Actor Dwayne Johnson returns to the big screen with the newest disaster flick San Andreas, a film that will no doubt continue Johnson’s string of high budget, low payoff films that have plagued his career since he broke into Hollywood over a decade ago. Director by Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) helms this “by the book” action fluff film that will wow the visual effects fan out there, but will leave audiences wishing that a natural disaster would wipe this film from existence.
Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) is a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue-helicopter pilot who is credited with over 600 rescues in his career. Gaines, a family oriented man who recently separated from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino), counts his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) as his biggest accomplishment and will do anything to protect her. Having previously lost their other daughter to a freak accident, Ray and Emma are left to continue separate lives, one that includes Emma’s new boyfriend David (Ioan Gruffudd), a wealthy architect whom Emma and Blake intend to move in with. Ray’s plans for spending a final weekend with Blake before she begins university in the San Francisco area are dashed when a major earthquake hits Nevada and his squad is mobilizes to respond while Daniel offers to fly Blake up north on his private jet.
Revelations are uncovered that the Nevada quake is only the beginning as Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti), a seismology professor at CalTech, has reason to believe the seismic activity is headed towards California. Before Hayes can get word out to the public, the first of many big tremors hits downtown Los Angeles, where Emma is lunching in a high rise restaurant as the building begins to crumble around her. Ray, sensing danger, swoops in and rescues her from the roof in his chopper. Blake, now caught in the earthquakes path, reaches out to her father for help. Realizing what they must do, Ray and Emma race up the coast to save their only daughter before it’s too late. But their treacherous journey north is only the beginning, and when they think the worst may be over…it’s just getting started.
Director Brad Peyton, along with cinematographer Steve Yedlin and VFX supervisor Colin Strause, have created a thrilling spectacle with intense visual effects and non stop action that will have audience members holding on to their seat, but the dialogue and execution of the human aspects leave this film lacking the heart it needs to succeed. Dwayne Johnson does a worthy job holding the film together, but the wrestler turned actor is given very few opportunities to show off why he is the most popular action star in Hollywood these days. Alexandra Daddario is a strong presence during her screen time in the film. Her character teeters on the edge of cliche as the damsel in distress, but she does her best to separate herself from the norm and create a character with strong undertones. Veteran actor Paul Giamatti does his best to work with a weak script and even weaker science but ultimately turns in a stale performance with very little substance. Actress Carla Gugino does little to add to the dramatic aspects of the film and turns in a rather forgetful performance.
Overall, San Andreas is not as bad as recent disaster films such as 2012, but falls victim to too many cliches and weak story telling to be counted as good. Should you see the film? Fans of Dwayne Johnson will be entertained, fans of disaster films and visual effects will be entertained, slightly, but not many others. In a summer filled with hit or miss films, San Andreas is a slight miss.
2 1/2 out of 5
After Credit Scene?