San Andreas (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

San Andreas (2015) Directed by Brad Peyton. With Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti and Alexandra Daddario.

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I have an illogical weakness for Hollywood disaster epics. One day, I’m hoping to see a good one. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen Mother Earth battered by meteorites, swamped by tsunamis, frozen by a second ice age, singed by volcanoes, and the full force of Mayan prophecies, writ large. Now we have Brad Peyton’s earthquake offering, San Andreas, not the best advert for buying Californian real estate. Contrarily, the aforementioned ingredients spell plenty of dollars in box office takings. With a global haul of $473.7m to its name, it’s safe to say we’re all intrigued by the possibility of our ultimate demise.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson stars as Raymond, a heroic helicopter rescue pilot on the brink of divorce from his soon to be ex-wife (Carla Gugino). Throw into the mix a pretty, blue-eyed young daughter, and there’s the standard Tinseltown recipe of telegraphed plot points you can see coming as soon as the characters are introduced. That’s something I dislike about these films. As an audience, we’re treated like blithering idiots – expected to chow-down on a seemingly endless supply of syrupy, sentimental porridge until we gag on it.

To its credit, while San Andreas is chock-full of woeful character moments, shared between underdeveloped stereotypes, at least it spares us the patriotic flag-waving. It also has the agreeable Dwayne Johnson in its corner, who, as a sheer force of nature himself, seems an appropriate fit for for humankind trying to survive the hostility of nature at its most ferocious.

In terms of outright spectacle, it has its bases covered by falling skyscrapers and giant walls of water. It’s troubling, however, that once the chaos begins, the tone never feels overly sombre in these films – its’ more a case of – “Oooh look, that was cool!“, or ” Wow! Did you see that guy get crushed by that fire truck!?”. Death and disaster are served to us as theme-park entertainment, which I understand to a certain degree, but still,  I’m left to ponder if there’s a film maker out there with the smarts to give us the cinematic enormity of the disaster, without sidestepping the pathos.

San Andreas won’t shake your world, nor is it hide-under-the-table bad. It’s one of those ‘rock and a hard place’ blockbusters that manages to entertain us in a very throwaway sense, with frequent shows of big-budget bravado and the likeable presence of Dwayne Johnson. In terms of story, it’s a shame it doesn’t feel the need to venture away from the Roland Emmerich blueprint of CGI disaster epics. Sadly, you’ve seen it all before.  2.5/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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24 Responses to San Andreas (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. I only went to see it because of The Rock, haha! Some point in the movie it was just like, “Seriously???!!”. It was just one disaster after the next and then it became completely unbelievable that they could all survive ALL of that. I’m still a huge fan of Day After Tomorrow!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Haha! That’s funny Cassidy, although who can blame you?? The Rock is a big draw. I agree with you entirely, San Andreas is big and not very clever, although I’d argue that the one-disaster-to-the-next aspect of it wasn’t nearly as painfully awful as we saw in Roland Emmerich’s film, 2012. Now that was an out-and-out stink bomb.

  2. Lloyd Marken says:

    What are your favourite disaster flicks? I think The Towering Inferno has to be the best but I like Dante’s Peak, Armageddon, The Day After Tomorrow and of course if alien invasion is included Independence Day.

  3. Dan O. says:

    Very silly, but also kind of fun. Nice review.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Do you think there’s a part of us that invites the silliness, like we’d almost be disappointed if these movies weren’t overblown and utterly daft?? I do wonder…

  4. ps. Great review, Gareth, as always!

  5. I walked into this one with my pitchfork sharpened and torch blazing. I was watching it just to watch it and because I’m a huge fan of Dwayne Johnson. There’s a mountain of CGI destruction which I accepted as being part and parcel of any disaster movie but I ended up loving this movie because of the family story at its heart. I connected with the characters and cared about them so much that every piece of destruction was heightened. I actually cried in this movie and was on the edge of my seat for most of it. No one’s more shocked than me that I enjoyed it but the heart wants what it wants.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I must say that I’m surprised to learn you had such a strong emotional reaction to it, mostly because I found it to be cliched – all the plot points were painfully obvious, but then, it’s a reminder to me (and this is a good thing) that each film hits each person in a different way. I’m glad you took so much away from San Andreas. I’m with you on The Rock, the man has a special aura. Long live his movie career. I hear a San Andreas 2 is in the works.

  6. kabrown4 says:

    Like you I also have a weakness for disaster movies, however the last ones I saw seriously were Independence Day, Twister and Deep Impact. I wasn’t even I teenager when these came out, (same with many of the click flicks I loved at the same time I saw these films, which I count as the last time Hollywood produced something I thought worthy of my time) and I’m now in my late twenties. It’s sad that for a genre I do genuinely love that I can not take recent attempts at the box office seriously because of the formulas that Hollywood thinks the audience wants. I don’t know about anyone else but I want to be entertained and sunrises, not bored by tropes.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I think they have a tendency to treat the audience like idiots. They figure that, as long as they give us the full weight of the spectacle, we’ll leave the theatre happy, despite not having connected on an emotional level. When I was a kid, that might have worked, to a certain point, but when they’re spending so much money and effort on getting the visuals right, why not give us a story that resonates?! I always leave these films unfulfilled and slightly dejected. Great to hear from you, by the way. 🙂

      • kabrown4 says:

        For me as a writer the story is the most important thing and the visuals should only be there to back it up. I have never seen Avatar on principle because they spent millions on new visual technology but not enough on getting someone to write a decent plot.

  7. Saw this film the same day you posted the review lol. Couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said. I also thought Alexandra Deddario’s acting was deeply impressive

    • garethrhodes says:

      You’re right, Daddario was fine in her role. If anything, I was glad she wasn’t just the damsel in distress – they made her resourceful, with plenty of survival know-how, which was refreshing. I wasn’t so keen on the two English boys, though, particularly the younger one.

      • I also loved how much emotion she put into it. The younger English boy seemed to have too many cheesy lines for my liking. And of course America stuck to its usual habit of making English characters posh which always annoys me.

      • garethrhodes says:

        You’re right about that, Hollywood does seem to love its stereotypes. They should cast more people from the north of England in U.S movies, like they do with Game of Thrones. I think that Hollywood producers worry that Americans won’t be able to understand a broad Yorkshire accent.

      • I think it would throw them at first but they should grow accustomed to it eventually. Besides, with the amount of household names we have in England there must be one from up north that has made a name for themselves in the USA.

  8. Diego says:

    I’m paraphrasing but the part where the Rock says “First time I’ve been to second base with you in a while” Jesus man aha

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