By Dan Doherty
San Andreas, the latest big blockbuster to have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the headliner, is a film that feels reminiscent of late-90s spectacles such as Armageddon and Independence Day. And while the film may be lacking in originality and substance, it makes up for it by showcasing some incredible sequences of destruction, knowing exactly what it is, and having an extremely fun cast to follow through all the destruction, with one of the most charismatic men in the world leading the charge and being typically charming.
The cast of the film in addition to Johnson, filled with heavy hitters such as Carla Gugino and Paul Giamatti as well as up-and-coming talent such as Alexandra Daddario all did a very good job in their roles. Johnson as the lead brings all of his best traits to the table, and actually brought some emotion to his role, at least for what the script provided. Gugino in the role of Johnson’s ex-wife and Daddario’s mother also was very fun to watch, selling realistic responses to each situation that she encountered and her chemistry with Johnson made them a fun pair to watch. Paul Giamatti also had a fun time hamming it up as a professor at Cal Tech and seismologist who is one of the first to be around the earthquakes, and while his character basically existed to deliver exposition and foreshadow what was about to happen, he definitely had a lot of fun in his role and added a lot of entertainment to the film. Alexandra Daddario gave the best performance in the entire film, bringing a lot of emotion to her role and selling the fright of someone caught in the situations she was in. She also had very good chemistry with Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson, two brothers caught in the middle of this disaster with Daddario’s character after Johnstone-Burt’s character meets her at a job interview at Ioan Gruffudd’s company.
However, as fun and likeable as the cast is to watch, you don’t go to the film for that. You go watch a film like this to see collateral damage and destruction, and in that regard the film is exhilarating to watch. Director Brad Peyton, who previously worked with Johnson on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, did a very good job with the action set-pieces, and employed a lot of very cool visual tricks with the destruction, particularly in a scene we caught a glimpse of in the trailer where a large tsunami is about to wipe out the Golden Gate Bridge, which along with a lot of other sequences in the film had me glued to the screen with my mouth dropped. Although there was an over-reliance on CGI effects and green screen, most of it looked convincing, save for a few moments. Peyton also did a good job with slowing the movie down in certain scenes to develop the characters more, and while these scenes did not feature Oscar-Winning writing, they served the purpose enough and did not drag the movie down or halt the pacing too much.
Some issues with the film are that while it is definitely a lot of fun, it’s is extremely unoriginal, and while this does not ruin the film, it keeps it from being something memorable. Another issue is while the CGI was convincing a lot of the time, there were a few moments where it looked truly dreadful, particularly near the beginning of the film. The writing could also be seen as a flaw, however as cheesy as it is it fits the tone of the rest of the film.
Overall, if you go into San Andreas expecting a film with deep characters and very rich storytelling, you missed the point entirely. The film knows it’s a cheesy disaster film, and while it brings absolutely nothing new to the table and probably will not be remembered within the next few years, the film’s likable cast and fun sequences make it a very fun theater experience. If you know that going in, you can definitely have a lot of fun with it.