By: John Delia
Especially for disaster movie fans, San Andreas delivers a thrilling feast for your eyes and ears. Brilliantly concocted with amazing visuals of destruction, the movie is not much on storyline, but bold and brazen when it comes to explosive excitement. It may not be considered the disaster movie holy grail, but you’ll surly be entertained for the price of your admission. 3D is the choice you’ll want to take for an experience remembered way after leaving the theater. And for the ultimate rush, see it in IMAX 3D where available.
From its peril filled beginning to a finale you will not believe, San Andreas is a fun rollercoaster ride through destruction and mayhem. In the center of it all are two men; Los Angeles FD search and rescue pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and geophysics professor at Cal Tech University Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) a noted earthquake seismologist. Both will be caught up in the biggest earthquake in the world.
Following a daring rescue, Ray returns to his small Los Angeles apartment where he’s been living since separating from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino). The two are at odds with each other since the death of one of their daughters in a river rafting accident. In the meantime, scientist Hayes has been working on a sensor that can predict earthquakes. It would give the populace a chance to evacuate in areas where a quake will do the most damage. He has concentrated on the San Andreas Fault a very unstable slice in the Earth that runs inland along the western coast of the United States.
To get a true reading, Hayes and his assistant decide to check the multiple mini quakes at Hoover Dam in Nevada tacking sensors placed inside the huge wall of the hydroelectric power producer. Just as they conclude their calculations, the dam starts to crack. Within minutes, an earthquake tears the dam apart. Soon Los Angeles starts to feel the wrath of the massive tremors that start to flatten the city. Seeing the buildings collapsing, Ray takes flight in his chopper on a path to find Emma and their daughter Blake (Alexandra Doddario).
The film moves along at a fast pace showing the widespread obliteration of buildings, airports, bridges, roads and a whole lot more. Bringing on the turmoil, director Brad Peyton performs his magic turning the landscape into a harrowing trail of ruin. In addition, he adds the urgency of his main character to locate and save his family. The story gets extremely “Hollywood,” but after all it’s a fantasy like most films from Mad Max to Star Wars.
The one thread that holds the film together making it very creepy comes with the reality that the San Andreas Fault could indeed come apart at the seams. If it ever does, it may look something like what you’ll see in the movie. That’s the beauty of disaster movies, making use of the possibility of an actual extreme event to send an audience on a wild ride and Peyton accomplishes his goal. You’d almost think Peyton studied under Roland Emmerich, the master of disaster director of the films 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.
The Rock never changes from one extremely violent film to another. His performance in Furious 7 shows the aggressive form of acting that he brings to every action movie role. Here he turns it up a notch and makes the film work. The determined lifesaver role in San Andreas may feel like he’s typecast, but who cares? If the adventure needs a strong character, why not The Rock?
The real stars of the film are the crews who bring the amazing special effects, art, sets, models and makeup for the cataclysmic events in the film. From disintegrating skyscrapers, bridges and Hoover Dam to a vast ocean producing a monstrous tsunami, this film shows the realistic collapse of an event such as this. The special effects involving the aforementioned crews with support of computer graphic imagining (CGI) has come a long way in the hands of these visual effects masters. What you will see in the trailer captures only a few minutes of the extreme wreckage depicted in the full length film. And if you choose see it in 3D IMAX, it becomes even more electrifying with outstanding sights and sound.
But it doesn’t stop there as Peyton pulls off many spectacular stunts that in some cases include the actors themselves. While The Rock may be accustomed to jumping into a harness and being pulled into the air, even Carla Gugino as Emma gets into the act. In one scene, per director Peyton, she’s conveyed as if dangling from a helicopter as she’s lifted off a building that’s coming apart. And speaking of Gugino, she’s a good choice as the disconsolate housewife. She portrays well the woman who can’t come to grips with the loss of one child, only to be faced with the possibility of this disaster taking her only remaining daughter.
San Andreas has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Recommended for disaster action film junkies that are along for a wild ride and who really don’t care too much about storylines. (B)