• At any time of the day, a good movie with popcorn or beer is a welcome pleasure.

    San Andreas (2015): Movie Review

    "Exhilarating, entertaining, shallow."

    Here comes another great earthquake on the big screen! Here comes “The Rock” to fight through falling boulders and debris! In this match against Mother Nature and her human creation, it is the big guy with the bursting biceps who wins. Spoiler! Or not? Does it come as a surprise? Or is it plainly predictable? With his latest film San Andreas, director Brad Peyton brings us a conventional yet somehow refreshing story of doom to San Francisco and much of California. 

    San Andreas opens with “Style,” as in Taylor Swift’s massive international hit song. A girl is driving and soon finds herself in an unfortunate accident. Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter-rescue pilot Raymond “Ray” Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) comes and saves her from falling with her car on a cliff. Whether there is some connection or not but some seismologists make a frightening discovery. With their recent prediction model, Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) and his colleagues figure out that an earthquake as strong as 9.6 will hit California. While they make the knowledge public, San Francisco and the rest of the state begin to experience a series of quakes, and later tsunami. 

    Meanwhile, Ray rushes to save his divorced wife Emma (Carla Gugino) from a toppling rooftop restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. The couple then proceed to rescue their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who is trapped with some random brothers Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Art Parkinson) in the now debris-ridden city. Unsurprisingly, the family survive the devastation and reunite in the end.

    Like most recent disaster movies, San Andreas is loud. It’s wildly noisy and action sequences just run one after another, leaving us catching our breaths. Who can breathe when tragedies seem non-stop? Though it becomes overkill and indulgent, the movie is undeniably exciting, bracing and intense. Broken roads and bridge (oh Golden Gate!), collapsing skyscrapers and structures (oh Hoover Dam!), mile-high waves, ship crashing into buildings and almost all elements of an exhilarating disaster film are present in San Andreas. Combined with realistic and awe-inspiring CGI effects, the movie is visually amusing.

    However, San Andreas just banks on being entertaining. It has no solid plot and character development. There is no clear backstory for the seismologists and they simply exist on the film to give the warning. Even the story arc about Ray and his family is too lame and superficial. Emma’s new asshole husband (Ioan Gruffudd) is a nuisance and his thick moments are unnecessary. As much as the film lightly rests on scientific truth, its plot is too shallow and dense. There are moments where innocent people get swept in the catastrophe. They should have been touching but they are not because it feels that the movie has no sense of human loss, of death and of its misery.

    Sadly, the actors are not helpful as well. Johnson’s popping muscles, Gugino’s elegant grace and Daddario’s pretty face are attractive on screen but their performance falls short of being appealing. They don’t strike any chemistry and they simply look like a bunch of Hollywood stars running on rubbles or practicing impromptu stunts. Even in serious scenes where the audience should have shed a tear or two for them, they won’t because those moments are far from being moving but too close to being cheesy and stupid.

    San Andreas is a good movie to watch while gulping a bottle of beer or munching some potato chips or popcorn. It only explores the emotion of being thrilled and high. But if you are up to something profound or even close to heart-wrenching or mind-boggling, better take your beer or chips and find something else.



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