Directed by Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) this latest disaster flick stars Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino & Alexandra Daddario as a family that try to survive and reunite in midst of the San Andreas fault beginning to shift. An event that results in the biggest recorded earthquakes in history literally tearing some of the West Coast away from the rest of America.
Dwayne Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a rescue helicopter pilot with an incredible track record of saving people, unfortunately a few years ago he was unable to save one of his own daughters from drowning, an event which results in the dissolution of his marriage. Carla Gugino & Alexandra Daddario play Emma & Blake, Gaines ex-wife to be and their daughter who currently live with Emma’s new rich boyfriend. As the earthquakes begin to rock the cities along the San Andreas fault, Ray is forced into action to save his ex-wife and daughter who are caught in the middle of it all.
Dwayne Johnson is a mountain of a man, not just in terms of his physique but with his charisma too, however In ‘San Andreas’ neither of those characteristics are on full show as the wider scope of Johnson’s acting ability comes into play. A fitting & relevant turn for Hollywood’s current go to guy for action. It’s not an Oscar worthy turn, a disaster film rarely is, but it certainly deserves merit. It could have been so easy to utilise the fast talking, unstoppable force that Johnson so easily manifests. That being said, we can’t say the same for the film itself as it rumbles and shakes it’s way into the formulaic story and form that most disaster films follow. However should we even be surprised? At the end of the day, that’s what we want from disaster films anyway, is it not? Widespread destruction of iconic landmarks with a thinly layered story to glue together magnificent set-pieces of the world falling apart, it’s a staple of the genre just as foul language and drug use are in a Seth Rogen comedy. Most importantly ‘San Andreas’ is pretty fun, with the exception of some unforgiving lines and characters.
To be honest, one could quite easily swap earthquakes for widespread snow and you have yourself ‘The Day After Tomorrow‘. A quite clear sign that regardless of the form of the disaster, wind, snow or lava, some of these screenwriters have little imagination in tackling a different angle on the disaster film. Frustratingly the character of Ray Gaines is set up for this change in direction, but because the story in ‘San Andreas‘ solely focuses on Gaines trying to save family, he makes no conscious effort to save any of the thousands of people trying to survive around him (talk about not doing your job…). Personally that would have made a more compelling story, especially if you retain the background to the character of Gaines, but here is to hoping someone thinks outside the box next time.
This is however no fault of it’s stars and they do their best with the material they are working with. Everyone in the cast does their bit to keep the drama relevant and create a semblance of interest in their fates. The only one who doesn’t really is Ioan Gruffudd, again this isn’t his fault but his character is so pathetically cliché and underdeveloped he actually has zero relevance in the story. Time was just simply wasted by having this character featured in anyway and is such a waste of a good actor. Despite these frustrations, they are just minor parts of the film and most will be able to look past them. The carnage of buildings falling apart, bridges snapping, tsunamis crashing into coasts is fun to watch, and surprisingly remains fun throughout without becoming tiresome, a testament to the direction in the film.
For anybody expecting something different this film will probably not deliver but If your looking to feed your Dwayne Johnson fix or your usual disaster film of utter destruction with a fairly light story then ‘San Andreas’ is a perfect choice, just check your brain at the door, sit back and enjoy.