June 2, 2015

Movie Review: San Andreas

When I first saw the trailer for San Andreas, I cannot say my reaction was positive. It was not exactly negative either, it was more the equivalent of an eye roll when no one is looking. Upon further reflection, my eye roll stance somewhat softened. I figured, why not? I feel it has been awhile since I've seen a disaster movie, that is, a movie that wasn't a disaster, but rather about a disaster. How bad could it be? On the other hand, it is also nice to see some different landmarks getting destroyed than the usual ones in New York and DC.

Now, the funny thing, that made me think a little bit was a headline I saw during the week run up to the movie's release. There was an article claiming scientists had debunked the earthquake science in San Andreas. Honestly, it made me laugh. Who goes to a summer blockbuster type movie starring The Rock and expects scientific accuracy? This is not a documentary, it is entertainment set in its own reality. It doesn't play by our rules, it may look like our world, but it isn't. It is constructed for dramatic, comedic, and/or thrilling purposes. It doesn't matter if it doesn't equate to our world if you are entertained by what you see.

San Andreas is just another in a long line of movies to hit the big screen that depict some sort of disaster. This time out we get to watch the San Andreas fault line wreak havok on the Pacific coast, taking Los Angeles and San Francisco with it, not to mention the Hoover Dam. The fault goes off and kicks off some major, major destruction. In the middle of it all, The Rock searches for his daughter and Paul Giamatti tries to get the word out. We are the winners for this.

The movie starts with the establishment of the hero. We get a side disaster that has nothing to do with the quake. A young woman has a bad car accident that requires a helicopter rescue, enter Ray (Dwayne Johnson), making the perfect hero's entrance, making the rescue and walking away giant and humble. We then get to meet his daughter, ex-wife, and her new boyfriend. Not to mention the scientist (Giamatti), who has found a way to predict the quakes and is going nuts trying to get the word out.

The whole thing follows the familiar formula. Ray is on a rescue mission but gets sidetracked to rescue his family on an across the state adventure to get there in time, risking life and limb to do what's right. We get cutaway moments with the scientist to deliver some exposition, so that we have an idea of what is happening, besides the visuals of falling buildings.

It may all be formula, but dang it if it isn't well done formula. This is not the sort of movie that is going to win awards, it is made to be big, destructive and entertaining. It delivers. We get to watch Ray fly a helicopter, drive a truck, fly a plane, and pilot a boat on his adventure to San Francisco, while rediscovering his love for his ex-wife and a redemption for his personal blaming of a family tragedy. On top of that we get to watch his daughter (Alexandra Daddario from Texas Chainsaw 3D) team up with a British tourist and his son as they try to survive long enough to be rescued by Ray.

There really is nothing new here, but it is tight, focused, and has good characters. This is not a movie to analyze, it is not one to fret over the realism of the science, this is one to enjoy watching buildings fall, thrill at the near escapes, to laugh as a release of tension, and just have fun in a movie theater. It is all right to do that, this is a movie that says it is all right to do so, you are allowed to have fun and not think. There are many reasons to see a movie, one of them is to just have a good time. This delivers that. Not on the level of, say, Mad Max: Fury Road, but not everything has to be that high up on the scale.

San Andreas destroys a major city, features an action star doing what he does best, and makes no apologies for what it depicts. So, if you are just looking for some fun action, San Andreas delivers the goods. Sure, you may not remember it in a month, but so what, it did its job for you in that theater. Relax and enjoy the ride.


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