MOVIE REVIEW: ‘San Andreas’ Crumbles, Explodes And Dulls


Film: San Andreas
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario
Directed by: Brad Peyton

The disaster movie is a sub-genre that works almost solely off of nostalgia. I remember watching The Poseidon Adventure as a kid and was shook in awe by the power of natural forces and how humans may react to such an event. The bar of quality was set decades ago for these kinds of bombastic features. San Andreas does nothing to prove that it’s different from any other recent blow-em-up effort, wading through a slew of CGI compositions of buildings crumbling, coupled with generic performances rooted in the family dynamic.

Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is a rescue-chopper pilot tasked with disaster relief after an earthquake in Nevada brings the Hoover Damn to a pile of rubble. What he didn’t know is that the earthquake would set off a series of other earthquakes in California. Shift over to San Francisco, Ray’s daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), and estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), are suffering the throes of the massive earthquake in their area. Will Ray save the day and repair his family? Who cares?

There’s a scene in San Andreas where Dwayne Johnson escorts people to the side of AT&T Park in San Francisco, telling them to back themselves up against the wall. As things tumble down on the stadium, the people stood safe. Someone asked why. Johnson responds saying that you should find something sturdy to stand up next to, that way you’ll stay safe. To put it bluntly, this exact situation stands as a metaphor for Johnson’s hulking body and protective mindset. Everyone who stands behind him survives in the film, crafting this forced view that Johnson himself may be a natural deterrent towards earthquakes. Yeah, the movie is that lazy.

Brad Peyton directed the Cats & Dogs sequel and the Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel. Having used a massive amount of CGI before, he feels like a natural fit to direct something that has more blockbuster visuals than practical set pieces. He lingers on the destruction, begging the audience to be invested at the thousands of people perishing. It’s too bad that there’s no emotional punch to support his work. Harmless fun turns into mind-boggling stupidity when the characters survive deathly acts of nature one after another.

You can practically see the studio notes being written for the actors in each scene. Talk more about how much you miss a cohesive family here. Do something heroic like jumping from a helicopter here. Kiss here. San Andreas is perfectly fine if you want to see a movie that conducts every disaster trope known to cinema. There’s the damsel in distress. There’s the main male character accomplishing impossible feats of strength in the name of family and protection. There’s the erratic scientist who keeps saying, “I told you so.” Even when we get the dark side of human nature in the form of grocery store looting and gunfire, Johnson’s character steals a truck with the purpose of saving his family. Narrative moves along. You need not worry your feeble minds about how the human psyche reacts to such a devastating natural disaster. After all, The Rock is here to save the day.

After everything is all said and done and everyone is on the upswing of hope after the destruction is finished, that’s when things take an even bigger turn for the hopelessly patriotic. The highlighting of FEMA’s efforts after the events coupled with the slow unraveling of the American flag on the Golden Gate Bridge runs like the writers really loved Norman Rockwell paintings. To make things all the more blunt, Johnson’s final line is, “It’s time to rebuild,” as he looked upon the massive destruction that occurred.

If seeing a bunch of things crumble to the ground is your bag, San Andreas may be for you. If you want to get the most out of your movie-viewing experience this weekend, see Mad Max: Fury Road if you haven’t already.


Review written by: Sam Cohen (follow him on Twitter!)

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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