Disaster movies are never as groundbreaking as the earthquakes and twisters they depict. It’s a sub-genre which allows for very little originality or plot depth, and for that reason, I wasn’t particularly eager to go and see ‘San Andreas’. I wasn’t totally against the idea either, until I started hearing bad things from other critics. However, I had a couple of hours to kill and that film just happened to have the most convenient screening time, so I decided to give it a go. I even went for the 3D option; I figured this film would need every possible enhancement to make it worth my while. But with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson at the head of the cast, I was expecting mediocrity at best.
Ray Gains (Dwayne Johnson) is a beast of a fire and rescue officer, with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Around him though, his family is in ruins, just like the East Coast of America! Coincidence? I think not. With his ex wife Emma (Carla Gugino) moving in with wealthy businessman Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd), Ray fears his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) will start to drift away from him. Luckily for Ray, a sequence of devastating earthquakes tear their way along the San Andreas fault and gives him the perfect opportunity to take a sick day, borrow the company helicopter and try to bring his family back together.
The role of Ray Gains is perfect for tough guy Dwayne Johnson, who brings a charm and likeability to a character which could easily have been just another cliché. I certainly can’t see him winning any academy awards any time soon, unless we witness a Rock-aissance that is, but I doubt the ex wrestler will ever stray too far from the action man typecast which he clearly revels in. The wife of these kind of characters is always a rather non-descript support role, but Carla Gugino is more than capable of handling a few of the high impact scenes too. Their on-screen daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario, takes on more than her fair share of the action and carries herself with confidence throughout. She may come across as a little cheesy at times, but on the whole, an impressive display from the young actress.
It feels strange to say this out loud, but the standout aspect from the film was probably the plot, which was far from original but still had enough exciting and tense moments to keep me sufficiently interested. The CGI scenes are usually the ones which earn disaster movies some bragging rights, but I was somewhat disappointed with the special effects in ‘San Andreas’ to be honest. I appreciate the grandiosity of it all – I certainly couldn’t do better – but there is a distinct lack of authenticity in many of the scenes. The epic tidal wave scene is admittedly impressive though, and you get the mandatory destruction of the Hollywood sign of course, which is always a bonus.
The criticisms of ‘San Andreas’ that I’ve been reading are certainly not unfounded, but the film was nowhere near as bad as I expected and actually, I would say it is one of the better disaster movies I’ve seen. I definitely recommend getting to the cinema, feeding your curiosity and watching Mother Nature do her worst. Just the once though, never again. And I wouldn’t bother with the 3D glasses gig either, not worth it with the minimal amount of multi-dimensional action on offer.
DIRECTOR: BRAD PEYTON
STARRING: DWAYNE JOHNSON, CARLA GUGINO, ALEXANDRA DADDARIO