By Gary Murray
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Paul Giamatti and Carla Gugino
Written by Carlton Cuse
Directed by Brad Peyton
Running time 114 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
To just about everybody who‘ll listen I have been making the pun “If I don’t like San Andreas, it is not my fault.” But here’s the deal, I love dumb movies and I love summer destruction flicks. I loved the remake of Piranha and Poseidon as much as I loved the re-make of Mad Max. Summer is the time one checks their brain at the door and wallow in the orgy of cinematic mass destruction. So that part of my brain was ready for the total chaos that is promised in San Andreas.
The film stars Dwayne Johnson AKA The Rock, a man who is hell-bent on being in every action film of 2015. It seems that every time one turns around, he’s in another movie. Don’t get me wrong, I think the guy is just wonderful and has a great love for movies and his fans.
Anyway, The Rock is helicopter pilot Ray. The beginning of the film is a rescue of a young blond girl who falls down a ravine. He risks the lives and the team and a reporting crew in the rescue. It is the kind of stunt that would get any normal rescue pilot fired but shows the maverick spirit of the man.
Life is not going well for Ray. His wife Emma (Carla Gugino) has filed for divorce. They have a daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who is getting ready to go off to college. She has a great relationship with her dad but there are remnants of tragedy that hang over their lives. Mom has moved on with Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) a slimy real estate developer who has a new building in San Francisco. He agrees to fly Blake up from LA. Of course they take Daniel’s private jet. He is a part of the 1% of super rich.
On the other side of the plot is Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti). He is a professor at Cal Tech who teaches a class on earthquakes where every student has an Apple computer. The scene where Hayes explains plate shifts is done to an orchard of bitten fruit. Anyway, his team has a theory about predicting earthquakes. They go to Hoover Dam to test the theory and all hell breaks loose at the facility. An earthquake destroys the structure. It is an impressive display of destruction and a harbinger of things to come. Hayes predicts that a bigger event could destroy both LA and San Francisco. It is the mother of all quakes.
To be honest, the film is of two obliterations of major US cities. First we get Los Angeles where Mom Emma is having a penthouse lunch with other member of the super rich. The shockwave finally hits and the building begins to turn to rubble. Ray calls her and tells her to go to the roof to be rescued. She rushes in the opposite direction of everyone else. And in another bit of overblown action, Ray saves his soon to be ex with daring exploits of maverick behavior. The idea is ‘to hell with saving anyone else just as long as he saves the ex-wife’. There is a sole focus on family and not any other person.
The rest of the plot takes place in the city by the bay. We soon find that Daniel cannot be trusted with the care of Blake. She is eventually rescued by two English men she ‘cute-meets’ in the lobby. They eventually form a trio whose only job is to get to higher ground. After the earthquake, there is the after shock and the tsunami backlash. Luxury liners flip over and onto the land. Again the rich will get their due.
The film is really an attack of the 1%. The audience cheers when the wealthy cad is killed in a violent manner. All of the focus is on rich people getting their due by Mother Nature and to hell with the rest. There is no focus on any of the unwashed masses getting destroyed. We see a high-rise restaurant filled with the uber rich getting destroyed but not the poor bus boys dying. It is as if both towns are only filled with leisurely rich and God is delivering deserved havoc on their over indulgence by people who do not deserve their wealth. Ray is spared because he is a common man and not idle rich.
In the acting department Dwayne Johnson does a workman job with a workman role. He is a put upon man who never wonders why his kids look nothing like him. And speaking of kids, how does Alexandra Daddario function without her eye falling out? In just about every scene, she has this wide-eyed stare that defies all laws of biology and physics. She is a pretty girl but at times she comes across as a bug-eyed monster.
Paul Giamatti is still Paul Giamatti, delivering silly science babble lines as if they were Shakespeare. He is the kind of actor who can breathe live into just about any character. This role is more of a paycheck between more respected gigs.
San Andreas is exactly the film one would expect. I just wanted even more destruction of the state of California. To be honest, I wanted to see the entire state slide off the plates and drown in the ocean bottom, taking every bit of the land mass to the briny deep. I’d call that a good start and a heck of a movie. Wait, I think maybe that was Waterworld. Never mind, no one wants to experience that again…..