365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


San Andreas (2015)

Not being a guy who is really into the disaster film genre anymore (I turned off movies like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 before I was even a third of the way in), I was more than tentative to give San Andreas a chance. It's a genre that once held great interest to me in my younger days. I enjoyed movies like Independence Day, Deep Impact, Cloverfield while absolutely loving Titanic (my favorite movie of 1997), The Impossible (my favorite movie of 1992), World War Z (my second favorite movie of 2013), I Am Legend (my second favorite movie of 2007), War of the Worlds, The Perfect Storm and, shamefully, Armageddon. But for every success like Deep Impact or Poseidon, there seem to be films like Twister or The Core that sets the disaster genre back. So, honestly, when I see a preview for a new disaster movie, my first instinct is to believe that it is going to be absolutely terrible. If it's got somewhat of a science-fiction element (like World War Z) or if it is based on a true story (The Impossible) AND it does well with the critics, it gets more of a benefit of a doubt. If it has neither of those things, it most likely will not. I thought the latter when I saw the first series of trailers for director Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) San Andreas.

While San Andreas falls into a lot of the same pitfalls as many other disaster movies such as incredible coincidences, near fatal escapes, and cheesy one-liners in the midst of overwhelming danger, it does so less frequently from some of these other movies that don't work. Yes, Dwayne Johnson (The Rundown, Gridiron Gang), plays more of a herculean type figure than he did when he played Hercules back in 2014. It helps that he is a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue helicopter pilot by day so when he's crash landing helicopters and parachuting from single engine airplanes, it is slightly more believable than when, I don't know, Bruce Willis and his oil digging team of misfits have NASA launch them into space to destroy an asteroid after a simple 19 days of training. I think 40-year-old Bryan Buser would view Armaggedon considerably differently than 22-year-old Bryan Buser. But I digress...

Paul Giamatti (Straight Outta Compton, Sideways) plays Dr. Lawrence Hayes, a CalTech professor with an expertise in seismology. Conveniently, he is giving a lecture on the most devastating in the history of the world on the same day that a colleague interrupts him as his class is ending to tell him that there is some seismic activity nearby. Long story short, after some research, Dr. Hayes warns the United States that there is great potential for an earthquake along the San Andreas fault line that could register at on the Richter Scale as a 9.5 or higher and that you'll be able to feel it on the east coast. How ironic that within hours of reporting this information that this massive earthquake does occur.

Johnson plays Ray, divorced husband to Emma (Carla Gugino - Watchmen, The Lookout) and father of college-aged daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario - Hall Pass, Baywatch). After an accident in which their other daughter died, Ray has been unable to cope and has driven away Emma while devoting his life to save others. While her relationship with Ray is still a strong one (because of Blake), Emma has moved on. She has recently gotten engaged to Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd - Horrible Bosses, King Arthur), a developer of buildings who is in the midst of designing the tallest building in all of San Francisco. Of course, the movie is going to revolve around the earthquake (the visuals are pretty cool...not Mad Max: Fury Road cool, but still effective enough and one of the highlights of the movie on its own), but it needs a story. The story is that Blake and Daniel are at Daniel's company's building in San Francisco when the first earthquake happens. Ray and Emma are in Los Angeles, unable to help. Ray's has already lost one daughter and isn't ready to use a second so he makes it his mission to get to San Francisco and rescue Blake from the city's current highest point. Along for the ride are Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt - Goddess) and his younger brother Ollie. Ben, who is similar in age to Blake, has an interview with Daniel's company and the upper elementary school aged Ollie is hanging out in the waiting area because there is no one who is able to watch him. From there mayhem ensues and we've got the duo teaming up with Blake trying to survive in the city until Ray and Emma can save them. Simple enough plot? It really isn't any more complicated than that. And for that I loved it. It was just an entertaining film that yes, at times, was over the top. But it was fun and engaged me in ways that I wished 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow could of.

The acting isn't great, but it isn't horrible. I think that the acting appears much better than it might have been because of the script. As mentioned, there are a few cheesy one-liners (like when Ray and Emma parachute into AT&T park, home of the San Francisco Giants and upon landing, Ray says "It's been awhile since I've gotten you to second base"). Cheesy for sure when you are worried about your daughter potentially being dead, but, as mentioned, there weren't a lot of these. As mentioned, the cinematography was very good. Sure there were a few noticeable green screen shots, but, other than that, the visuals were great. The sound mixing and sound editing was excellent as well. Again, was it Mad Max: Fury Road excellent? No, but no movie was able to compare to that movie in this category this year.

Overall, this was one of the better disaster movies in recent years. Not being based on a true story like The Impossible or Titanic (even though the Jake/Rose story was fictional) helped. While many of us agree that there will eventually be a major earthquake in California, it is our hope that it will not be this grave and will not happen anytime soon. San Andreas is a great popcorn flick. You are able to sit back and rest your feet while also resting your mind. This movie doesn't require you to think at all and sometimes that's all your looking for when you head out to the movies. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film.

Plot 7.5/10
Character Development 7/10
Character Chemistry 7.5/10
Acting 7.5/10
Screenplay 7.5/10
Directing  8/10
Cinematography 9/10
Sound 9/10
Hook and Reel 9.5/10
Universal Relevance 8/10 (a 9.6 earthquake seems a little extreme...I certainly hope I am correct on this)

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