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Review: San Andreas

Review: San Andreas


There comes a time when one must accept the reality of one’s age. For some it’s the realization that all the bands they followed have been taken out of the ‘current’ rotation on radio and TV, for others it’s the realization that using radio and TV as benchmarks is a concept lost on the current generations. For me, it was watching San Andreas and realizing that it has actually been almost 20 years since I was sitting down on a Friday evening to watch Volcano on VHS, witnessing the magnitude of citywide destruction and being in awe of the scale of the movie and the tension therein of simple survival. Of course, nowadays my memories of Volcano and its peers in the ’90s rash of disasterpieces Twister, Armageddon et al are heavily tinted by the rosey bedding of nostalgia, but their gluttonous patriotism and loud irreverant heroism have survived thanks to the restless work of the likes of Roland Emmerich and…. well, just him actually. But so it goes, as is the cyclical nature of culture; time for these ’90s gems to be celebrated in cinema, and San Andreas is a movie that does just that. And if it proves anything, it’s that we’ve learned almost nothing in the interim.
maxresdefaultThe promotion leading up to San Andreas very much sums up the movie’s core premise – it’s The Rock vs. an earthquake. Dwayne Johnson plays an EMT who finds himself having to rescue his daughter and ex-wife from the biggest earthquake to hit California in decades. You can almost feel the glee from the film-makers during the opening sequence, an already overly-heroic cliffside rescue, as they know they’ve managed to get one of the biggest stars and put him into one of the easiest kinds of blockbusters to sell. Disaster movies don’t need to be smart, they don’t need to be filled with conjecture or thick musings, they simply need to be entertaining in their total escapism. San Andreas tries really, really hard to be entertaining, but it’s just irritating.
The first earthquake, which conveniently takes place on a dam right as some scientists led by Paul Giamatti are discovering how to properly predict seismic activity, is very emblematic of the entire movie’s spectacle. Volume. Lots and lots of volume. Brad Peyton has gone to great lengths to make sure every crash, shake and tramble is coupled with a very modern dubstep doom as the movie attempts to create awe through sheer cluttering of the senses. From the shattering of high-rise buildings to giant tidal waves, monstrous CGI is employed to grant staggering visuals that are growingly difficult to discenr against the noise of the soundtrack. It’s only when they turn the volume knob do the visuals really get a moment to shine with some bittersweet scenes of the natural catastrophe.
During the film, Johnson‘s Ray makes his way through these falling buildings and giant waves with his ex-wife in search of his daughter. But for an EMT, he doesn’t do a lot of saving. In fact, he does remarkably little, instead he steals a helicopter for personal gain, and goes on to steal a car and a boat and doesn’t use them to save anyone else at all. The actual saving is done by his daughter who, after being saved from being crushed in a car, goes on to help two English brothers through cunning and resource, making sure all survive the film fully intact. The screenplay, written by Carlton Cuse, seems a touch confused in this respect. All the honor and glory is for Ray, but his daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario, is a much more appropriate hero for the story. Instead, she’s treated as part of the overlying and completely San_Andreasunnecessary emotional narrative, something that is almost at odds with the surrounding flashbang.
San Andreas is a movie centered around trying to distract you from realizing that there’s barely anything here of value. Disaster movies and popcorn blockbusters are supposed to be fun, but this is one that is fully convinced that in order to be fun it must be turned up to 11 and in doing so becomes the movie equivalent of that guy at the party who’s way too drunk by 6 pm, just irritating everyone and providing nothing but headaches. The one silver lining is a strong performance from Daddario, who plays an all too distinctively competent female co-star, but that’s the only reprieve from a shoutfest that should’ve been great fun. Avoid.

A disastrous headache. 2/10