Heartless Action: A Review of ‘San Andreas’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 29, 2015
Heartless Action: A Review of ‘San Andreas’

The art of the moving image, isn’t only for telling emotionally wrought stories filled with drama and intrigue but it can also be good for the simple spectacle of blowing shit up real good.  San Andreas is a big and bold disaster film that is making a solid effort at the emotional spectacle of the one’s from the 1970’s like The Towering Inferno & The Posideon Adventure but falls short into a flat category that feels akin to a rough draft of a Roland Emmerich effort, meaning it ain’t bad…but it could have been great.

It’s the one disaster that everyone was in denial could ever happen.  The San Andreas fault has gone off and from Los Angeles all the way to San Francisco are feeling some of the strongest earthquakes every recorded by man after a series of small fluke earthquakes leads to a big one that destroys the Hoover Dam.  In the aftermath of it all, Ray (Dwayne Johnson) a rescue pilot in LA has to go above and beyond in hopes of saving his daughter (Alexandria Daddario) in San Francisco and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) trapped on a high rise roof top in downtown LA.


While there is more than enough spectacle to go around, the drama of San Andreas never hits home as a weak script never gives us a chance to care about any of the characters.

I hate putting all of the blame on a Canadian boy, and thankfully I won’t have to as director Brad Peyton certainly does a serviceable job with all of the carnage that is going on around us.  The action moves at a reasonable pace, but the script forces in awkward drama that never connects.  We are supposed to care when characters that we either like, or don’t like die or survive but the movie in all its CGI glory never has the stones to make us care, even the most over the top Roland Emmerich affair does that.  Screenwriter Carlton Cuse gave us the action that most popcorn fueled junkies crave, but it will dissipate far too quickly after the movie is over and when it hammers us with a ‘rah-rah, let’s go US at the end of the movie’ you’ll be to hear the eyes rolling in the theatre.  It does far too much in a blasé, as a matter of fact type of fashion and as a result we really don’t give a shit and are just watching the spectacle of it all.sanandreas0004

Carrying a film with a nine digit budget isn’t something that is unfamiliar to Dwayne Johnson and he brings his movie star swagger all the way up to ten on this one as you can tell that he is having a hell of a lot of fun in the role, as the bad ass former Army Ranger turned fireman.  He’s giving it 110% even when he is forced to give some range and channel some genuine emotion, but the blame isn’t on his broad shoulders, the script just isn’t as good as he wanted it to be, but points to him for trying to bring this B Movie material into at least something around a B+.  Carla Gugino works well with him but they just can’t get blood from a stone while Alexandra Daddario has the presence and beauty of a star, just not quite there yet to be able to carry her own scenes.  Paul Giamatti turns up in the prerequisite scientist role and is fine it while Archie Panjabi and Ioan Gruffudd are wasted and just kind of there along with young Hugo Johnstone-Burt has very little to do as the awkward love interest for Daddario’s character and looks lost on his first big budget feature.

It’s ultimately great action, but without the emotional stakes, San Andreas ends up as a hollow effort that can’t live up to some of the epic disaster films of the past (and even some of the middle of the road more recent ones) that it is trying to imitate.  It is the 2015 example of the sizzle of the film, overwhelming the actual flavour of the material.


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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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