Review: San Andreas Has Great Destruction Sequences But A Predictable Story
Title: San Andreas
Director: Brad Peyton
Screenwriter: Carlton Cuse (screenplay), Andre Fabrizio (story), and Jeremy Passmore (story)
Principal Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, and Art Parkinson
Summary: In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his estranged daughter.
The disaster movie is about as common for as summer blockbuster as some sort of animated film for kids. One almost always turns up and it’s almost always directed by Roland Emmerich. Say what you want about the quality of those movies but they usually have some amazing destruction scenes. I fast forward through almost all of 2012 to watch the earthquake and volcano scenes. San Andreas is a larger version of that earthquake scene from 2012 and I was surprised to see what it wasn’t an Emmerich movie. That made me nervous even because it meant that even the big money shots, the reason to see these movies, might not be very good.
San Andreas might go down as the movie that surprises me the most this summer by having great destruction sequences, a likable cast, and one of the most competent “in peril” kids I’ve ever seen but a predictable story.
I feel like a lot of people are going to come down very hard on the story behind San Andreas and I feel like that is almost unfair to the movie. This has the same story that almost all of these movies have, a separated family that comes together in the midst of a disaster. There are plenty of moments in it that don’t make sense and sometimes it becomes a bit much as we’re supposed to be rooting for Ray (Dwayne Johnson) and Emma (Carla Gugino) to get reunited with their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) while thousands of people die around them. Sometimes that can be a bit much to swallow but Johnson and the rest of the cast are game enough that it more or less works. I’ve always had a hard time wrapping my head around these types of movie because I keep thinking about all of the people that are dying off screen.
The thing that sets San Andreas from the rest of the pack is the character of Blake. She starts off as a young woman who needs someone to save her and someone eventually does; older brother Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) who was in the lobby for a job interview and Ollie (Art Parkinson) Ben’s younger brother who was tagging alone for a vacation. As soon as Blake gets out of the initial problem, she takes control of the situation. She gets in touch with her parents despite their being no power, she knows what to take from an overturned fire truck to keep them alive, and she turns a radio to an emergency signal to stay as informed as possible. She saves Ben and Ollie more than they save her in the end, which was nice to see.
The special effects and the earthquakes are the reason we’re here though and they are all great scenes. There are really four big scenes; the Hoover Dam collapsing, an Earthquake in Los Angeles that destroys San Francisco as well, another Earthquake in San Francisco that demolishes what was left of the city, and a giant tsunami. Director Brad Peyton doesn’t have many movies under his belt but with help from cinematographer Steve Yedlin and VFX supervisor Colin Strause they created some truly breathtaking scenes. They seemed to focus more on the casualties than most of these movies do as they made sure we knew that when the golden gate bridge collapses there were people on there. He shows someone in the water after the tsunami hits. It’s something that I think really hammers home the fact that other people are dying even if it isn’t the center of the movie.
San Andreas has some downright silly moments and the story isn’t the smartest in the world but in the places where it counts San Andreas hits all the right notes. If you’re a fan of the disaster movie genre, you’ll enjoy this. If not this isn’t going to be the movie that changes your mind but it’s entertaining enough. If you’ve seen Avengers: Age of Ultron or Mad Max: Fury Road and need a movie for the weekend you could do worse than San Andreas.