Disaster movies are like appetizers at a restaurant; they’re good but you don’t to choke down too many of them, otherwise you won’t have room for the good, high quality stuff you know is coming soon. If you take too many then you’re going to be stuffed with nothing but cheapness and disappointment. Disaster movies worn out their welcome after Roland Emmerich kept pumping out the same global destruction juggernaut year after year, but now, I think were due for a new disaster film and that disaster film is “San Andreas.” Solely being advertised as your typical city crushing blockbuster starring “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson; everything about this film is being laid out quite bluntly, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The basic rundown is a colossal Earthquake cracks California like an egg and causes unfathomable destruction; mangling/sinking the city while numerous people struggle to survive against rising waters and collapsing buildings. Rescue chopper pilot Ray (Dwayne Johnson) searches for his missing daughter Blake (Alexandria Daddario) with his ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino), trying to save her life and their own by getting all of them to safety before the quake destroys all of California. I’ll be brutally blunt: this movie’s dumb, it’s dumb FUN but it is still dumb. There’s nothing deeper, bigger or more emotionally complex or unique about this film amongst other disaster flicks; other than the fact it uses an Earthquake along the San Andreas Fault as its driving point.
Films like “2012” or “Armageddon” may be viewed as dumb disaster movies but they both carry emotional weight and more intense moments than “San Andreas” could ever hope to accomplish. “San Andreas” doesn’t try to be anything other than a half brained crumble fest that shows off all its CGI glory in tearing California apart, and in that regard…you really can’t fault the film. “San Andreas” delivers exactly what it is supposed to deliver: it never tries to be more or expand or grow, it is what it is and it doesn’t ever plan on reaching deeper into its own soul. There’s not even another star apparently worth mentioning when it came to the advertisements; Dwayne Johnson seems to be “enough” even though talented stars like Carla Gugino and Paul Giamatti are in this film too. The real star of this film is and always has been the destruction sequences.
I won’t lie about the Earthquake scenes, they look absolutely eye popping. It’s intense, gripping, there’s so much going on and crashing and falling that you almost can’t keep up with it. There’s an especially tense nail biter when Gugino is stuck on top of a large building at a restaurant and watches in horror as people, stairs and sections of the building just start to crack apart like pastries. I can definitely say you will not be bored with this movie and while the science behind everything probably isn’t sound, you really won’t care because this is after all a big fat, dumb, half brained blockbuster about watching the world fall apart and see how many people can scramble to safety before being squashed or swarmed over by debris and tsunamis.
One thing I actually adored in “2012” that I would have liked to see in “San Andreas” was the avoidance of certain clichés, like bad people getting “crushed” or wiped out by the apocalyptic event or bad jokes/one liners that produces more groans than laughs from the audience. At times this movie felt cartoonishly 2 dimensional and predictable, almost like I was watching a bad horror movie and that level of “brain dead fun” actually did take me out of the movie a few times. Johnson and Giamatti are the only actors trying harder than the actual movie is, the film isn’t worth the weight their laying down but good effort shouldn’t be discouraged. Overall, “San Andreas” is that kid in school with zero aspirations and is completely comfortable being the entertaining lump he is. It’s a check-your-brain-at-the-door, rumbling rollercoaster of shattered buildings and action crammed spectacles; take from it what you will but for what it’s worth, “San Andreas” is a decent disaster flick that satisfies you just enough that you don’t regret it.