San Andreas (PG-13) ★★★

Dwayne Johnson stars is "San Andreas." Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Dwayne Johnson stars is “San Andreas.” Photo credit: Warner Bros.

A Few Faults, But San Andreas Wows Audiences

The Rock (Dwayne Johnson, Furious Seven, 2015) is on a roll and makes big moves in the 3-D disaster flick, San Andreas.

After a massive, magnitude nine earthquake in California, a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, Ray (Johnson) must make his way through the destruction from Los Angeles to San Francisco to save his estranged daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario, Texas Chainsaw 3D, 2013). Ray must utilize almost all modes of transportation – plane, car, boat, helicopter and parachute – to navigate his way to his most prized possession.

The action-adventure film got off to an intense and rocky start. It begins with a teenage girl driving in San Fernando Valley, California with several near miss accidents – texting and driving, reaching to the backseat to pull a water bottle out of her purse and clearly not paying attention to the road in general. The scene is set up for audiences to cringe at the very moment when the most expected accident is supposed to happen, but then it doesn’t. Instead, the earth suddenly trembles, triggering the beginning of a spree of colossal earthquakes. The girl’s vehicle is lodged between two fault lines and it’s up to Ray and his team to rescue her before the aftershock pushes the cliffs even further apart and she instantly falls to her death.

In an attempt to comfort the girl, Ray somehow calls her cell phone via satellite while he’s hovering above her vehicle in a helicopter. The fact that the cell phone was on, had reception and knew the number to call was pretty ridiculous. In those first few moments of the film, I was already convincing myself that the remaining two hours were going to be just as cheesy and unrealistic. While the film’s storyline of a broken family coming together through tragedy is certainly cliché and formulaic along with many of the lines within, the CGI effects in this film, directed by Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, 2012) are extraordinary and immediately take one’s mind off of the corniness.

The aerial views and differing vantage points in which Peyton shoots make the experience seem that much more realistic. The natural disasters are impressive from all angles. Earthquakes, fires and tsunamis are portrayed. The film is thought provoking in that audiences truly see what is capable of happening to this earth and how even the most manpower and warning can’t avert mother nature at this degree.

Earthquake seismologist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti, Love & Mercy, 2014) discovers that he can predict earthquakes and teams up with a reporter named Serena (Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife, 2009-2015) to try and reach and caution as many people as they can before the next quake hits. The unlikely duo adds a unique dynamic to the film and they are very fitted for their respective roles. Johnson’s major screen presence is complimented by his ex-wife in the film, Emma (Carla Gugino, Match, 2014) while British brothers Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Goddess, 2013) and Ollie (Art Parkinson, Love, Rosie, 2014) become the beloved boys who will stop at nothing to keep Blake alive.

Bottom-Line? San Andreas is the epicenter of thrill, special effects and realistic performances by frontrunners Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, and Alexandra Daddario. The script is predictable, but it is overshadowed by the fascinating CGI effects of a collapsing California.

Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Ray), Carla Gugino (Emma), Alexandra Daddario (Blake), Ioan Gruffudd (Daniel Riddick), Archie Panjabi (Serena), Paul Giamatti (Lawrence), Hugo Johnstone-Burt (Ben), Art Parkinson (Ollie)

Credits: Directed by Brad Peyton; Written by Carlton Cuse

Studio: Warner Bros.

Run Time: 123 minutes

Jessica Aymond © May 26, 2015