San Andreas Review: The film is quite the disaster, and OMG! The Rock!

29 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Review: ‘San Andreas’ an uninteresting, cinematic disaster.

Dwayne Johnson and his muscles come to the aid of Los Angeles and San Francisco when the two towns start to shake, rattle and roll, courtesy of humongous earthquakes erupting along the San Andreas Fault. As the trailer suggests, San Andreas is a heart-pounding disaster movie, about chopper pilot Dwayne Johnson heading out to rescue his daughter and ex-wife following a devastating earthquake in California.

But the cringeworthy dialogue and unmoving earnestness are the biggest disasters in this mostly forgettable action flick (* * out of four; rated PG-13; opens Friday nationwide). Whether it’s in 3D or 2D, no matter where the film is set or what disaster the heroes have to encounter, the defining moments of an OMG! film are more identical than monozygotic twins. 1.

Giamatti’s “Director, California Institute of Technology” shouts this out once here, and then some, to emphasise that it may have The Rock, but this is a serious film about rocks and what happens when they move. “A seismic swarm”, he calls them, as not just one (Los Angeles) but at least two (also San Francisco) cities are laid to rubble. He was the Master of Disaster, a director and producer who gave us misery masterpieces like “The Poseidon Adventure” and “The Towering Inferno,” films that gave cinematic calamity a good name.

Ray (Johnson) is an L.A. rescue helicopter pilot unafraid of jumping out midair to save damsels in distress, even when their car is hanging off a cliff. So full of cheese it would make the most dairy-tolerant person mildly allergic, San Andreas delivers some of the funniest lines seen on the big screen in a while. Things are arguably more hazardous on the homefront, where he has a rocky relationship with his soon-to-be ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino); he worries about losing his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), to her mom’s new rich boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd at his smarmiest). For good measure, Giamatti also throws in a couple of times “We’re at Caltech!”, to reassure the jittery nerves of a TV anchor (a very non-nervous Punjabi), and keeps up talk of “magentic pulse rates”. Some would make old-school Bond proud, like the ‘it’s been a long time since I got you to second base!’ crack Johnson levels at ex-wife Emma, as he brings their chopper in to land.

In “San Andreas” Dwayne Johnson, the actor formerly known as The Rock, goes head-to-head with his biggest foe ever — the tectonic fault line that runs through most of California. All that needs to be tabled when quakes annihilate the Hoover Dam and then move to California, where skyscrapers fall and bridges tumble dramatically.

Blake gets lost in the streets of San Fran with a pair of English kids — one of whom (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) takes a shine to the girl, even with broken stone pillars screaming down upon them — and her parents reunite in order to bring her home safely. (It helps that Ray can drive pretty much anything with an engine.) Paul Giamatti co-stars as Lawrence, a noted Cal Tech seismologist and the movie’s resident science guy that no one listens to about the impending doom. How big is the quake? “Even though it is happening in California,” says a seismologist (Paul Giamatti), “you will feel it on the East Coast.” Come to see The Rock! The one-liners, combined with their deadpan delivery, make for plenty of giggles, especially when somebody takes a time out from the world literally falling apart beneath their feet to have a heart-to-heart. Stay for the collapsing digital buildings! “San Andreas” is an orgy of CGI with pixel dust billowing out of hundreds of buildings made of bits and bytes.

Director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) spends much of San Andreas’ running time on massive city destruction, but it’s often a helicopter’s eye view looking down, where humans are like ants simply falling to their fate. You might find yourself questioning whether it’s the best moment for such an emotional outpouring or perhaps even have the urge to throw popcorn at the screen and scream ‘Come on!’ at the ridiculousness of it all. The most visceral scenes are when the camera is pointed up, with chunks of building tumbling or a huge boat coming over the crest of a tsunami, giving the audience a real sense of danger. Despite Dwayne Johnson’s commanding screen presence, the effects are easily the stars of the show; they are stunning and work brilliantly with the 3D. Johnson is tailor made for big action movies, but here he is done in by a script that uses lines like, “I know this sounds crazy but…” as a crutch to push the action forward.

In a town that’s short on macho action heroes these days, Johnson is probably the only man in Hollywood who looks like he could take on an earthquake and win. Whether it’s on land, in the air or on a boat (The Rock is so good, he can pilot any mode of transport available to him!), there are perils at every corner and from every direction, each more breath-taking than the last. There are a few instances of the signature cinematic bravado he’s shown in the Fast & Furious films and other projects — a cocked eyebrow here, a lighthearted one-liner there — but it’s sorely lacking overall. Our knight – with shining tattoo on a boulder-sized bicep – flies around in a cute, red, whirling chopper, makes daredevil swoops that save victims just a fraction of a second away from death, and comes out a surefire winner. When quakes strike though, going up to 9.6 (“biggest ever recorded”), he dedicates his service chopper entirely to first rescuing estranged wife Emma (Gugino) and then daughter Blake (Daddario).

Unlike some recent disaster/alien invasion films that have the hero/heroine looking like they’ve just walked off a catwalk (I’m looking at you, Transformers), San Andreas at least attempts to throw its cast around a little. There’s yet ANOTHER building falling apart! — and lackluster 3D make “San Andreas” one of the most visually uninteresting action flicks to come along in some time. Many of the lines are met with a thud, and the worst of them induce groans and laughs: When Lawrence discusses history’s biggest quakes in class, one student chirps, “Do you think something like that can happen here?” Whether their part be small or large, there are some seriously talented actors involved here, including Paul Giamatti (Sideways) and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife).

The only thing less interesting than the look is the dialogue, which consists mostly of the actors mouthing, “Are you hurt?” or “Oh, this is not good,” or my favourite, “It’s an earthquake!” The only cast member given more to do is Giamatti, who, as Mr. Despite having this high calibre talent on hand, the lighter – and far less emotionally intense – tone is set early on by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson who, even when offering a cringe-worthy moment of sentimentality, is still a joy to watch. The movie is too earnest by half, from the schmaltzy score that swells underneath the scenes of chaos to the heartfelt reconciliation scenes between Johnson and Gugino — Ahhh… don’t you have something better to do, like rescue your kid, than discuss what went wrong in your marriage right now? The man is such a beloved personality that you just can’t be mad at him for the questionable moments because you know that when the action kicks off, you’ll be in good hands. In this case, it’s a hapless British lad who gets a massive shard of glass in his upper thigh, but still manages to swim, climb stairs and generally scamper around as a tsunami strikes San Francisco.

But not before one heroic act – in San Andreas, it’s picking up a sobbing young girl, running with her in his arms and throwing her into someone else’s arms as though she’s a rugby ball. Blake gasps, “I love you, Daddy.” Could the granddaddy of disaster movies Bruce Willis (from Die Hard) have reacted with a better expression than Rock? San Andreas’s high thrills come from low angle shots of skyscrapers crumbling, massive ships crashing across angry water waves; a tiny chopper flying through a gap created by buildings smashing into vertical halves.

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