By Steve Stebbing
After seeing the San Andreas trailer I’m sure the director of 2012 and Day After Tomorrow, Roland Emmerich, frantically searched through his dream journal to see if he’d been ripped off because this looks like a film right out of his playbook. The only difference being that San Andreas is a bright and vibrant looking film, however, it’s still the same old story, a copy and paste of an overused script formula. San Andreas is exactly the disaster movie you think it is, unoriginal and predictable.
Working in the films favour is the charisma of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for him, but even with the film being built around his charm, it is seriously lacking in that department. The script feels like it has been recycled three times over, making each character interaction completely unbelievable and awkward. There are a few attempted one liners and comedic moments that fall flat and not because of the grim situations in the film, they just weren’t well thought out. At least that keeps the script consistent. This film quickly becomes a basic plot, moving from A to B to C with no thought of anything in between.
The Rock plays Ray Gains, a Rescue Pilot with the Los Angeles Fire Department, who is in the midst of a divorce from his estranged wife Emma, played by Carla Gugino. When he visits his daughter, Blake, Ray is informed that they will be moving in with Emma’s new boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd), an architect billionaire tycoon. Ray is caught off guard and leaves. While this is going on, we have another plot line moving with the film, the clichéd scientist angle with Paul Giamatti as Lawrence Hayes, a Caltech seismologist who, with his close friend and co-worker, tragically discover that the entire San Andreas fault is about to shift and crack California wide open. We get the first taste with the massive destruction of the Hoover Dam in Las Vegas.
Gains is called into work to help with the disaster relief and flies his helicopter to Las Vegas. While on a call with Emma, he hears the earthquake start in Los Angeles and turns around to come save her. Meanwhile, Ray’s daughter Blake is with her mother’s boyfriend Daniel on a trip to San Francisco on his private jet, and the two have an awkward conversation about him not wanting to come between her and her father, standard step-family movie banter. They try very hard to set Daniel up as a nice guy for the beginning of the film. It’s short-lived.
It feels as though the whole main plot of this movie is about a family that has been estranged from each other due to a tragedy years before and by the end of the film the family will be back together, stronger than ever. It’s a formula that will have your eyes rolling so hard you may become concerned that they will stay that way.
I said before that Johnson’s mere screen presence is enough to make this film watchable but even that well starts to run dry after a while. There is absolutely nothing that separates this film from any other bad disaster flick. Yes, it’s better than Sharknado but that isn’t saying much.
It’s just more of the constant disappointment I feel when I see a shaky (pun intended) movie idea getting a large budget ($110 million in this instance) with all style and no substance, while other really interesting projects and developments get stopped in their tracks due to budget reasons or studios getting cold feet. Hey New Line, this is a hundred mil that Cary Fukunaga could have used with Stephen King’s It!
Maybe I am spoiled now. With Mad Max and Avengers: Age of Ultron a couple of weeks behind us and more exciting big-budget blockbusters on the way, perhaps I have no more room in my over stimulated brain for such bombastic action, but I doubt it. The movie-going audience is getting wiser to the decline of substance in film, and San Andreas is a great example of that. The best part of this whole experience was Sia’s cover of California Dreamin’ in the end credits. This gets a very low one out of five.