Rock Solid Earthquake Movie, But Still Cracked In Some Areas

San Andreas

RELEASED: 2015, May
GENRE: Suspense, Thriller, Natural Disaster Movie
DURATION: 154 min(s)
DIRECTOR: Brad Peyton
ACTORS: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandria Daddario, Carla Gugino
PLOT: In the beautiful state of California, the southern cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Bakersfield are enjoying their usual routines. However, all that changes when an earthquake in Nevada occurs, starting a chain reaction capable of destroying the entire state. LA fire chief Ray (Dwayne Johnson) finds himself dragged into the epicenter of the chaos when his daughter Blake (Daddario) and wife Emma (Gugino) become entangled in the disaster.

ACTORS’ PERFORMANCE: For a disaster movie you don’t expect much in terms of acting outside of lots of screaming and a stone cold, brave protagonist. Surprisingly San Andreas’ characters slightly deviate from that formula. Johnson is ever the stoic macho man, who seems capable of anything. He primarily keeps his cool, but for once has some tragic backstory that adds some emotional turmoil and realism to his pallet. Daddario has certainly grown up from her Percy Jackson days, and continues to impress with me with her roles. Despite looking like a shallow twenty year old, Daddario has some depth to her simple role as her character pulls out some survival skills while still be vulnerable to fear. Gugino further shows women rock, as she too jumps into the ravaged quake zones to help Johnson achieve his goals. Her character starts off moot, but eventually transitions into an action woman while also assisting in keeping the plot moving, something that can be hard to do. Paul Giamatti nails the tectonics expert role, bringing a plethora of qualities to a stereotypical role that not only “explains” the science involved, but also brings some purpose to the film.
SCENES: San Andreas brings jaw dropping special effects to the fray, showing what a major earthquake in California could look like. The design team has done a fine job editing computer-generated sequences of buildings collapsing alongside live action sequences involving props “falling” on extras. Camera work adds some depth to the scenes, and for once tumbling cameras actually add to the detail of the movie, “It’s a Miracle”. Sound editing also hits home as a powerful symphony score is mixed into the rumbles, crashes, and explosions granting the feel as if this was a judgment from the heavens. In case you haven’t gotten yet, this may be the best part of the movie.

LIKED: San Andreas is one of the better suspense movies I’ve seen in a while. Most movies involve the cast making stupid choices so that we can get more suspense and thrills. This film does a decent job of piecing the events together to give a point to the adventure and putting the chaos as a secondary quality. This is helped by dividing the story into three components: detecting the quake, being in the quake, and getting into the quake zone to rescue. By balancing these three plots, I felt as if I was watching a disaster unfold, while also experiencing the horror of the city coming apart. Jumping around kept the movie entertaining, while keeping the simplistic plot moving as the three plots converge to a close. Another like is the variety of action involving stunts like aircraft piloting, debris dodging, and even skydiving all used to get to their goals. The character development was not half bad, not only adding definition to a limited role, but also helping maintain interest and emotional connections to the cast.

DISLIKED: Like all disaster movies, the obvious foreshadowing in both dialog and camerawork, gives away an already predictable plot. Most likely that won’t “shake” you up too much, but still surprise keeps things interesting. Second is the lack of buildup of the earthquake. Think about how most disaster movies start to teasing you before the storm hits, you get hyped up for what is about to come and it makes the movie more exciting. Not this one, the earthquake just hits and then bam the buildings begin to fall. In addition we could have used a little more character development to help out with the simple heroes, especially when there was so much tension at the start of the film. Conflicts kind of died down, forgiveness and acceptance happening in the blink of an eye (like that ever happens). As a side note, I wished they had done more with the Rock’s team they introduced in the beginning. Some of my favorite natural disaster movies involve a crack team going into the void to save the innocents, and this one could have greatly benefited from such an element.

FINAL THOUGHTS: All in all, San Andreas plays its role as a thriller, giving you some suspense, some laughs, and digital destruction in one weekend. It was better than I expected, but still lacks a lot of other qualities I like to see in a movie. One thing that most will like is the beautiful specimens on the screen and the strong heroic qualities they have that may get your fire going. Those looking for some fantastic digital work and an exciting adventure should pay a visit to the theater for this one, but otherwise stick to the home renting.

My scores are:

Action/Drama/Thriller: 7.5-8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

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