San Andreas Review
From the very moment we’re introduced to Dwayne Johnson’s helicopter pilot Ray – a lens flare reflecting off his aviator shades and his perfectly-white teeth gleaming in a wash of godly sunlight as he murmurs ‘I’m just doing my job, ma’am!’ – we know exactly what we’re in for with San Andreas, the latest in Hollywood’s ever-growing list of ways to bugger up the American landscape, in which our hero must traverse the rapidly collapsing San Andreas fault to rescue his ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario)
‘The Rock’ himself is arguably the main draw for this picture, and rightly so. Whatever one might say about Johnson’s acting chops (or lack thereof), he’s a constantly reliable movie star who follows the classical Hollywood maxim of just looking great and sounding great. The mostly flat script even gives him a little to work with, daring to make a man whose arm is thicker than my entire body appear vulnerable once or twice.
If only the supporting cast were gifted with half the charm of our leading man. Sure, Paul Giamatti is a good bit of fun as an eye-popping seismologist, but Johnson’s wife, daughter and the survivors they meet along the way are cardboard cut-out placeholders that occasionally re-awaken painful memories of the late 1990’s period, where disaster films took a nose-dive straight into the cracks between fault-lines. The low point comes in the form of Ioan Gruffudd as Emma’s new partner, a ‘Billy Zane in Titanic’ meanie who chooses to save himself the disaster strikes.
Speaking of which, for a film dismissed by many as ‘just another CGI disaster movie’, I have to say I was rather impressed by the quake itself. Those of us exposed to a large amount of CG wizardry tend to wonder if there’s any ‘wow’ factor left in such endeavours, but the sizeable effects and deftly thunderous sound design of San Andreas are quite something. As the disaster is contained within several cities as opposed to the world-ravaging 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow, the chaos and wreckage actually has some sense of scale and intensity.
San Andreas is most comparable to last year’s Pompeii: the characters are paper-thin and the plot is as linear as they come, but the power of the lead actor and the effects give it decent welly (plus the bonus lack of 3D!). There’s nothing particularly offensive or anything of major significance in it, but it’ll enter one ear and leave the other without leaving too much debris on the way out.