I guess some spoilers below if you care about that kind of thing.
I’ve been trying to go out of my comfort zone in the last few months. Movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, Ex-Machina, and Furious 7 are outside of my wheelhouse and all 3 of those I enjoyed or was at least entertained by.
So today I had the choice to see Aloha or the new disaster film San Andreas and normally I would go right for the romance but it had such horrible reviews and I like Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson so I decided to give San Andreas a shot. Unfortunately even as an absurd dopey action movie it didn’t work for me. To put it in perspective it is more Armageddon than it is Deep Impact. It is more 2012 than Independence Day. There is a way to do these types of movies and make them work. The first is the cast has to be charismatic and large. If you think about movies like the Poseidon Adventure or Airport from the 70s they had huge casts and all of those people got time spent with their characters.
In Independence Day we spend the majority of the time with three huge talents of Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman. In San Andreas The Rock is very charismatic but he needed two or three stars of that caliber to carry the film. That is one thing that Michael Bay gets right is he does stack the Transformers movies with a lot of charismatic talent.
Which brings me to the next thing that needs to happen. There needs to be a sense of a superhero to the leads. The Rock does that but it is nearly always in the service of his family only. There is one scene where he gathers a bunch of San Francisco citizens on the safe side of the stadium and they all thank him for saving the day.
That was a good scene but it is one of the only one’s that is not exclusively The Rock saving his daughter or wife. We really needed a Vin Diesel or a Kiefer Sutherland to round out the cast and co-save the day. As it is San Andreas ends up feeling like the Sylvester Stallone turkey Daylight than a great disaster flick. Another thing is the special effects need to give us something new or forget it. When we saw the white house blow up in Independence Day none of us had ever seen something like that before. When a tornado races through Twister none of us had seen that before. All of the effects in San Andreas we’ve seen before and especially on the 4th or 5th building that topples over it feels more like Transformers 3 than a quality movie.
I thought the scenes on the ground in San Andreas were much better than anything we saw aerial. The real howler is a scene on a boat where the rock out races a giant tsunami with a little medical coast guard boat. It’s so absurd. (At least there is no comic relief like Michael Bay would have had. That is the worst!). A movie like Deep Impact or Independence Day stick pretty close to the disaster going on whereas movies like Armageddon venture off into stupid romance and really bad dialogue. (When I was in high school I remember watching Armageddon with my friends and looking mystified they were enjoying the garbage. My least favorite movie for many years). San Andreas isn’t that bad but the little asides are pretty groan inducing. We get The Rock and his wife Carla Gugino arguing about their divorce and her new squeeze Ioan Gruffudd who we are supposed to instantly dislike because he is rich and has his own plane. No The Rock is the helicopter guy. That’s legit! Ha. There is an absoloutely ludicrous scene where The Rock rescues Gugino from off of a skyscraper in the middle of a 9.3 earthquake. (and again back to main problem where we are only concerned about rescuing one person). There’s also his beautiful daughter Blake played by Alexandra Daddario who I guess is the Liv Tyler of this movie and she’s ok but there is little to no chemistry with her rescuer Ben played by Hugo Johnston-Burt. Let’s just say you can see why Ben is highly motivated to help rescue Blake because it’s definitely the only shot he has of getting a girl like her! The last group is Paul Giamatti as an earthquake expert who laughably discovers how to predict earthquakes literally about 2 minutes before the first giant earthquake that destroys the Hoover Dam. And then later he is upset because nobody listened to him. When were they supposed to listen? I guess because nobody bought his book but according to the movie they hadn’t been able to predict anything so why should they have listened to him? It’s kind of a joke when Giamatti has to get students to hack into the local media and warn the people in San Francisco to evacuate after the first earthquake. I don’t think any hacking would be required to have an expert on the 24 hour news cycle and I think people were evacuating after a 9.3 earthquake already! Plus, the half a day notice he gives them is hardly the lifesaver that the narration claims at the end.
It had me howling with laughter and the rest of my theater as well. I so wish I could have tweeted Giamatti’s line when asked, ‘who do we need to call?’ . ‘Call everyone…”. Ha.
On a certain level you know what you are getting into with San Andreas but even with those limited expectations it fails. On the wikipedia page it only has 13 listed in the cast. Only 8 get any major screen time. That’s just not enough for a movie like this and like I said the spectacle isn’t new. It feels stale and the sideplots aren’t very engaging. I can see if people think it is a dopey good time but I feel there are many movies where dopier is done much better.
Are you guys going to see San Andreas? Let me know what you think when you do. What disaster movie do you like?
Overall Grade- D I’m sorry. It’s bad folks. Rent Twister, Independence Day or Deep Impact and skip this.