, but I cannot say that I will be rushing to see this in cinema or DVD. Just looks… meh. Like that. Oh well…

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s unfortunate I couldn’t rate San Andreas more highly but my goodness the writing was stupid and ignored a hell of a lot of contrivances. There are definitely parts to enjoy a lot but…..meh.

      Give it a rent and thank every who gave it a negative review you saved some money by skipping the theater! Lol

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I refuse to go to the screening for this one even though I generally like The Rock. It just looks utterly dumb and preposterous, so only worth seeing on a slooooow night and it’s on Netflix!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Netflix will be a better way to go I think. Despite the big special effects, there is literally not one legitimate reason to shell out $12 for a ticket to this in what are now rapidly dwindling numbers of theaters still bothering to screen this. San Andreas, and forgive me if this sounds snooty, had only one thing to do and that is to entertain; and it essentially messes that up.


  4. I can’t get over the fact that The Rock is an active-duty LAFD pilot who ignores orders by abandoning his job in the middle of the greatest natural emergency in American history. Instead he decides to go rescue his daughter and her only. F— everyone else including the poor old couple he drives past on the side of the road. Disgraceful.


    • I would have to agree with you on that. I only tried to steer away from the self-centered nature of the story as these kinds of movies always have to have some sort of focus, and in this case it’s the family that Johnson’s character belongs to. The dynamic is pretty generic but it worked for me. But I 100% can get behind the argument that it doesn’t make him look good since he abandons his post and goes to help two people in grave danger when so many others (even if they are strangers to him) are in the exact same situation. Plot holes like that tend to get overlooked too easily. It’s harder to ignore in San Andreas.


  5. I’ve read quite a lot of praise for the effects in this, which is sort of nice to hear given we all tend to be a bit cynical towards CGI. The Rock can do no wrong in my eyes. Still need to see this though. Great work Tom!



    • The CGI is definitely worth the price of admission but I always want a bit more to help counteract the headache of exploding/breaking shit. Hahah. The Rock and Carla Gugino do their best but they’re let down by a horrendous script. So is Paul Giamatti, who I normally love. He got on my nerves here pretty badly.


  6. Agree with you on this one. I think for disaster movies to work they need to give me something new special effects wise and have a large charismatic cast. The Rock couldn’t carry this movie as great as he is. It’s just too silly


    • I thought the CGI here was it’s strong point but I’d agree it wasn’t anything much different besides being an improvement upon things like Day After Tomorrow and 2012.


      • Yeah it’s better than 2012 and Day After Tomorrow but nothing I haven’t seen before. A movie like Twister was something new which made it more of a spectacle.


  7. The pulling power of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson increases again. He’s become quite the hot ticket in Hollywood, and you can pretty much guarantee bums on seats regardless of what film he does next.

    Sounds like a modernised ‘2012’, only specific to one type of natural disaster, and without John Cusack.


    • I’d like to think The Rock is going to only get better over time. He’s been my main reason for going to see certain films (I think we can all agree it was everyone’s justification for buying tickets to Hercules), while also being a nice bonus in others. Case in point, the last several Fast & Furious installments.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, someone had to! Poor Giamatti. He’s so far above pigeonholed roles like the wary scientist/voice of reason.

      Liked by 1 person

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