The formula to making a film like San Andreas is inherently clear from the moment in which it starts up, giving away the many problems that will soon arise as they continue to plague disaster films. While not particularly something extremely harmful, what is presented in San Andreas is so obviously lacking when it comes to its own intelligence and care for where it wishes to head. What San Andreas displays through the course of its near two-hour long running time is an exercise in laziness that would try to pass itself off as “dumb fun,” but in turn succeed in leaving the audience with nothing else but utter disinterest for what goes on, for at its worst, it is boring.
Given the note which San Andreas starts off with (that being, a woman in danger being rescued by a helicopter crew), there’s a specific idea that it wants to stick to from after that. From the starting scene, which shows a small earthquake, the disasters that come after that only get much bigger. Where I take issue with the idea of only striving to be bigger comes from one critical standpoint, are the people who worked on the film ever sure that just from making things bigger, it will make any form of sense? The basics of what make a disaster film work so well in order to have the viewers right on the edge of their seat is the knowledge that it plays at a realistic rate. Instead, San Andreas just shoves more and more life threats that obviously would have our main characters killed, but of course, they make it out alive for no other reason than them being the leads. However, a much bigger issue comes from here which bothers a viewer like myself to such an extreme degree, for it is something that gives myself a distaste towards the disaster genre as a whole.
It seems as if the film is only relying on how the disaster sequences are working in order to carry everything out, because for how competently made each sequence is, the film also tries to add more nonsense through adding a touch of melodrama. Think back to a film like The Day After Tomorrow, a film by another director who fails to understand what makes a thrilling disaster film. It is not uncommon for Roland Emmerich’s films to rely too much on extremely heavy-handed and in turn, underdeveloped melodrama as a means of establishing the many characters he wants to put focus on. Some characters end up getting our focus and others just come off as uninteresting, San Andreas at times almost outdid what plagued his work from one unbelievable plot point to the other (divorcing Dwayne Johnson for no other reason other than adding family stress I can only assume from the looks of it), and at its worst, even abandoning them (a good example being Paul Giamatti’s warning).
Most of the fault comes at hand with Brad Peyton and an evidently incompetent eye behind the camera. Although a jump back to looking at films which he had previously directed (Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore or Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) may give evidence of his background, there’s a clear image of a pervasive lack of cohesion running all throughout San Andreas. He runs the very idea that he wants to form something incredibly huge in terms of the scale that the disaster would leave, to the point that being much bigger only takes away any of the tension just from how ridiculous all of it looks, and from a running tastelessness coming by that has always left such a bitter taste in my mouth especially with the disaster genre.
For all the biggest issues that are running throughout San Andreas, the worst offender committed is something that is a tad too familiar of disaster films. It is their primary focus on a single group of characters to the point that they, and anyone who is related to them in any manner, are the only characters whose deaths would make any real impact. It’s an issue that especially bothers me because the bitter taste coming into my mouth from an idea of watching a body count increasing from the excessive carnage being caused from the disasters that take place on the screen cannot be ignored off as enjoyment. While San Andreas does not in any way make these deaths look more gratuitous than the bikini shot of Alexandra Daddario, just the idea of enjoying the killing of numerous innocent lives in a disaster especially because they are not characters of significance leaves me a great resentment towards sheer tastelessness on the film’s end.
One can say it is a better disaster film from Roland Emmerich’s 2012, which I cannot argue, although that won’t especially be saying much. There’s a degree to which being “dumb fun” can be passed off but something about San Andreas only left a feeling of bitter resentment towards myself because it is willing to kill off more people on a count of only being much bigger. Dwayne Johnson is not particularly bad in his role, for at least there’s a sense of charisma to his performance and certain disaster sequences are not badly done by any means. Instead, it succumbs to stupidity all throughout and in the end, all that can be said about San Andreas is that it is indeed a stupid movie.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Brad Peyton
Screenplay by Carlton Cuse
Produced by Beau Flynn
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti
Release Year: 2015
Running Time: 114 minutes