Cinema review: San Andreas

Not the disaster 'disaster movie' it could have been

WATCH THE trailer for this movie. After that, if you want to see it, then go. Do you want to see San Francisco shake? Great! Now you can see it shake with for two hours with beautiful people running around, gradually shedding garments and having near misses with falling buildings and flash floods. It is the Ronseal Quick Drying Varnish of movies. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Remember that bit in Titanic where the ship is at 90 degrees and a guy is hanging to the railings beside Jack and Rose, and he falls and smashes a pole on his way down? This is basically the feature length version of that moment. This is a disaster movie in the purest sense, think The Towering Inferno or Twister. I quite like the genre - The Perfect Storm is, in my opinion, one of the best movies ever made - but more often than not they can be incredibly dumb, boring, popcorn fodder, with too much CGI.

The movie centres around Ray Gains, played by former wrestler and current massive human The Rock, and his extremely well endowed family. He is going through a divorce and trying to maintain a relationship with his 19-year-old daughter. This movie does not do subtlety, at one stage Ray opens a letter addressed to him and on the first page in comically large red font is 'DIVORCE PAPERS'. This is not the type of movie you watch for plot, so mercifully, the divorce family drama is kept to a minimum.

There are maybe 30 minutes in the beginning dedicated to the family issues and even that feels like 29 minutes too long. The Rock is not a great actor but he does have real charisma and likable screen presence. I was happy to follow him around for the duration of the disaster. On an entirely separate storyline (in fact they do not even meet ) we have the always great Paul Giamatti playing a Caltech seismologist who does his best to warn the people of California that the mother of all earthquakes is coming. He is having lots of fun here playing the wacky harbinger of doom gravely telling everyone to get out of the state. He, at least, adds some gravitas to a pretty flakey plot and cast, but he has entirely too much screen time. He spends the movie essentially repeating himself over and over again.

This is a perfectly serviceable action film but it is not even close to greats in the genre like Armageddon or The Poseidon Adventure, but it is a step above 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow. The set pieces are really impressive, particularly the tsunami, even if it is entirely unbelievable. Perhaps the unbelievability stands to it, especially with recent events in Nepal I’m not sure I could handle a realistic take on the horrors of these natural disasters.

However, there is a unusual callousness to the film. The protagonists casually walk by injured and dying survivors. They are concerned about their beautiful co-stars but the millions of San Franciscans dying around them are just more rubble in their path to be climbed over. There is one really weird scene when one of the actors loots a fire engine for supplies, which is clearly in use by rescue workers. Not cool guys!

San Andreas does exactly what you want from a big budget disaster movie. It is easy to poke holes in the selfish and, honestly, incredibly dumb protagonists, but that is not what these movies are about. Chances are if you want to see this movie a review will not change your mind, but if you like big budget disaster movies and have been put off by recent attempts in the genre, this really is not as bad as it could be.

 

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