GENRE: Disaster action
THE PITCH: The San Andreas Fault becomes active and the California coast line is about to face the largest series of earthquakes in recorded history. Screw California, Ray (Dwayne Johnson) a Los Angeles rescue-chopper pilot risks all to save his family instead.
MONEY SHOT: The destruction of San Francisco. A series of magnitude 7.6 and higher quakes lay waste to the Gate City. Without spoiling the scene with details, no part of the city is left irreparably unaffected.
WORST LINE: Without a place to land, Ray and his estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) parachute into San Francisco’s AT&T Park. They effortlessly land on a base and Ray says, “Been a while since I got you to second base.”
BEST PSA: A young woman drives along the winding California highway in the mountains. She reaches for a water bottle without incident. She grabs her phone and tries to text, a rockslide sends her off a cliff in Wile E. Coyote fashion. The car tumbles a rock face for nearly 15 seconds. DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE (… during an earthquake!).
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Ray commutes in a Dodge Ram 1500 truck and his family communicates using iPhones. When he steals a vehicle, he hot wires another shiny, black Ram truck as well. Seeking supplies, Ray’s daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) stocks up on Aquafina water.
FILM COST: $110 million.
NUMBER OF VEHICLES RAY USED: Four.
NUMBER OF VEHICLES RAY DESTROYS: Four.
WORK RELATED: Including Andreas, Johnson and Gugino have worked on three films together (Race to Witch Mountain, Faster). Director Brad Peyton has previously directed Johnson in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and two will team again for the sequel: Journey 3: From the Earth to the Moon.
BY THE NUMBERS: According to Deadspin, Los Angeles has been devastated by geological events in eight films but San Francisco has only been rattled in four. Hollywoodsign.org cites the iconic “Hollywood” sign has been destroyed in ten films including Andreas. The Golden Gate Bridge has only been destroyed in film nine times according to The Contra Costa Times, but the number will be tied with the release of Terminator: Genisys this summer.
WILL CALIFORNIA FALL? No. According to the United States Geological Survey, the San Andreas Fault System is constantly moving at a rate of 46 millimeters per year. That is the rate of your fingernail growth. Eventually Los Angeles and San Francisco will be adjacent to one another, but that will take several million years.
BOTTOM LINE: The scourge of Californians for decades, the looming demise of the adventure state’s scenic coast manifests with graphic detail in Peyton’s latest film. Peyton’s vision of a magnitude 9.7 quake is epic: no buildings survive and every piece of falling debris seems to have someone’s name on it. But it is that characteristic that sets the film apart from recent disaster films. It is indeed rewarding as most of the havoc seen is kept close to the camera where attention to such detail is obvious, immersing the viewing in tight, fast-moving scenes of destruction. Each catastrophe ripples, building upon itself in such a ridiculous fashion until it finally subsides with an unusual amount of WTF payoffs. Its not enough for a building to shake in a scene, the building sways; hurling people out the window; the stairway collapses; the roof falls in; a fire breaks out, and people are squashed by furniture and rubble. Peyton may have considered these domino-like episodes as realism, but I considered them as laugh-out-loud funny.
Johnson as the lovelorn rescue pilot is just what you would you expect: a tough guy with a heart of gold, flexing pecs to conquer, uh, California. An indulgent amount of screen time is wasted lamenting the rancid state of the broken family between Johnson, Gugino, and Daddario. Both actresses are as entertaining a mother and daughter as the script allows, but its very clear this is a one-man show within the first 30 minutes.
San Andreas is great matinee fare for its outlandish depiction of a natural disaster, but barely ekes its way to being satisfying due to its sappy, often preachy, and unnecessary melodrama.