When I was in the first grade, back in 2001, I experienced my first and only earthquake. I don’t remember much of it, except for the teacher shouting “Remember what we practiced!” over and over. That was 14 years ago, and now the Pacific Northwest is supposedly due for a massive earthquake. Will it be as bad as the one in San Andreas, the new disaster film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Hopefully not; but it will definitely be more—ahem—groundbreaking, though probably not as much fun.
Whoever came up with the idea to cast The Rock in a movie about a massive earthquake is either a marketing genius or a thirteen-year-old. Nevertheless, Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot caught up in a—well— rocky marriage as he is separated from his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino,) and daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario). Ray must find a way to San Francisco with his soon-to-be ex-wife in order to rescue his daughter from the worst earthquake ever. Johnson essentially gets to play himself—a macho, muscular guy with a heart of gold. He delivers most of the films one-liners with hit-or-miss success, but also gives some truly heartfelt moments that take you by surprise.
Daddario gives an entertainingly bold performance as the damsel in distress who is actually not in as much distress as the movie wants you to think. She is perfectly suitable in keeping herself alive due to her father’s training, but that would mean that there was no reason for there to be a movie at all. Shouldn’t she be attempting to save her father? Of course not, this is Hollywood, girls can’t be the heroes, can they?
The movie follows a procedural recipe for disaster films with scenes that are more over-the-top than the last. The devastation on screen is massive, and mostly looks the part, too. Aside from some moments that look more artificial than the cheese in a pack of Lunchables, San Andreas delivers on its promise for destruction. Entire panoramic views of wide-spread devastation are spectacular and exciting.
This comes with a caveat—with basically entire cities being destroyed, there somehow always manages to be working technology and cellphones to communicate with. Phones in this movie can manage to survive through car-wrecks and four-story-long drops in a collapsing building, but if I drop my phone two-feet onto cement the screen gets completely obliterated? Yeah, right.
Carla Gugino does a sufficient job with a script that wasn’t exactly rife with meaty moments. She is courageous, forgiving, and determined on rescuing her daughter. There are a couple moments where she seems to run with the nature of the film, resulting in some awkward acting, but it is nothing unforgivable.
Paul Giamatti, who plays seismologist Lawrence, is there to explain exactly what is going on with the fault lines and tectonic plates. These scenes offer a nice respite from the bombastic collapsing buildings and random explosions, though he only seems like an expository character, not one that has any impact on the film itself.
Rounding out the main cast is Hugh Johnstone-Burt, who plays Ben, a young man who manages to get stuck with Blake in her attempts to find rescue. He and his brother, Ollie (Art Parkinson), don’t offer a whole lot and only serve as companions as she waits for her parents.
San Andreas is hardly an earth-shatteringly new disaster film. Despite the fact that it is big, predictable and raucous, it is still a surprisingly fun film that somehow manages to rise above some of the recent rubble of the disaster genre though not without its fair share of plot-holes and conveniences. San Andreas won’t shake you to your core, but it also doesn’t destroy the chance for some enjoyment.