Brad Peyton’s shaky attempt at a disaster movie was an impressive seat filler with a cast such as Dwayne Johnson and Paul Giamatti pulling their weight from scene to screen. Although there might have been moments of slumber, San Andreas may be the first triumphant step at shattering expectations at the box office.
We join Ray (Johnson) as the self-made rescue pilot, suffering from the backend of a divorce and the death of his youngest child. Hoping he can find some peace by spending a few precious days with his eldest daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) before she goes to college, plans go tits up when the service pulls him away on another job following the first big quake, as predicted by zealous seismologist (Giamatti ). However, as this brooding disaster gets worse, and as panic erupts in San Francisco, the firefighter finds himself taking the elements head on in order to track down and save his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and daughter.
San Andreas was true to its genre: world-wide disaster, which kills masses of people, with many battling crumbling buildings, tsunamis and a tonne of debris against the odds. It’s obvious a disaster movie will be a little silly, especially when the drawback of any film relishing in death is that nothing remains dramatic if it’s constantly shoved in your face.
Luckily, some of the characters were likeable enough that it held the tension, but while the last bastions of drama clung on for dear life, horrific one-liners and ridiculously timed deaths still somehow wormed their way onto the screen.
Despite the damsel in distress vibe, female leads were anything but passive. Each leading lady seemed in her own element – Daddario had a particularly captivating edge with her survival skills when stuck up shit creek without a paddle. Her rendezvous with the two British brothers also added a warm and light-hearted touch to the dialogue despite the overdone “laughing in the face of danger”. Either way, save for the occasional conflict in characterisation, there were few complaints about casting.
Overall the worst of it is that we have a movie which might be in denial about what it is. It had a fair bash at the drama, but fell into the routine of a stereotypical disaster movie when it came to the crunch. Credit to San Andreas, hair-raising moments filled the run time and characters were well thought out if not a little “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”. In the end, there are more reasons to be happy with it than not.