Review: San Andreas
As if Californian’s real life problems aren’t enough, here comes a film that literally cuts through the plagued state and tears everything down. Never mind a drought – that’s hard to manifest in a summer blockbuster – here comes the latest entry into the catalog of disaster porn, as San Andreas levels a pair of Pacific metropolises with earthquakes and tidal waves, leaving Dwayne Johnson to rescue those dearest to him.
This melodramatic spectacle from Brad Peyton, when not inundated with the sounds of buildings crashing and people screaming, swells with tender sounds of a violin or piano, looking to compel the audience into caring about a divorced L.A. firefighter and vet named Ray (Johnson). As cities break, he has a chance to repair his metaphorical broken family, with his soon-to-be-divorced wife Emma (Carla Gugino) trapped in Los Angeles, and his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) stuck in San Francisco. As if anything is ever really in doubt.
The movie is replete with every clichéd line of dialogue and plot convenience you can imagine – in fact, most of the time you can call it out just before it happens. Using a helicopter, truck, plane, and boat, our muscled and glistened heroic father traverses a California landscape crumbling before our eyes.
Blake teams up with a pair of doting young Brits who take turns rescuing each other, after failing to be saved by her future stepfather played by Ioan Gruffrudd, the cinematic husband foil to Johnson. Rich and slimy, or tough and noble? Complicating family matters is the memory of Mallory, the youngest daughter of the clan who was lost in a drowning accident – perhaps Ray will find some salvation in trying to save his other daughter.
Elsewhere, we’ve Paul Giamatti in full-blown foreboding scientist mode, warning with a quivering voice of the unprecedented destruction that lies ahead. He, along with everyone, seems to know exactly what movie they in. Daddario, as the daughter of a hero, knows what to do in an emergency, though she is made sure to be in a wet tank top and tight jeans by the end of the movie with nary a scratch on her.
Perhaps it’s refreshing to see a city destroyed by something not involving superheroes or alien. Even in the destruction though there is malaise; how often have we seen cities leveled, and how comfortable are we with it? High rises fall into one another, collapse on themselves, and for all the majesty, it seems ho-hum. The Golden Gate Bridge is targeted yet again (The Core, Godzilla, Pacific Rim).
The spirit is familiar too. It’s a story about the triumph of the Americana, while cowards and thieves meet their doom. Flags fly, conventions abound, and those that we are cheering for encounter the dramatic problems not too long before their equally dramatic solutions present themselves. Maybe there is a message about listening to scientists, maybe there is one championing first responders, and maybe there is something to be said about San Fran taking a worse beating that L.A.
Or maybe it’s just another loud blockbuster where our protagonists rise up amid catastrophe.