San Andreas: Film Review
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Archie Panjabi, Kylie Minogue, Ioan Gruffud
Director: Brad Peyton
It ain't over till the fat lady sings.
But in San Andreas' case, it ain't over till the American flag is unfurled amid the ruins of California and the words "We can rebuild" are uttered.
Channelling 1970s disaster flicks and eschewing any form of character depth, the director of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island juggles CGI falling buildings and Dwayne Johnson's innate charm as Ray, a rescue helicopter pilot trying to save his daughter from a massive West Coast earthquake.
It's not just the seismic activity on the ground Ray has to deal with though - he's on shaky ground emotionally too, with his ex Emma (Carla Gugino) who's dealt him divorce papers and is facing the prospect of his daughter Blake (Daddario) moving to college. Throw in a past haunted by the fact he couldn't save his first daughter from drowning, and Ray's a troubled man when the earth opens up, threatening to swallow whole all he loves dearly.
Add into the mix a geologist (Paul Giamatti) whose growing penchant for looking aghast, horrified and providing exposition is maximised as the number and severity of the quakes intensifies despite his warnings, and you've pretty much got all the tenets of a B movie disaster flick which used to rock our world back in the 70s like the Towering Inferno, Earthquake and The Poseidon Adventure. (Even the Hollywood sign is not immune to being torn asunder as we get ready to rubble)
Sure, depth of character is non-existent; sure, the women exist solely to be rescued (a fact that feels wasted given efforts to build Blake up early on as more than just eye candy) and sure, Emma's new partner (Forever star Grufudd) is nothing more than a slimeball when the chips are down and sure Blake's Brit love interest is a horrendous Hugh Grant stereotype initially, but you don't go to films like San Andreas for dense soliloquies and in-depth character development - you go to see carnage and to get ready to rumble.
And, for the most part, Peyton works the crumbling land masses and tall buildings assuredly (though one questions how some may feel about the film's sensitivity given recent quakes here and in Nepal) as we negotiate our ripped apart protagonists through one potential disaster to the next before reuniting them for one last perilous situation.
When Johnson tells one potential victim to "get up against something sturdy", we know what his subtext is - and when he parachutes himself and his ex into a baseball field proclaiming it's "been a while since I got you to second base", there's corn aplenty. But thanks to his easy going charisma and the fact he's our go to guy in such situations, we're just about willing to commit to this cornball flick.
The seeds of a sequel are sown, thanks to Giamatti's scientist gasping that this could happen globally at any time, but as an over-bearing FX fest that tears up the screen and the West Coast of America around it, San Andreas may have its faults, but as a blockbuster, it delivers what it sets out to - nothing more and nothing less.