Remember when Roland Emmerich made a movie about the 2012 apocalypse that never happened and how it wasn’t a good film in the slightest? Remember all those action scenes that were so void of realism and originality that it felt like watching someone play a video game, and also cheating? Yeah. They took that and added some Dwayne Johnson to it. I am aware that I am not first in making note of this not-so-little similarity.
Not to be confused with one of the objectively best games in the Grand Theft Auto series, Brad Peyton’s San Andreas is, as charged, pretty much indistinguishable from Roland Emmerich’s legendarily bad 2012. Between the two, San Andreas angered me less, although I’m not certain that’s a sizeable victory. Yes, I know you’re probably wondering how a director with such classics as Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore under his wing could possibly get it wrong, but trust me, there’s a lot that’s not quite right about this film.
Our story begins in Los Angeles and Dwayne Johnson is an LAFD helicopter pilot who is divorced from his wife who is now dating a richer and more douchey man. I can’t put my finger on which movie this reminds me of. Either way, the mother is played by Carla Gugino, the obligatory ‘rich douchebag’ new boyfriend is Ioan Gruffud, and the daughter is Alexandra Daddario, whom Gruffud is bringing along for a trip to San Fransisco, not knowing of the disaster that is to come. The disaster in question is foreseen by a worried scientist (still, can’t remember what movie I’m thinking of) played by Paul Giamatti who discovers that the San Andreas fault is shifting, which will result in earthquakes, cities being ripped apart, and possibly even a handful of one-note action sequence. NOTE: All cell phone and wi-fi connections in the country seemingly remain intact in spite of literally everything.
Indeed, chaos does eventually ensue, and while Daddy Rock manages to rescue Mama Gugino by chopper, their daughter is still trapped in San Fransisco after the earthquake and needing help, which she predictably does not get from Douche Boyfriend Gruffud. Daddy Rock and Mama Gugino travel towards San Fransisco, bent on saving their daughter before another earthquake hits, this one even more dire than the last, or any earthquake seen by mankind. The daughter teams up with two British boys to navigate through San Fransisco, as the parents draw ever closer to her, and perhaps each other too. How sweet.
At one point they’re also forced to switch Daddy Rock’s helicopter with an old couple’s propeller plane because that’s all that was missing.
I suppose one thing that makes this film slightly more engaging than 2012 is that the stuff that occurs in San Andreas is more scientifically plausible, especially since several scientists do indeed speculate that California is long overdue to be toppled into the sea. It also doesn’t repeat the classic Emmerich mistake of abruptly introducing too many new characters and killing them off usually just as, if not more abruptly. Remember, it’s not the quantity of characters that make you care about the destruction that befalls them; ’tis the quality of the writing.
Sadly, though, the characters in San Andreas didn’t do much for me either, unless you account for the fact that Paul Giamatti is as enjoyable to watch as ever. I feel like Dwayne Johnson is one of those actors that have fallen into the same pit of despair as Brad Pitt. Both actors have range, but are never allowed to explore much beyond generic action hero roles – something that YourMovieSucks pointed out in his review of World War Z. This is somewhat similar to how Channing Tatum might be a good actor but is usually restrained to generic “hot boyfriend” roles in romantic comedies to keep the impressionable fangirls happy.
However, San Andreas also suffers from not giving their characters room to grow on you in-between the many action scenes. It’s certainly no Mad Max, which managed to make you care about what was going on even though the action itself was basically the main star of the movie, but that was also because the action scenes had weight to them and provided what felt like legitimate peril for the main characters.
The action in San Andreas isn’t horribly bad. Even if I’m as tired as the next guy of watching CGI cities get destroyed, be it by aliens or by Mother Nature, there are a few genuinely enthusing moments, although not enough for me to rate this one especially high. Is it unfair of me to pan this film simply because I’ve seen so many movies like it before? Would a person who has never before in his life seen a movie where a major city gets wrecked think this is the most grand spectacle ever? Or, if he’ll hear me out before seeing San Andreas, do I perhaps advice him of better movies that end with stuff getting relentlessly blown to pieces?
Well, whatever. I’m done with this movie. Here’s my final rating and the official San Andreas trailer:
Oops, sorry. Here it is: