Ah, the Rock. Dwayne Johnson does seem to fit rather well in his all-American action hero niche, doesn’t he? At least his acting isn’t bad, which is always a bonus.
The movie San Andreas follows the story of really one family struggling to reconnect after the biggest earthquake ever hits the San Andreas fault which runs through I believe the entire state (or most of it) of California. Ray is part of the LA Fire Department and does chopper rescues. He’s currently estranged from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) who is dating millionaire architect Daniel Riddick (Ioan Gruffudd). Ray is supposed to be going with his daughter Blake (Alexandria Daddario) to her school during a much needed vacation. However, a magnitude 7.2 in Nevada has him called in to work to help aid in the rescue operation, thus his daughter must go with Daniel instead.
We are also introduced to a journalist played by Archie Panjabi. We opened with her doing a story on Ray and his team (who were in Iraq together and joined the department together). She then goes to interview scientist Lawrence played by Paul Giamatti who was at the Hoover Dam when the major quake hit verifying his earthquake predictor. Lawrence just lost his good friend and research buddy Kim Park (Will Yun Lee). Kim sacrificed himself to save a child on the dam. Lawrence doesn’t want his friend’s death to be in vain and agrees to the interview to let the world know about the new early warning system they have just discovered. During this interview, his team spot massive activity along the San Andreas and they must scramble to let people know before its too late.
We are also introduced to Brit Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) who is being interviewed at Daniel’s firm and who really hits it off with Blake. He’s also got an adorable little brother tagging along named Ollie (Art Parkinson).
As you can imagine we have two major quakes which even spark a Tsunami. I’m really reminded of The Day After Tomorrow in which we have a father taking off after a major climate event hits to rescue his stranded son. Ray calls his wife (he just got served the divorce papers earlier) and apologizes for his behavior when they last met. It’s then that the first quake hits and he abandons his job of heading to Nevada to go pick up his wife instead. Once she’s secured after much difficulty, the next step is getting to their daughter who was abandoned after the first quake left her trapped in David’s limo.
So the story follows mostly just Ray and Emma as they struggle to head to San Francisco to find their daughter. The two are really worried that they will lose Blake to this disaster like they lost their other daughter Mallory to a whitewater rafting incident several years ago (which is why their whole marriage kind of went downhill). And we parallel that story with Blake, Ben, and Ollie teaming up to get out of San Francisco and meet up with Ray and Emma. We do get some shots of David who abandoned Blake (and did some other really horrible things to others as well) and a bit of the reporter and scientist.
The action sequences were amazing. Some felt really believable that something like that could happen and some seem outside the realm of possibility. It was kind of awe inspiring to see the land ripple during the earthquake sequences. And in a way its terrifying to know that such an earthquake could one day hit California like it does in the movie. There was some great humor interspersed with our characters trying their hardest not to die as aftershocks, a second earthquake, and tsunami keep coming at them. And, as during all natural disasters, we get humans taking advantage of the chaos to loot.
Parts of this movie kind of remind me a bit of Tommy Lee Jones’ and Anne Heche’s Volcano. I can’t quite explain why, but I kept thinking about that during this film. I must say that I liked the scientist part in Volcano better than our scientists in this movie. Sure, they play an important part but at times it just seemed trite and not the right kind of tone to really suit the film. Which is sad as Paul Giamatti is really a great actor, but this role and rather this whole arc of the scientists and their predictions really did not go with the flow well at all.
Another detriment was the ending as well. Of course we’ll have a happy family reunion after a close brush with death throws Ray back to the horror of watching Mallory die in front of him because he could not rescue her no matter how hard he tried. Looking out into the distance our five people who have finally come together wonder what’s next. Ray’s response is they rebuild. We pan out and there is a completely unharmed American flag flapping among the debris. I thought that was just a bit much. It would have been perfectly fine ending in a less cliche and even cheesy way. But, overall, a pretty decent movie with great action, and great computer enhancements that did not appear to be as fake as they can be. This is definitely worth seeing at least once, but I don’t think this will be making its way to my movie collection once its officially released.