The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>SAN ANDREAS</i> | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - SAN ANDREAS

A chopper pilot teams with his estranged wife to save their daughter during the world's largest ever earthquake.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Brad Peyton

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Paul Giamatti, Kylie Minogue, Archie Panjabi

"As disaster movies go, San Andreas isn't a complete disaster, but you'll have to sift through a lot of rubble to find anything worthwhile here."

In a summer saturated with superheroes and sci-fi, San Andreas is a decidedly old school offering, its premise residing somewhere between the disaster movies of the '70s and the apocalyptic destruction fests Roland Emmerich unleashed on cinema goers at the turn of the century. Director Brad Peyton's would be blockbuster aims for a sweet spot between the realism of all-star '70s disaster flicks like Earthquake and the over the top CG spectacle of Emmerich's offerings, but merely ends up as a diluted imitation of both.
When the San Andreas Fault tears apart, it unleashes the largest quake in recorded history, laying waste to the US West Coast. Search and rescue chopper pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) is called into action, but things turn personal when his about to be ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) requires rescuing from a devastated Los Angeles skyscraper. Meanwhile in San Francisco, Gaines' daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) is lost among the rubble of the city. Attempting to warn the populace of the dangers ahead is Cal-Tech seismologist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti), who saw the effects first hand when the Hoover Dam was destroyed, claiming the life of one of his crew.
Due to the fact that earthquakes are an all too real danger, the filmmakers' hands are tied when it comes to portraying such an event without straying into the offensive realms of bad taste, and whether the freshness of the Nepal earthquake works for or against the film remains to be seen. As such, the human cost is rarely glimpsed, save for the early death of one of Lawrence's crew, and the later just desserts offing of a character who represents the closest the movie has to a human villain. At the same time, we see entire cities destroyed, so its all too clear that the unspoken death toll runs into the hundreds of thousands. Unlike the great Final Destination series, the movie strays from building its set pieces around the creative demise of its players (you'll find no aging stars disappearing into cracks in the earth here), and the result feels like a sugar coated TV movie, with all the character nuance and suspense of a very expensive Baywatch episode.
As is the case with so many modern tentpole blockbusters, there's a weightlessness to the CG effects. Falling styrofoam boulders would represent more of a hazard than the unconvincing digital landscape the movie has its characters traverse. Despite the LA and San Francisco settings, it's an implausibly depopulated world, with only a handful of unconvincingly effected extras wandering about like stray zombies in a Walking Dead episode.
The film asks us to ignore the general suffering and get behind the Gaines family. Luckily, Johnson is one of the most endearing stars Hollywood can call on today, and he does an impressive job of keeping us interested in his family's plight, to some degree. As disaster movies go, San Andreas isn't a complete disaster, but you'll have to sift through a lot of rubble to find anything worthwhile here.