Starring Dwayne Johnson,
Directed by Brad Peyton
Written by Carlton Cuse
Based on a story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore
Runtime 114 mins.
Possibilities with computer effects sells this movie, but the story plays like an afterthought. For all the visual potential of the world’s largest recorded earthquake, as San Andreas ostensibly imagines, we really don’t get much bang for the buck. File it next to the Pierce Brosnan volcano flick.
Upshot: When earthquakes hit California and Nevada, a rescue-helicopter pilot (Johnson) spends all his time rescuing his soon-to-be ex-wife (Gugino) and their daughter (Daddario).
Meanwhile, Paul Giamatti plays a seismology professor able to predict earthquakes. Unfortunately, about ten seconds after he learns is when the biggest one hits. Even more unfortunately, the two story strands never do meet. Whether the filmmakers forgot to connect Johnson’s character with Giamatti’s or gave up or what is anybody’s guess.
We know we’re in trouble when Dwayne Johnson “tips the hat.” Piloting the chopper over a narrow gorge with a woman in a car dangling on a cliff, instead of lowering a cable long enough to reach, he risks the lives of the five other people inside by suddenly tipping the helicopter vertically in order to slip down past the narrow channel of rock. It’s annoying.
Because Dwayne Johnson used to be a professional wrestler called the Rock, audiences are slightly required to riff off of his career path, and mildly marvel when some acting happens, same as we would for a movie director getting to play in the NBA. If a director dribbled a couple times and put off a shot, we’d raise eyebrows and clap. Projections for audience demographics may cut a wide swath with Johnson’s casting, but the movie would be better served with more attention to the story.
Disaster movies work better with more characters and more build-up. With so few characters and so little story, San Andreas makes The Poseidon Adventure look like Citizen Kane.
It does seem a tad askew that when disaster strikes, the rescue-helicopter pilot is only concerned with rescuing his own family. Sure, we understand that the family is fractured—breaking apart like veritable plate tectonics. Got it. It’s just that there needs to be more.