Thursday, June 4, 2015

Syan Vs Movies: San Andreas

San Andreas is the most recent disaster movie that Hollywood has churned out. Dwayne Johnson (we don’t still need to call him the Rock, do we?) stars as Ray Gaines, a Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter rescue pilot.  Ray is celebrated as being one of the most outstanding rescue operators with over 200 successful operations. We find out that Ray is in the process of divorcing his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) who has begun a new relationship with a wealthy architect named Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd).  Ray and Emma remain in Los Angeles while their daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), goes to San Francisco with Daniel.  Blake meets a pair of kind brothers named Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Art Parkinson) while in Daniel’s San Francisco office.

The effects used for this movie are gorgeous.
Who knew destruction could be beautiful?

While they all go about their lives, a seismologist professor named Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) discovers a trend of magnetic spikes before earthquakes which allows him to predict the occurrences, but not before the Hoover Dam collapses in a huge earthquake. Lawrence then warns that California will be hit by huge earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault.  And so the stage is set for the action of San Andreas.

"Find something sturdy and hold on."
And there's nothing sturdier than the Rock. 

San Andreas has some fantastic set pieces. The action and devastation is presented in such a realistic fashion that you marvel as building fall and people disappear.  A tsunami beginning to crest has some of the most well-done water effects I have ever seen.  The buildings collapse and crumble in horrific fashions while being visually arresting.

However, all the great visual effects can’t save this from being a terrible movie.  You would think that with entire cities being leveled in horrific earthquakes, there would be some awful body counts.  These buildings are falling everywhere and while you do see some people die, they just disappear in front of you.  A limo driver is screaming and instantly crushed by falling rubble, gone from the screen.  A woman runs out a door and when the door is opened again, that half of the building is gone. Our heroes drive their boat through the flooded landscape amidst the devastated terrain of San Francisco, but do not come across any floating corpses. 

The City of Angels takes a tumble

There are several points where all I could think of was that the director and screenwriter were thinking of what they could do to copy Titanic, but missed all of the great characterization and serious consequences that occurred within that movie.  Both San Andreas and Titanic are PG-13 disaster films, both have the rich man who abandoned the young woman and begins to throw others to their deaths so that he may survive, and both have a hastily developed love story.  The problem is that Titanic recognized that the tragedy of its disaster needed to show the horrific loss of life. The bodies floating in the Atlantic Ocean in the major climax of Titanic are a haunting image. People disappearing quickly into a void and almost no blood on any survivors makes the drama and fear for our character’s lives dissolve.

Ollie, Blake and Ben are the biggest delight to watch.

Johnson is convincing as Ray, the caring family man who buried himself into work to avoid his pain. Gugino’s Emma is the tough mama bear that needs to find her daughter. Yet, the shining stars of the film are the trio of Blake, Ben and Ollie.  Ben rushes in when he realizes someone is still trapped in the garage and uses that British ingenuity of using a lever and a jack (that the architect couldn’t think of?) to free them.  Ollie is an endearing, clever young boy with a travel guide that has everything!  Blake is a tough young woman using the survival techniques her father taught her to get through the apocalyptic shaking and push the boys forward. Blake takes the lead in guiding the group to the high ground to meet up with her father.  

Unfortunately, even the good character traits don’t go very far in making you connect with them. The Rock is giving CPR to save someone who has drowned and can't get them to pump out the water they swallowed, and all I could think was, "Give them the People's Elbow!  That will make all the water come out!"  Daniel has a conversation with the obviously grown Blake as if she was 11 years old about getting a new father, in the worst example of silly screenwriting. Lawrence, our successful genius seismologist, is asked who they need to tell that there will be more earthquakes and responds, with all the subtlety of rooster at dawn, “EVERYBODY.”  Ah, disaster movie over-acting. 

Hey, cool, a wave pool!

San Andreas is a very visual disaster flick that misses the mark by not showing the mortal consequences of its destruction and doesn't do enough to make you connect with most of its cast.  It is however a fun, entertaining way to spend a few hours if you do want to see people survive car crashes that tumble down a cliffside or being dropped down 3 floors while the city collapses around them.

Short version:  San Andreas is fun, mindless destruction jaunt for an entertaining afternoon matinee, but you likely won't remember it after a few weeks.

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Look into other Syan Vs Movies reviews:  Tale of Princess KaguyaPitch Perfect 2Mad Max: Fury Road, and Ex Machina

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