Fearing that the disaster movie genre has been exhausted, I went into San Andreas hoping it will be either a good disaster movie, or the disaster might just be the movie. Brad Peyton, the visionary behind Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore might add some spark to his canon, particularly when the macho sincerity of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is front and centre. What I naively didn’t expect was something so dull and po-faced, criminally failing to take advantage of Johnson’s eye-popping pecs and star power.
The film begins strongly with an action scene involving Ray (Dwayne Johnson), a search and rescue helicopter pilot, saving a young woman whose car has taken a precarious wobble down a mountain. But it all unravels quickly as an earthquake strikes, the next one bigger than the last. Paul Giamatti takes on the thankless role of a professor who discovers a new way of predicting earthquakes but it’s a half-hearted b-story which detracts from the mega-destruction, especially as the writers couldn’t figure out how to bring Giamatti and Johnson together as the ultimate brainy-brawny double act. Meanwhile, Johnson uses the apocalyptic natural disaster as an opportunity to reconcile with his estranged wife. Their relationship has broken down following the drowning of their young daughter several years ago. Will their older daughter Blake (Alexandro Daddario) suffer the same fate? It’s all tediously cliched and telegraphed. There’s a pair of British brothers who tag along with Blake, the younger, pre-teen desperate to watch his brother ‘snog’ the young woman, which is just very odd in itself. They use the sorts of accents, mannerisms and idioms only British characters in American movies use. From this and previous work, writer and former Lost showrunner Carlton Cuse has a very distinct problem with writing British people and it does get annoying quickly.
CGI scenes of large scale destruction feel strangely antiquated and while serviceable and occasionally visually interesting, the scale feels too large for it to have any resonance. The film plays on the premise that this could actually happen but in real life, an idea which falls apart quickly when you consider how unlikely it is that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson would be so tediously predictable.
Review by David Rank
San Andreas is out now in the UK and US. Running time 114 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).