Release: 12th October 2015
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
A seemingly ideal day turns disastrous when California’s notorious San Andreas fault triggers a devastating, magnitude 9 earthquake, the largest in recorded history. As the Earth cracks open and buildings start to crumble, Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson), an LAFD search-and-rescue helicopter pilot, must navigate the destruction from Los Angeles to San Francisco to bring his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and their only daughter (Alexandra Daddario) to safety.
If seeing The Rock ride a speedboat vertically up a 750ft wave, just shortly after flying a small plane through a thunderstorm and parachuting into an earthquake, has you jumping with glee; then San Andreas might be the film for you. If after seeing the above, you expect a dash of knowing wit or a one-liner from the former wrestler; then San Andreas might not quite be for you after all. As here is the rub. Despite its ludicrous nature and grandiose logic, for some reason unbeknownst to the rational mind, San Andreas presents itself as cautionary tale rather than gleeful disaster movie.
From the film’s real world ‘logic’ about tectonic plates and thermal wind patterns and blah blah blah, to its furrowed brow single tear stories of dead kids and evil step fathers; San Andreas tries way too hard to justify itself as something to be listened to rather than just something to be experienced. Dodgy special effects and ropey dialogue do not help promote director Brad Peyton’s seemingly oblivious and undeserved sense of self importance either. But that being said, when San Andreas lays on the spectacle (and my goodness, does it ramp up the odds!) lots of fun is to be had. There are landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricane, floods, explosions, running, screaming – the horror, oh the horror!
When it comes to casting, there are no surprises…well except for a random appearance by Kylie Minogue. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is his usual hulking, albiet less jovial, loveable self. Carla Cugino does whatever it is Carla Cugino does; with added crying. Ioan Gruffudd runs a lot and Alexandra Daddario takes a massive step down from any sort of acting credentials earned in her True Detective stint. Then there are two British kids who you’ll forget where even in the movie, let alone names you’ll remember. Oh, and Paul Giamatti is in it! He does a lot of shouting, and tells horrendous lies about tables being a safe place to hide under while the world dissolves around you. But in the context of the film, no one grates or hams it up too much. So it remains to be said; well done all, you didn’t make the film any less enjoyable.
Film Grade: D-
The special features for San Andreas, although hit and miss, prove to be one of those rare freak occurrences, where supplements actually serve to improve ones perspective of its subject. San Andreas: The Real Fault Line is the standard puff-piece, where director Brad Peyton and his team give brief insights into their working process, and use the terms “realistic” and “accurate” far too often, in relation to the film, to be taken seriously.
The Deleted Scenes are literally the dullest collection of snippets you’ll likely witness (although one does have an actual moment of levity in it; something sorely missing from the finished film). The Stunt Reel feels like epilepsy and the Gag Reel is, of course, good fun. Everyone loves a gag reel.
Dwayne Johnson to the Rescue and Scoring the Quake, plus Brad Payton’s Director’s Commentary are the real wins here. The first is a brief yet eye opening look at the efforts and tenacity of the principle cast in their efforts to meet a physically gruelling shoot, whilst Scoring the Quake shows just how much effort went into the film’s score. In fact, had someone with more acclaim – say Trent Renzor – done anything similar, it probably would have gained much more recognition (hint: they actually used noises of the Earth moving in the score!). Then there is Peyton’s commentary, which although by the book, shows a director with real interest and passion for his film. Although Peyton’s thoughts fail to improve the film, they at least show his conscious knowledge of the film and his intentions behind it.
Special Features Grade: C-
San Andreas is way less fun than it should be, and way more serious than it deserves to be. But with the accompanying special features, it is clear to see that Brad Peyton had a very specific kind of film in his head, and although he didn’t quite pull it off, this is by far his most accomplished work to date.