11th Oct2015

‘San Andreas’ Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Will Yun Lee | Written by Carlton Cuse, Andre Fabrizio, Jeremy Passmore | Directed by Brad Peyton


If there was ever a genre of movie that benefited from advances in computer generated effects, it has to be the disaster movie. What better way to destroy cities than to take the real locations then virtually tear them apart?

In San Andreas, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Ray Gaines, a helicopter rescue pilot for the Los Angeles Fire Department. When a huge earthquake rips its way up the San Andreas fault and his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) finds herself trapped in San Francisco, Ray and his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) must save her before an even bigger impending earthquake rips the city apart.

While most of the marketing for San Andreas quite rightly puts the focus on the special effects and the Dwayne Johnson, its real strength is in the family drama we see on-screen. There is an effort to actually create some substance in this story and to make the main characters actually likable. This means that we care about what happens to them and actually want them to succeed. Many movies tend to forget about this side of audience investment, thus weakening the film. Gladly San Andreas concentrates on developing this and cultivating it throughout the movie.

Pulling away from the family and concentrating on the disaster movie side, things are more generic. We have the earthquake, we have the Earthquake expert played by Paul Giamatti who keeps us informed on the impending doom about to hit, and we even have the evil step father Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd) who puts Blake in danger, setting up the big rescue mission. We see buildings falling, big action sequences and Dwayne Johnson gets to play the big action hero, and it does everything expected for a movie about an earthquake.

While it is generic though, it is also fun. One noticeable element though is the cost of life, which is to be expected when the earthquakes are so (impossibly) huge, but at certain times we are expected to care. San Andreas is a CGI-fest, and there is no getting away from that, and it does it very well. What it also does though it turns many of the people caught into the chaos into nothing but meaningless ants, cannon fodder to the forces of nature around them. If the director is “God” in a movie, then this deity of film is heavy-handed.

Where I don’t have a problem with the cost of life, my problem comes in when San Andreas expects us to care about the human cost. In a movie like this where we see the people as meaningless parts of the action scene, we can’t just then suddenly see them as human beings, no matter how many “Have you seen this person?” posters are put up as people search for their loved ones. The only people we care about are the main characters that are focused on, and yes that is a weakness in the movie.

San Andreas is an entertaining action movie that I can easily recommend as a fun film. It does have some very cheesy dialogue and desensitises us to the suffering of many of the victims of the earthquake, but it also does disaster very well. The scenes of falling buildings are impressive, the super human feats Dwayne Johnson performs are exciting and it is a good dose of escapism. Maybe the fact that we only really care about the main characters is a flaw in San Andreas, but in the end it doesn’t ruin the experience as a whole, and in the end that is fine with me.

****½  4.5/5

San Andreas is available on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD from October 12th.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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