San Andreas is a “disaster movie”. Not one of those new-fangled, armageddon-style take downs in which the entire world perishes in fire, or ice, or at the claws of unexpected aliens, but a disaster movie in the good old Towering Inferno style, focused on a plot gizmo that MIGHT just happen.
Plenty of action
For San Andreas – the title is a bit of a giveaway! – is a film about the big one: the earthquake that a bevy of scientists are all predicting will, sooner, rather than later, shake the west coast of America. It follows the fortunes of a heroic family caught up in the turmoil, and struggling desperately to regroup, both literally and emotionally.
Racing cross-country, to save his daughter, is rescue-chopper pilot Ray (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson). Along the way, he commandeers a fleet of motorised vehicles, including a helicopter, car, plane and boat, all of which he appears to drive like an expert, as well as ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino), lifted from the roof of a Los Angeles building just seconds before a skyscraper falls on her.
Then it’s off to San Francisco, where daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) has just been saved from her own near death experience by puppy-eyed Brit, Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt). She has, of course, been abandoned by her mum’s new beau, Daniel Riddick (Ioan Griffudd), who we can tell is a bad ‘un and future disappointment from the moment he reveals that he put getting rich before having children. There is, too, a short but sweet cameo by Kylie Minogue, as Riddick’s equally self-centred wife.
Every now and then, seismologist Lawrence (Paul Giannatti) pops up to issue dire warnings and predict further destruction: luckily, he has invented a ground-breaking (!) new way to predict earthquakes about an hour before this one hits.
San Andreas is not a great film. Nor is it a bad one. It does precisely what it says on the packet, following
its homely clan through the ups and downs of a major natural disaster. The special effects are good, although, as always with such films, you will see a high proportion of them by viewing the trailer.
A little less emotion
The characters are mostly cardboard cut-outs, with the emotional range of a canteen of cutlery. The almost complete absence of surnames for all but the “interesting” roles is probably a clue.
There is dramatic tension, though only if you believe that a movie of this sort would ever kill off one of its protagonists before the final reel. What little back story there is has Dwayne estranged from his wife after failing to come to terms with the death of his daughter some years earlier: no prizes for guessing that before the credits roll, Blake will face a carbon copy peril. Will she survive? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!
An entertaining two hours
Plus points? Despite a certain critical sniffiness about the casting of Johnson in the lead role, he puts in a credible performance. He comes across as concerned, dependable and yes: ever-so-definitely cute. We are also, very clearly, in an era of equality: for until the end, the film is very much a tale of two adventures, with Dwayne playing the traditional male hero, rescuing screaming damsels in distress nicely matched by Blake performing parallel service for the nice-but-dippy Ben.
This film will not lead to deep thoughts – though it might make you think twice about relocating to California. Still, it’s a good way to pass a couple of hours, and if you mix in a generous helping of popcorn and realistic expectations, you will not be disappointed.