Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson and Paul Giamatti
Directed by: Brad Peyton
Cert: 12A Release Date: May 28th 2015
Ah yes, the summer movie season. Time to park our brains in the cinema foyer and enter into the popcorn filled darkness to enjoy some special effects wizardry and some cool actors in peril. It’s unfortunate then that in a time when real life events overshadow those created by Hollywood, such a venture makes for an empty experience where no amount of crumbling skyscrapers can make up for a script that has enough jarring lines and hammy dialogue to fill the fault line ten times over.
Director Brad Peyton, who previously worked with Dwayne Johnson on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island opens the film promisingly enough with a nail-biting ravine rescue. Johnson proves he’s got the mettle to handle any crisis as Ray, an LA Fire Department Search and Rescue helicopter pilot. When the San Andreas Fault triggers a 9 plus magnitude quake up the West coast, he and his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino) set out from LA to San Francisco to rescue their teenage daughter Blake (played with gusto by Alexandra Daddario).
Despite being a strong clever young woman who leads the charge when it comes to survival techniques, Blake suffers the summer blockbuster hottie tag last seen in Transformers, with contrived plot devices as the disaster ensues that require the removal of her outer clothing. You can almost hear her groan as her male co-stars shirts remain in situ.
Dwayne Johnson is the perfect leading man for this type of film but he’s weighed down by a family back story that rings hollow when it should move the audience. A cathartic moment feels forced and the pressure weighs heavy on Johnson to bring the heart needed when the script is wafer thin.
A mixed bag when it comes to the CGI, some effects are jaw-dropping in their photo-realistic bedazzlement while others are patchy and you feel like you can almost see the wizard behind the curtain turning the wheels and pressing the buttons. When Johnson and Gugino take to the water, you can imagine the green screen around them as the seams begin to come apart. The tsunami is ridiculous and was realised to better effect in last year’s Godzilla. Here they face the giant wave head on, in a boat, riding upwards to its crest in a frankly ludicrous scene that cost way more than it actually delivered.
Shot in Australia, Home and Away’s Hugo Johnstone-Burt plays Blake’s love interest Ben as a bumbling Hugh Grant-like Brit while Kylie Minogue pops up for a quick cameo, delivering her catty American lines with the relish of someone who is under no illusions as to what type of movie she’s in. With a screenplay by Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) several lines roll like tumbleweed across the screen. When Blake asks her mother’s new entrepreneur boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd) why he has no children he replies that his children are the buildings he’s raised. Cue awkward silence. Paul Giamatti plays the seismologist boffin well, though spends much of the film warning of impending further quakes from under his desk.
The bar has been raised so high on disaster movies that it feels like San Andreas has no-where to go. We’ve seen destruction like this before and we’ve seen it done better. Perhaps the bar can be raised now with the scripts for these films. The genre can produce classics, this we know. How about a little old school magic next time. **