In a battle between the forces of nature versus Dwayne Johnson, my money is on the latter every time. In San Andreas, that’s exactly what happens: after the largest earthquake in Californian history ripples through the San Andreas coastline, destroying everything in its path, rescue pilot Ray (Johnson) must make his way to San Francisco, surviving disaster after disaster, to save his daughter (Alexandra Daddario). It’s generic, predictable and preposterous. We know the main characters will survive the slew of grand scale destruction being thrown at them. Physics… what physics? Fuck physics. San Andreas defies your physics. It’s obvious that it’ll turn out fine for them all in the end. The only thing surprising about this movie is just how damn good it is, despite knowing how it’s going to turn out from the outset.
There was no chance in Hell any of the main characters were going to die, yet the scenes of suspense had me on the edge of my seat praying that they’d make it out alive. As I sat there watching Dwayne Johnson drive a speedboat up a tsunami dodging falling ships, my heart skipped a few beats, even though the brain I left at the door knew his stunt wasn’t humanly possible; the Dwayne Johnson fan sitting on that uncomfortable theater chair knew that a tsunami was merely a small obstacle for The Rock. Watching Alexandra Daddario swimming under water in a cleavage boasting tank top, I drooled like a cartoon dog staring at a cheeseburger, while screaming to myself, ”FIND A WAY TO SAFETY, YOU PERFECT CREATION.” I don’t believe in God; especially not during San Andreas when Paul Giamatti confirms the scientific explanations for the mass destruction; but it’s difficult not to stare at Alexandra Daddario not and come to the conclusion that she’s an angel sent from Heaven. Furthermore, her character Blake is so well written to be likable, Hollywood dupes us into cookie cutter emotional attachment. Damn you, Hollywood. Damn you for making me love again.
The central characters, are all, in fact, just that – likable. Hence why I couldn’t help but root for them in the face of danger. Dwayne Johnson and his award winning smile would melt the polar icecaps he might have to face some day in a sequel. Here, he shows dramatic range that proves he’s a competent versatile actor, even if he’s not Marlon Brando. His movie wife (played by Gugino), drops the greatest F-Bomb in the history of a PG-13 film; her obstinate nature is a perfect accomplice for Dwayne’s unstoppable force of nature which makes the earthquakes seem human in comparison. That’s why we hope they manage to settle their marital problems, which stem from losing a child they couldn’t save in the past. Sure it’s corny, soppy and intent on making us gooey eyed; it also further bolsters the obvious fact they’ll save Blake: no way would a family friendly Hollywood blockbuster have parents lose both children. This earthquake is more than a disaster: it’s a chance at redemption. That being said, worked.
The suspenseful action sequences are down to Brad Peyton’s expert direction: the CGI buildings and landmarks crumbling is some of the most believable I’ve ever seen as well. Provided you can suspend your disbelief, you might get goosebumps. San Andreas has fun destroying great American landmarks such as The Golden Gate Bridge and The Hoover Dam, but it looks so damn realistic it’s intense.
San Andreas isn’t for everyone: cynics will roll their eyes at its predictability and sentiment; those who can’t check their brain out will guffaw at the crimes against science; others might just find it to be too overbearing. However, if you can accept it for what it is you’ll have a blast: not only does it successfully execute its requirements, it does so better than most disaster movies. The generically written characters are likable enough to emotionally root for and there’s plenty of destruction to keep the adrenaline pumping throughout. This is a perfect summer extravaganza that scores high on the Richter Scale. 8/10
Carlton Cuse & Andre Fabrizio
Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioann Gruffudd