You know, when I take a moment to think about it, I’m kind of a sucker for big dumb Disaster movies. For those days when you want to bypass the dramatics and get right to the world-destroying action, they can’t be beaten. And “San Adreas” starring Dwayne Johnson…. kind of does that. At least for a while.
The story has Dwayne play an Emergency Helicopter Pilot, who gets caught up in the most powerful Earthquake to every hit the West coast of America. With his daughter and ex-wife caught amongst the chaos and danger, he must try to rescue them and crash-bang-explosions-BOOM!! You get the general idea of where this is going.
This film was quite a success during the theatrical release, and let’s be honest, people love seeing a city get blown to holy Hell on the big screen. And San Francisco get’s FUCKED UP here. Once the Earthquake hits there is no slow lead-in, buildings crumble as if they were made of spit and tissue paper, and the roads split apart at the seams. On a sense of scale then, the film delivers on that primevil level that you want.
The performances are pretty good all round as well. Dwayne Johnson holds a lot of the attention (which is only right), with Alexandra Daddario as the daughter doing a surprisingly good job it must be said. Instead of being weak or at the mercy of the present danger, she works to be kind of a leader in the situation. Paul Giamatti is here too as the film’s mandatory slightly-mad Scientist, but plays it fairly level for the most apart.
I appreciated the camerawork done for this film too, which is very dynamic in capturing the action. There’s also an (edited) long-shot that despite being crafted together, did get my attention and was pulled off well. The debris looks realistic and there’s no watering down given to casualties – when something big happens, you see hundreds die at a time. I would hate to see the death counter for this film, it would be going off worse than a Geiger Counter in the middle of a Reactor Core.
But unfortunately, the relatively strong opening third had to come to an end, and from there the graph kind of levels off and then takes a nose-dive during the final act. Remember the feeling of insult you had at the end of “Man of Steel” when the dead civilians weren’t given any recognition? The same thing happens here. Imean, swe saw THOUSANDS perish, and the end tries to force you into think they all somehow made it out okay, and that “We can rebuild”. Fuuuuuck that, it is insulting padding that isn’t earned, accurate, or even asked for. The studio Execs may have been crying for a happy ending, but the second act sets in stone that this shouldn’t happen. It should have been bitter-sweet and a moment of reflection, not this crap.
So, you can see why this took a nose-dive, and it is sad that this had to be the way. Because even though the character sets can be formulaic, the the storyline is super-linear and one you have seen play out before, it still had some entertainment factor. It wasn’t bad. But then one choice felt like it had spat in my tea and told me it was sweetened. The average audience might walk away thinking it was “Okay fun”, but I just can’t do that. Too bad that even Dwayne’s rippling muscles can’t save this from self-harm.
Thanks for reading!