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