San Andreas – 2.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

San AndreasSan Andreas – 2.5/5 – Disaster films; it is the most generic kind of entertainment you can find on the big screen.  Regardless of whose acting, what the plot line is or the inevitable outcome; they always seem to play out the same way.  You are there for one thing; destruction.  Disaster films are a guilty pleasure of mine.  No matter how good or bad; there is some enjoyment to be had.   With this new entry we have Dwayne Johnson (in the lead) vs. the ultimate destruction against California; earthquakes.  As predictable as this film may get, there is enough that you can find semi enjoyment in the end.

Premise: With the San Andreas Fault ripping apart, one man must stop at nothing to save his wife and daughter from the ultimate destruction.

This film is lead by the enigmatic Dwayne Johnson.  Also known as The Rock (WWE fame); he plays a fire/rescue captain by the name of Ray.   For all the display of redundant elements in the film (including the secondary cast); Dwayne does a good job in providing something of realistic value to his character.  He never ‘overacts’ to the point of the destruction going around; he just gives us that perfect mantra to focus on throughout all that is happening. His charisma is multi-layered, as you get to see him (ironically) at his most dramatic and amazing role to date.  He never relies on his ‘muscle’ to create something charming; it is through his own suaveness of commanding the screen and interactions with the few he has in the film.  You believe his purpose and his ultimate guilt if he can’t save his daughter.  When it comes to the secondary cast, you have:

Carla Gugino – Emma (ex-wife)

Alexandra Daddario – Blake (Daughter)

Ioan Gruffudd – Daniel Riddick (ex-wife boyfriend)

Paul Giamatti – Lawrence (Scientist)

Hugo Johnsntone-Burt – Ben (Blake’s love interest)

Art Parkinson – Ollie (Ben’s little Brother)

Outside of stating the obvious; each of these characters has a grounded mentality about them.  Even with the lethargic script they have to speak from; they still put on a decent humanistic display in the film.  With that being said; there is no one that stands out from this secondary cast.  Each of them is the typical archetypes you find in every single disaster film.  They don’t go too far overboard in being cartoonish; but it is enough to know they only serve as plot points more than characters.

The direction of this film takes the most simplistc path to filming.   You have the basic premise, the ‘disaster’ trigger, some exposition mixed in with the ‘struggling’ goal leading to the ‘ultimate’ saving grace moment.  With the ‘disaster’ method of storytelling, you know you only need enough ‘setup’ to bring every character into action.   This film has paralleling stories:

Ray and his separation from his wife/daughter (main story)

Lawrence and the scientist (exposition side story)

There isn’t much quality to the story, just there to have some kind of ‘setup’.  The whole reason there is a ‘story’ is to have some kind of singular focus of familiarity.  As this film begins, we find that Ray has separated from his wife (Emma) for unknown reasons.  When all the ‘events’ of the earthquakes begin, their daughter is caught in the direst of circumstance.  This ‘trigger’ forces the separated couple to come together and navigate the hellish destructive nature of the San Andreas Fault to save her.  Paralleling this is Lawrence and his side story, where he and a group of scientist have discovered a way to predict earthquakes.  There is no real point of the side story other than being exposition heavy.  At times, it feels unnecessarily forced to the audience.  Trying to explain everything of a ‘simple’ concept seems immature, but it plays to the clichés of this genre.  From the trigger points and most of the film’s journey, you get every single generic plot method ever used in a disaster film.   I can go down a list of them, but if you ever seen any film of this genre, you know the story tropes.  From beginning to end, the film is predictable, over-the-top built into the spectacle of being visual ‘eye’ candy.  At times it feels overwhelming, but for the most of the time the film keeps at a steady pace.   The script is a sticking point of generalities; never ceasing to be more than just the typical ‘heroic’ and ‘comedic’ one liners.  Once we get to the third act and climax, you have the obvious ‘last minute’ saving grace moment, leading to an epilogue that beats you over the head with heroism.   It is that ‘dawning’ of the storm past, showing ‘hope’ for a better future.  Cliché as it is; it still provides closure to this film.

The one part of this film that stands out is the visuals.  The completely destruction of California has a serene beauty, as it all comes across very realistic.  From the buildings collapsing, the ground ripping apart and the huge tsunami, it all felt like it was happening in real time.  The one thing to note here is that the film uses a ‘personal’ perspective on the damage.  You are (most of the time) at ground level when everything is breaking a part.  This heightens the awe factor, creating a tension that is both amicable and frightening.  The score adds to the tense methods used in the film, but nothing more than ‘stylistic’ sounds to create a lasting effect.

San Andreas is that film you’ve seen a hundred times before.  It is death and destruction, with a little mix of typical exposition and seminal plot to keep you focused.   If you’re a fan of these kinds of films, or like Dwayne Johnson, I recommend this as a matinee.  There is fun to be had, and a lot of destruction to see on the big screen.

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