San Andreas

Posted by Joel Copling on May 28, 2015

Not that "San Andreas," which is a startlingly brainless affair in its every moment, even deserves the distinction of a description originally coined by William Shakespeare, but this tale, if one can even call it that, is certainly idiotic, and it's certainly a cacophony of sound and fury (and also joyless pyrotechnics), and it certainly doesn't seem to signify anything beyond an enormous earthquake happening in the southwestern region of the United States. Carlton Cuse's screenplay is somewhere far below the term "dopey," barely even establishing narrative beats of importance before shoving them unceremoniously under the microscope of impending destruction.

It is, in theory, a disaster movie of the Roland Emmerich persuasion (2004's "The Day After Tomorrow" and 2009's "2012" are its clear and far superior sources of inspiration), but in practice, it's a total whiff, not even able to handle its human chattel in a way that approaches Emmerich's sense of overwrought melodrama. The characters this time are Blake (Alexandra Daddario), her rescue pilot of a dad Ray (Dwayne Johnson), his ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino), and, for a brief period, her slimy, rich, new boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd). None of these characters gets the remotest sense of development beyond the information that there was a drowning death of another child in the family years before and that Ray and Emma are getting divorced; both threads will receive their due under that aforementioned microscope, and both outcomes are obviously going to be positive ones (well, not for Daniel).

Mostly, "San Andreas" is a collage of effects sequences with nary an ounce of respect for physics (This is sort of expected in the genre, though) or the audience's preferred decibel level (If there is a louder movie released in the remainder of 2015, I'll need earplugs, thanks). Director Brad Peyton is unable to maintain an iota of intended suspense (either of disbelief or of the senses), and his clumsy handling of even rudimentary sequences, which look simultaneously over-exposed and underlit by cinematographer Steve Yedlin, thanks to an extra dimension, coincides with Bob Ducsay's choppy editing and Andrew Lockington's precious score.

The result is a disaster movie that is, to use the obvious punchline, a disaster of a movie, but at least there is a minor saving grace. He is a seismologist and earthquake expert at Caltech played by the great Paul Giamatti, an actor who manages to inject a sense of authority and levity in even the stupidest dialogue; here, he is simply asked to reiterate information about the massive quake, sometimes to the audience and others to a reporter played by Archie Panjabi, and while it isn't particularly a good performance, it's a likably hammy one. Everything else in "San Andreas" vacillates between syrupy and apocalyptic, but none of it is remotely convincing.

Film Information

Dwayne Johnson (Ray), Carla Gugino (Emma), Alexandra Daddario (Blake), Hugo Johnstone-Burt (Ben), Art Parkinson (Ollie), Paul Giamatti (Lawrence), Ioan Gruffudd (Daniel Riddick), Archie Panjabi (Serena), Will Yun Lee (Dr. Kim Park), Kylie Minogue (Susan Riddick).

Directed by Brad Peyton and written by Carlton Cuse.

Rated PG-13 (intense disaster action/mayhem throughout, brief language).

114 minutes.

Released on May 29, 2015.