San Andreas is the reason why disaster movies exist.
I saw San Andreas several weeks ago thanks to my good friend Fred Topel. In addition to getting us into an early screening for the film, Fred also got us into the 4DX screening. Let it be known that I am a big supporter of the movie theater experience and an even bigger supporter of superior theater experiences like IMAX. I think seeing big budget films like this one, in a theater creates such a unique experience and 4DX takes that experience to a whole new level. 4DX produces smells, shakes, amazing sound, and even water effects. I never thought I would say that anything could beat a true IMAX screen but 4DX totally kicked its ass. Now, I don’t want to go into a whole song and dance about 4DX but do yourself a favor, if you can see this film in 4DX, do it and enjoy the ride. With that being said, on with my review.
When a huge earthquake unexpectedly hits the Grand Canyon, Ray (Dwayne Johnson), a search and rescue pilot must head to Arizona to deal with the devastating aftermath. While on his way, Ray calls his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) only to learn that a 9.2 magnitude earthquake has just hit Los Angeles. Now, the two must embark on the ultimate journey from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) before the quake levels the city.
Some of my fondest movie memories growing up was watching disaster films with my family. I grew up watching films like The Poseidon Adventure from 1972, Earthquake from 1975, and of course, every 80s and 90s disaster film that was released. While no one can ever say that a disaster film will make you think, they were at one time, the definition of a Summer Blockbuster; that is before every Summer Blockbuster was based on some Marvel or DC Comic.
With that being said, San Andreas is everything I love about the disaster film genre. Andreas, just like its predecessors, is not the type of film that you go to see to get some rich character development nor a mind blowing plot. This film knows exactly what is going for and is just pure mindless fun. As the story moves along, the events occurring on-screen become more and more farfetched but that only makes it more entertaining to watch. It is like watching two hours of buildings and famous landmarks being destroyed for our enjoyment.
Besides the 4DX experience, there are a few other reasons why the film works so well as both a disaster film and a Summer Blockbuster.
First, the story is simple and doesn’t involve too many characters. Essentially, San Andreas is really about a family going through some life changes and a scientist (Paul Giamatti) discovering that his software can accurately read seismic waves. There really aren’t many other characters here and I think that works in the film’s favor. By having about six core characters, it allows us as audience to become invested in them rather than worrying about the entire city of Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Another thing that works is that the writer Carlton Cuse and director Brad Peyton never take the story too seriously. There is a lot of fun to be had when going on this journey and that includes everything from the earthquake destroying Los Angeles to some one-liners that will make you burst out laughing. There is also some decent drama here but it never gets to the point where you feel like they are trying to go overboard with it.
Lastly, the cast. Dwayne Johnson was born to star in films like this. He is just so damn likable plus he is someone you can always root for. I don’t care what anyone says about Johnson but the man is just so damn personable and I for one will watch anything he is in just because he adds his own unique charm to it. He may not be as versatile as an actor as say Paul Giamatti but the man has great on-screen prescience. Speaking of Giamatti, he really pulls off the role as well. While definitely not his best performance to date, he brings a level of credibility playing a scientist. I also loved Alexandra Daddario as well as Hugo Johnstone-Burt as Ben and Art Parkinson as Ollie. They all had great chemistry and were characters that you wanted to root for.
While I did like a lot about San Andreas, I will admit that it might be a bit bloated in terms of runtime. I think at a little over 2 hours, it becomes a bit long winded. On top of that, there are a few character stories that didn’t really need to be there even though one of them added a bit a humor to the film when he is killed abruptly. I understand why the character was needed but the film really went out of its way to make him come off as a cartoon like villain.
All in all, San Andreas is an absolute blast to watch and is mindless fun. This is the disaster film that Roland Emmerich has been trying to make since 1996 but Peyton beat him to it. This film serves as a reminder that we don’t always need superheroes saving the world to have a good time at the movies. We can have Dwayne Johnson go up against an Earthquake and have just as much fun, if not even a bit more. If you are a fan of Disaster films or have grown up watching them like myself, do yourself a favor and get yourself a large popcorn, turn off your brain, and enjoy all the fun that San Andreas has to offer.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for San Andreas is a 8 out of 10.