Anthony's Film Review
San Andreas (2015)
Earthquakes have never looked so frightening in this entertaining disaster movie...
Throughout my life up until 2015, the worst earthquake I ever experienced was a mild slow shaking that felt more like a gentle amusement park ride than something that could easily hurt or kill me. It was a quake originating several miles away, registering about a 4 on the Richter scale. Otherwise, the only earthquake-related activity I was in involved preparatory earthquake drills (you know, duck and cover under a desk), something that, as of mid-2015, I have never had to put into practice. I can only imagine the horror of earthquakes with much greater magnitude, particularly when I see news reports showing pictures of major earthquake devastation.
Perhaps this is why I decided to check out the 2015 disaster movie San Andreas. With the magic of computer-generated images and other forms of special effects, I could be up close and personal with earthquakes registering 9 or higher on the Richter scale. I could watch things falling, buildings collapsing, and other related destruction without suffering any injuries whatsoever. I was especially curious because I'm a California native who has never suffered greatly in the hands of the San Andreas fault or other major fault lines in the state. So now, here I am with a quick review of this cinematic simulation of the worst possible California earthquakes.
Given that San Andreas is a disaster movie, you might assume that the plot and characters are secondary. Well, I can tell you that you'd be right about that. The plot can easily be summed up in one big sentence: A series of massive earthquakes occur along the San Andreas fault from Los Angeles to San Francisco, while a Los Angeles firefighter tries to save his ex-wife in L.A. before heading north to save his daughter in San Francisco. As for the characters, the main ones include Dwayne Johnson as the L.A. firefighter Ray, Carla Gugino as the ex-wife Emma, Alexandra Daddario as the daughter Blake, Hugo Johnstone-Burt as a foreign job interviewee named Ben, Ben's younger brother, and Paul Giamatti as a Caltech seismologist who has developed a model to predict earthquakes.
Really, this movie is about eye candy, the thrill of watching the realistic illusion of destruction. I have to admit. It's all pretty convincing. I don't know if the filmmaking crew relied entirely on CGI or used CGI in combination with other special effects methods (though I'm guessing the latter), but whatever they did, the results are astonishing. You could watch this movie in a San Francisco theater, believe that the city around you is quickly crumbling, and leave the theater feeling amazed that landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, and AT&T Park are still fully intact. Or if you're watching this movie in Los Angeles, you might think that the L.A. skyscrapers are collapsing not too far away. OK, I'm exaggerating on both of these points, but you get the idea. The earthquakes in this movie look quite real because of the special effects. Hell, even the geographic accuracy of Los Angeles and San Francisco on screen makes it all look real.
With all of this, you got a movie that follows a simple plot that only serves as the context for the earthquakes. If you're looking for something with depth or surprises, you won't find any of that here. All you really have is a series of thrilling earthquake scenes that, for many people, are exaggerated from minor earthquake experiences. Still, the cast of characters isn't too bad. I did find myself enjoying the stars come alive, especially Paul Giamatti who gives a pretty good performance even in a popcorn movie like this one.
Obviously, San Andreas is far from the really entertaining disaster movies, like Independence Day and 2012. Thankfully, it's within the realm of being entertaining and nowhere close to terrible. So on my 1-to-10 rating scale, I would put San Andreas in the upper half. Now, suppose my 1-to-10 scale for movies were like the Richter scale for earthquakes. San Andreas would not be an earth-shattering 10 or a groundbreaking 8 or 9, but neither is it a minimally rumbling 1 or 2. It's more like a 7, because the movie has enough jolt and power to keep you focused, put you on the edge, and make you anticipate more of the same. (Of course, the movie will leave no actual physical destruction in the process, which is a good thing.)
For more information about San Andreas, visit the Internet Movie Database.