‘San Andreas’ review: A disaster flick riddled with fault lines

28 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

San Andreas: Dwayne Johnson reveals he begged director Brad Peyton not to kill Kylie Minogue’s character.

That’s not to take a piece out of Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. Set during a record-breaking 9.6 magnitude earthquake along California’s most infamous fault line, “San Andreas” is a triumph of CGI mayhem, as Los Angeles buildings topple like stacks of Jenga bricks, a tsunami threatens San Francisco Bay and a yawning chasm opens in the earth between them, as if a zipper had been drawn through Bakersfield.

And co-star Dwayne Johnson is making sure there are no Aussie fingers of blame pointed in his direction – as he insists director Brad Peyton had the final say on the fate of her character, Susan Riddick. Dwayne, who plays LA fire chief Ray Gaines in the action/adventure movie, also joked he still wants Australians to like him because he loves them so much so he places all the blame on the filmmaker’s head. The 43-year-old hunk was clearly over the moon with the addition of Kylie to the cast of the movie and excitedly took to Twitter to announce she was going to star in the film last year. San Andreas sees Dwayne’s alter-ego Ray and his ex-wife Emma – played by Carla Gugino – travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a desperate search for their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) after a devastating earthquake hits California. Even Dwayne Johnson, that force of cinematic nature and rock-ribbed charisma, doesn’t have enough charm to dig this mess of a movie out of the rubble of cliche it’s buried in.

The tectonic plates along the San Andreas fault are shifting and preparing to cause off-the-charts earthquakes, as a bearded, hysterical Caltech scientist (Paul Giamatti) tells a newswoman. Barely two minutes in, he and his cocky crew are introduced to us as they pluck a teenager from her car after it has gone off the road and is hanging from a cliff. But Blake, in a nod to ’70s precursors “Earthquake” and “The Towering Inferno,” is having a potential romance with twit-ish Brit Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt). This is one of the most annoying things about “San Andreas.” The dialogue is inappropriately jocular throughout, which undercuts the genuine terror it attempts to muster. After the quake starts and Ray has deposited his estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino), in the middle of Dodger Stadium via parachute, he turns to her and cracks wise: “It’s been a while since I got you to second base.” One human being you might not mind seeing flattened is Emma’s new boyfriend, Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd).

These characters, along with Paul Giamatti’s Chicken Little-like seismologist, get introduced one by one during a formulaic prologue — as they always do in such things — and before the film starts shaking them up. Daddario and Johnstone-Burt’s wide-eyed looks of fear aren’t convincing. (Blake, at least, is a survival-minded woman who can bandage wounds and find higher ground.) Giamatti spends a lot of time hiding from debris under tables.

There’s plenty of downtime for Ray and Emma to talk about what went wrong with their marriage as they search for Blake — who by this point is imperiled by some other nightmare — but no one really cares. In plot, “San Andreas” parallels the climate-change thriller “The Day After Tomorrow,” in which Dennis Quaid’s climatologist hero trudged, preposterously, from D.C. to New York in a blizzard to rescue his son (Jake Gyllenhaal). As Ben says to Blake, just before smooching her in gratitude for pulling a shard of broken glass from his thigh, “You’re absolutely unbelievable.” Every warning sign scrutinized — animal behavior, weather patterns, electromagnetic signals, atmospheric observations, levels of radon gas in soil or groundwater — has failed. “We wish it were as simple as the movie portrays.

The latest focus has been on creating early warning systems that give residents and businesses a few seconds heads up after a quake hits, but before strong shaking is felt. While seismic waves from great quakes can make the Earth reverberate like a bell, the ringing can only be detected by sensitive instruments because it’s so low. Since 2008, millions of people in California and elsewhere have participated in yearly disaster drills in which they practice diving under a table and learn other preparedness tips. If you’re outdoors when the ground moves, experts recommend bracing against a wall, similar to what search-and-rescue helicopter pilot Ray Gaines, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, told scared survivors in the movie. “Having Paul Giamatti shouting, “Drop, cover and hold on!” and The Rock telling people to crouch against a wall if they can is one heck of a PSA,” Hough said.

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