Where do I even begin? Possibly the first time I’ve opened a review with a question but this film leaves you asking one, namely how did this go ahead. Hollywood disaster flicks are most often guaranteed box office draws and this will no doubt be no exception but this movie’s plot is so shaky that it’s a bigger problem than the earthquakes in the movie.
Rescue helicopter pilot Ray Gaines (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) is coming to terms with a divorce settlement from Emma (Carla Cugino) but more rocky than their current status is the imminent and then numerous quakes that hit California and their aftermaths happen to impact their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) in San Francisco. Ray makes his way to save Emma and Blake and of course save his marriage.
Brad Peyton directs his second film with The Rock leading things but even the former wrestler cannot save Peyton’s grip on this step-by-step guide to make an obvious and seriously overblown disaster story. It looks like any other film of this genre and directorial choices of shots or visuals become laughable as they seem to be trying to be clever or poetic. The floating necklace as a symbolic object in the very start is so openly setting up a future event and in general where Peyton is trying to garner emotion with this family, it backfires and feels void of connection. A tremendous crumbling feature with no sense of clarity.
It’s amazing there even was a screenplay for this movie but apparently Carlton Cuse was there for something. If not just scrawling explosions, disasters repeat on a script and handing it in to New Line Cinema. Actually I mustn’t be too harsh, Cuse does make a moment for a well timed and frankly genius bit of joking in terms of baseball/sexual punnery. The rest of the plot is so juddering in giving Ray and Emma angelic gifts of fortune in their quest that even for a heightened blockbuster it becomes so painstakingly unbelievable. The fault isn’t San Andreas’ but with this narrative sticking so damn firm to cliches and predictable characters and choices. There’s no room to do anything different amongst all the groan worthy dumbness, which is a shame as it could have literally shaken up the mould and surprised audiences.
Visually the look of the film is pretty good, long shots of the city landscapes tearing apart and falling to ruin are near spectacular and do get you close to that exclamation of awe but then certain points leap out like a flashing red warning of CGI. One comes in the opening scene, the place where you’d expect to be wowed and see something to grip you and marvel at destruction but slow motion, a hyper girl and a dodgy computer car upending over and over is a less than cool way to raise the curtains. Then boats and watery sequences are stuffed with off-putting foregrounds or backdrops that take you even further out of a film that has practically invited you to walk out the cinema by then anyway. Being kind, the majority of the film excels in scope and the devastation factor of what these natural rumbles can do to our planet.
Also for the certification of this film, an awful lot of damage and death could traumatize younger eyes. There’s a whole section where waters come flooding in and hefty portion of the population are being wiped out, people get crushed and buildings collapse. It’s not dark but it certainly isn’t popcorn entertainment for the non grown up watcher. Gee, there’s even a lingering shot on someone fitting under water as they begin drowning and that’s definitely a scarier more alarming point of the film.
Dwayne Johnson saves the day as per usual and though he brings nothing more than his usual bulk, swagger and heroic nature, you can’t help but root for him as the central figure. Alexandra Daddario helped me get through the film for being serious eye candy and not a complete damsel in distress, at least she worked out some solutions to keep ahead of the game. Carla Cugino does a good job as the most emotional character and delivers a line about her selfish current squeeze with fist punch in the air satisfaction for us watching. Ioan Gruffudd plays said squeeze and is the typical douche that you can’t wait to see offed. Kylie Minogue turns up for no reason whatsoever, adding nothing and doing nothing apart from tumbling back Down Under. Paul Giamatti gets to deliver the parts that sound intelligent but make no real sense in this movie and he also keeps surviving with some simple sage advice of ducking under tables and holding on.
The fault line swiftly moves from entertainingly silly to honestly stupid. A whole fleet of serious matters and human cost is pushed aside for CGI nonsense following one family. Characters and situations are so thinly drawn and so expected that nothing grips you and it turns into a loud mess. If this movie were measured on the Richter scale for quality it would hardly make a blip.