Between his rescue missions in Afghanistan and his current job with the Los Angeles Fire Department, Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is very good at what he does. He takes risks most would shy away from to save innocent lives. Ray is taking a few days off to move his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) to San Francisco for college.
Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) and Dr. Kim Park (Will Yun Lee) travel to Hoover Dam to test whether a device they have been working on will successfully predict earthquakes. Small tremors have been detected near the dam, so they must act quickly to do any testing. Unfortunately, the device detects an earthquake as they are testing on the dam. A massive quake destroys the dam, causing untold damage.
When news of the quake reaches LA, Ray is called in to help. Ray leaves Blake with Emma (Carla Gugin0), his estranged wife. Emma’s boyfriend Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) is traveling to San Francisco to check on the progress of a building he designed, which is supposed to be the strongest and most secure, able to withstand massive earthquakes. Ray reluctantly allows Daniel to take Blake to her school since he is needed elsewhere.
When Lawrence returns to California, his machine detects another, larger earthquake is destined to strike along the San Andreas fault, potentially causing the total destruction of San Francisco and other cities in the area. He must get his message out to warn people before it is too late.
San Andreas is this summer’s mega-disaster film, along the same lines as Day After Tomorrow or 2012. It promises loud, in your face, destruction with complete disregard for anyone or anything. And it delivers on that promise.
Being a typical blockbuster disaster movie, clearly, the lion’s share of the budget is spent on special effects. This means the script and the dialogue are almost afterthoughts. Paul Giamatti’s character, while providing a narrative for the power of earthquakes, gets a little too deep into plate theory and tectonics. I think they were trying to leverage this to give the film a little credibility. The thing is, we don’t want or need credibility for this type of film. All we need is for the world to fall apart.
Dwayne Johnson’s character is touted as a search and rescue veteran that is almost a celebrity. Nobody can do what he can. However, we only see him in action once, at the beginning of the film. I expected more action from him. Instead, he is more of a secondary character with not much to do. Most of his time on screen is spent dealing with a complicated, unnecessary back story about why he and Carla Gugino’s character are divorcing.I found this odd, as he is the only star being used to promote the film.
Alexandra Daddario’ character meets two English brothers in San Francisco, Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson. They are really the stars of the movie. The movie follows them around the city as they find themselves in the heart of the action. Art, playing Ollie, the little brother to Hugo’s Ben, steals every scene he’s in.
The script has plenty of flaws. The story is predictable. The dialogue is full of cheesy one-liners. No one is winning awards for acting for this film. But that’s fine. You didn’t come here for anything other than to watch the world burn. And that it does, spectacularly. The 3D isn’t as in your face as I would have expected, so it’s a bit disappointing. Otherwise, the effects are well done and mostly believable.
San Andreas is good for some mindless, destructive fun. If you set your expectations properly, you won’t be disappointed. But you won’t be blown away, either.