San Andreas (2015)

Well, ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ and the awesome ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ have NO competition here. I went into this one with low expectations, and walked out surprised that it actually managed to fall below them. ‘San Andreas’ is pretty Not Good. My girlfriend and I decided, for a lazy Sunday afternoon, that we’d pop on down to the local cinema and take in some mindless ‘Disaster Movie’ carnage, for shits n giggles. Right from the first trailer, I knew what I was in for, but I was slightly encouraged by some of the casting choices. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson MAY be The Most Charismatic Human Alive, and my girlfriend adores him (read-wants to jump his bones, on a near instinctive level), so we had a lil ‘win’ with that. I’ve always liked Carla Gugino (‘Watchmen’) and Alexandra Daddario (‘True Detective’…see it) is simply distractingly attractive (Those EYES!), and looks REALLY good in a wet tank-top. Just saying. Then there was the EPIC Disaster Movie visuals that were unapologetically swiped from ANY of Roland Emmerich’s ‘disaster movie’ filmography (‘The Day After Tomorrow’, ‘2012’ etc). It was certainly aiming for THAT level. Did it succeed?
Nope. Not really.
There isn’t very much to ‘San Andreas’. As other reviewers have noted, it shamelessly steals from easily a half-dozen better ‘disaster films’, and doesn’t even try to hide it. It felt very much like a ‘paint by numbers’ version of one of those…with some very attractive people in key roles.
The ‘Story’ is basically this: A fault line has violently announced it’s existence and threatens to link up with the San Andreas Fault, up through a big ass chunk of California. A vast piece of planet is about to violently split away from another vast piece of planet. Bad shit will ensue. During this Tectonic Upheaval Drama, we meet ‘Gaines’ (‘The Rock’), the chief pilot of a rescue chopper, working for the City of Los Angeles. After we establish his character, in a really far-fetched and illogical ‘cliff rescue’ scene that had me ‘face-palming’ in the first 10 minutes, we learn that he and his wife (Carla Gugino) are in the midst of a divorce and he’s planning to get a lil camping R+R in with his…*pfft* give me a break…dead-sexy college-age daughter (Daddario). This is all put on ‘hold’ when he’s called away to respond to a nearby earth-quake disaster site, where The Hoover Dam once stood. As the operation is spooling up, a series of devastating quakes ripple across the land, destroying land and lives with loads of sub-par CG. The ultra-hot daughter is stranded and trapped in devastated downtown San Francisco, while the soon-to-be ex wife fights to survive the upper reaches of a crumbling high-rise. After a cartoonish roof-top rescue, Rock and Gugino set out through a myriad of heavily CG’d sets and scenarios, to rescue the poor lil daughter. And…’Disaster Movie’ cliche’s abound!
I’ll mention what I liked about the movie first. I like ‘The Rock’. For a former pro-wrestler, the guy is great. Humble, self-deprecating, smart, witty and built like a brick shit-house, with charisma to burn. He tends to elevate whatever material he shows up in. As mentioned before, the two Leading Ladies certainly worked The Taste Buds of The Eyes, and worked them well. Neither one was exceptional or unique as a character; they were simply there for ‘flavor’, and to spout dialogue to propel the flick from one grandiose disaster set-piece to another. The action sequences were somewhat competent and, at times, impressive in their vision. And…that’s about it.
Just about everything else sucks or is simply uninspired and lazy.
The Acting is pretty flat. A lot of solemn, determined (or constipated) looks, some screaming and yelling, maybe a little physical or situational humor…and that’s about it. Nothing about any of the characters resonated with me. They were empty vessels that said…things, and then moved on to the next video-game level. Much of the dialogue had me literally snickering away like an asshole, or rolling my eyes in disbelieving mockery. Just about anything said by Paul Giamatti (‘Shoot Em Up’), (here playing The Guy who discovers some magical way to predict the quakes, and some magical way to deliver tense and wannabe-dramatic expository dialogue to us, The Stupid Masses), is Over-Acting Gold. But he’s not alone. SO much of the dialogue delivered here is terrible; flat and stunted, with no ‘spark’ or imagination. There’s only SO much that even the most talented of thespians can do with amateurish dialogue, uninspired direction and one-dimensional ‘fleshing’.
The Special Effects are a mixed bag here. On one hand, many of the wide shots of mass destruction were nicely composed and rendered, but on the flip side, LOTS (a surprising amount) of the CG looked like cheap shit! Right in the beginning, as The Rock and his chopper crew leap into action to save a dumb-ass blond chick from plunging to her death in the wreckage of her totaled truck, the shitty effects began rearing their ugly CG’d heads. MANY of the helicopter shots look fake as hell! Some are passable, maybe even decent, but the majority look…unfinished…somehow. It was distracting.
The episodic nature of the narrative and the lack of interesting uses of the various urban locales and landmarks certainly didn’t help to pull me into the story either. It always seemed to be the same thing, repeated. Characters in location. Location hit by large earthquake. Peril ensues. Rescue ensues. Characters move to new location. Location hit by large ea…you get the point. I found my attention beginning to wander about half-way through the 114 minute run-time, for exactly this reason. It was just ‘wash..rinse…repeat’…and, with virtually no clever surprises emerging in either the story or the dialogue, ‘tuning out’ began.
There’s really not all that much more to say about this obvious, Emmerich-imitating piece of Brainless Summer Movie Fluff. It gives some decent visuals of mass geological destruction hitting a heavily-populated urban center, and some good-looking people to try and root for, in among the relentless B-Movie-with-a-Budget chaos. The 3D was cheap-looking and disproportionate, especially after having been recently spoiled with cool and creative use of the medium, with ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’…twice. Not to sound TOO obsessive (though I probably am), but I think THAT film is going to taint many an upcoming action movie for me. Through it’s kick-ass use of practical effects and cinematography, in conjunction with CGI-Used-Well and ONLY when necessary, I now notice excessive amounts of CG, especially shoddy CG. THIS flick over-did it…as well as overdoing the Michael Bay-like, slo-mo ‘Murican flag-waving shots. Holy shit! I forgot to mention THAT!! Director Brad Peyton (who hails from Gander, NEWFOUNDLAND…*insert tasteless ‘Newfie’ joke here*) CLEARLY used ‘Bayhem’ as a guide to the (lazy) method and the (weak) madness of this movie. If it had been a Drinking Game, one 2oz-Shot-For-Each-OBVIOUS-Example-of-Shameless-Flag-Waving, my girlfriend and I would’ve been dancing around with lampshades on our heads in no time, easily by the half-way mark. ‘San Andreas’ not a good movie. It does not need to be seen in the theatre, and it certainly doesn’t need to be seen in 3D. Save this lack-luster bore of a disaster movie for a lonely rainy Sunday afternoon, when it turns up on Netflix…after a beer or a toke. OR…watch it with a group of like-minded amigos and heckle the living shit out of it…after a beer or a toke.
The Rock’s better than this movie…and so are YOU! Move along.

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