Shitty Movie Sundays: San Andreas, or, an October Horrorshow Interlude

I couldn’t wait for after the Horrorshow to post this review. This flick is just too special. And what a gloriously stupid movie it is. But, a big, bombastic disaster flick is good to see every now and again. They come in waves, too. Some studio will put out a big budget disaster flick that makes a pile of cash and then all the others can’t wait to put their own into production. Then after a year or two the quality takes a dip and audiences get tired and disaster flicks go into hibernation until audiences are ready again. Marvel and DC would do well to take note. They’re reaping the benefits of their respective formulae now, but eventually audiences will rebel and one of those two will lay a big fat turd at the box office — something kin to The Core — and ruin the party for everyone (an argument could be made that this happened with the Fantastic Four reboot this summer, but for now audiences are not blaming Marvel for franchisee Sony messing up Marvel’s intellectual properties). But, I digress.

San Andreas is a big, bombastic disaster flick from screenwriter Carlton Cuse and director Brad Peyton. Neither are exactly household names, but never fear, because this movie stars The Rock, and that guy is a hell of an entertainer. I mean that, too. No one, before or since, has perfected the art of the wrestling promo like The Rock. No one in that business has been able to read or play a crowd like The Rock. He’s one of those individuals who feeds off of an audience, like the best musicians or the most adroit politicians. His woodenness on the silver screen is less an ability to act, I think, than it is the lack of a live audience. I, for one, cannot wait for the day when The Rock is featured in a summertime performance of Shakespeare in the Park. If that idea horrifies you, than you need to stop taking the Bard so damned seriously. The man was a comedian, after all.

Anyways, The Rock plays Ray Gaines, a rescue helicopter pilot for the Los Angeles Fire Department. He and his crew spent two tours in Afghanistan rescuing downed American pilots and wounded service members, choosing to stay together when they got back to the world so they could continue to kick some rescue ass!

In the opening scene we get to see them all in action, saving a young teenager from falling into that precipitous 2,000 foot drop in the San Fernando Valley that all of a sudden appeared for this movie. It’s exactly the setup the film needed, an introduction to the death-defying heroes that we will accompany throughout the rest of the film. Surely some of them will have to sacrifice their lives during the course of the narrative, but this is a story about American heroes. Sacrifice is just part of the cost in a film like this. Only, this is the last scene we see this closely-knit team of rescue operatives. I’m not joking. After this, everyone in the team just sort of disappears. The next rescue we see, The Rock is flying the Huey all by himself, and performs the rescue all on his own, too. How in the hell did that happen? What did that ensemble do to get written out of the film? Is The Rock that big of a star? He must be. That only leaves an explanation of what all these people need rescuing from.

It’s earthquakes. Loads and loads of powerful earthquakes, running up the coast from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with an early stop at the Hoover Dam just because the Hoover Dam collapsing looks really cool in a movie. There couldn’t be any other reason, because the filmmakers didn’t even bother showing Las Vegas bite the dust.

The Hoover Dam, then, becomes the first item on this film’s Landmark Devastation Checklist. Further items include:

  • The Hollywood Sign
  • S. Bank Tower
  • The Bay Bridge
  • The Transamerica Pyramid
  • AT&T Park
  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • And just about everything else in L.A. and San Francisco

None of this is spoiler, really. Think of it as a guide. The only reason to see a movie like this is for the visual spectacle of devastation. A list like this shows any potential viewers what they have to look forward to.

What a viewer won’t look forward to is all the time when there isn’t a lot of earthquake happening. Because in those times we get to spend time with The Rock and his wife (Carla Gugino) as they road trip up to San Francisco to rescue their daughter (Alexandra Daddario). This is time that could have been better spent with The Rock and his crew rescuing people, rather than having to watch some lame family drama.

The other weak spots in the movie surround The Scientist (Paul Giamatti) — who exists in this movie to make sure everyone out in the audience knows what an earthquake is. Paul and his buddies might as well be in a separate movie, as he is neither in a single scene with The Rock, nor interacts with him in any way — not even on a radio or telephone. His job is to be the one man in the world who understands what is happening, if only someone would just listen to him! It’s a lazy trope, but really no more than the rest of the flick.

My takeaway from San Andreas is that it’s a disaster film of missed opportunities. The spectacle is just fine. The quality of CGI just keeps getting better as time goes on and this movie benefits from that, even if it still looks like a cartoon. But, the setup promised us a better movie than we got. I would have enjoyed watching The Rock and his crew of experienced rescuers ply their trade. Instead, we get to see far too much of The Rock and Carla on their day trip up to the Bay Area. Oh well. It’s still better than Alien: Resurrection.