If the Warner Bros advertising department would like a quote on the new disaster movie, San Andreas here’s mine: “The funniest movie of 2015! I have never laughed out loud so much in years!” Of course San Andreas is not meant to be a comedy, but I just couldn’t help myself. As I say in my video review above, every time super serious seismologist Paul Giamatti looked at the screen assessing the impending destruction of California by saying “this isn’t good”, I felt he deserved an Oscar for making us believe he wasn’t talking about the script. That script, credited to the great TV show Lost’s writer/producer Carlton Cuse, is remarkable in the sense that Cuse seems entirely lost in creating even one believable human being.
Sure, this has spectacular CGI-generated special effects, but a great disaster movie needs some credible people to make us care. Think of classics in the genre like The Towering Inferno or The Poseidon Adventure. Irwin Allen knew how to turn out this stuff. Even 1974’s Earthquake at least had sensurround and seats that shook. This one just had me rolling in my seat out of restlessness. San Andreas, with mass destruction never before seen in history and millions who must be dying, instead focuses on one family who, despite incredibly dire circumstances, seems to have no problem staying alive. That’s because Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock is as solid as one, playing an LAFD Rescue Helicopter Pilot with talents Superman might envy. There’s nothing he can’t do, and along the way he rescues his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) in a ridiculous sequence set on what remains of the rooftop of an L.A. skyscraper after the city is flattened. From there the reunited pair take to land, air and sea (yes, there’s a giant tsunami where they just happen to find a boat that comes in handy) to rescue their only remaining daughter (the other one drowned years earlier) played by Alexandra Daddario who is stuck in San Francisco with a couple of too-good-to-be-true British blokes she has just met before the REALLY big one hits the city by the bay. Every now and then Giamatti turns up with his dire warnings saying “there’s more to come” which was always a cue for me to look at my watch to figure out how much more in this nearly two-hour epic.
I would like to say this movie is at least a fun ride, which obviously is what Warner Bros, New Line Cinema, Village Roadshow and Ratpac Entertainment intended, but in the wake of Nepal, a post 9/11 world, and the potential of a vast earthquake at any moment, I had a hard time looking at this as a fun time at the movies. An unintentionally funny dumb time yes, but fun? Not really. Last year on this date, Warners unleashed Godzilla and it was a smart way to watch whole cities destroyed. I had no problem seeing an overgrown lizard stomp his way to immortality. This one just pales by comparison. The real fault in this is not in the earthquake, it’s in the script.
Brad Peyton, who previously directed Johnson’s super heroics in Journey 2, helmed the film and it is certainly competently made with all the bells and whistles computer-generated effects can supply these days. But how many times are we going to see the Golden Gate Bridge obliterated in movies, folks? I do think this movie might work for those out there who relish the thought of seeing California plunge into the sea. They are the big box office hope for this would-be blockbuster that will have to do for two weekends until those dinosaurs from Jurassic World take over the destroyo beat this summer.
Do you plan to see San Andreas? Let us know what YOU think.