Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson takes the leading role in the latest big-big budget disaster epic, which sees a Los Angeles Fire Department rescue worker racing across the country in a desperate mission to save his daughter, while a record-breaking natural disaster brings devastation to millions.
Director: Brad Peyton
Staring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffud, Hugo Johnstone-Burt
Run Time: 114 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
$125 million on The Day After Tomorrow. $200 million on 2012. Both Roland Emmerich movies, and both designed and expected to become the standard bearer for all disaster movies that come after it. Of course, neither would quite become what they were meant to be, but it still made the point that it takes a lot for such a film to succeed, both in the finance department and the writers’ room.
So budgeting in at $100 million and with Brad Peyton – not exactly a director held in the same regard as Emmerich – at the helm, San Andreas comes across as the, to parlay a world best associated with the leading man’s former career, rookie wrestler trying to hang with Hulk Hogan. Although with The Rock in the starring role, the rookie certainly fights it’s corner.
Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a LAFD first-responder dealing with an impending divorce and a daughter moving in with the ex and her new boyfriend. Johnson has come on leaps and bounds as an actor since his first turn in 2002’s The Scorpion King, and has really honed his all-around ability; his physique and presence makes it easy to accept him as a action hero, but his dramatic acting is becoming more polished and probably still doesn’t quite get the credit that it deserves. With his biggest roles to date coming as part of ensemble films like the Fast and Furious series, this gives him a proper leading role to get his teeth into.
Following a little backstory that reveals a family tragedy that unfortunately foreshadows a little too much – thus making it difficult to truly buy into a major dramatic moment in the film’s final act – the movie jumps quickly into the earth-shaking action. Everything looks great and ticks all the right boxes when it comes to disaster movie special effects. Peyton has grade-A VFX at his disposal and certainly makes the most of it. This looks as good as the aforementioned Emmerich epics and looks as realistic as a seismic record-breaking natural disaster can.
But if Johnson and the visual effects provide the film’s highlights, it is regrettably the supporting cast that come up short, and not necessarily the fault of the actors. Gugino and Daddario are unfortunately little more than damsel in distresses, people for the hero father/husband to come and save. Johnstone-Burt, meanwhile, is likeable enough as the affable Ben, but he never really gets much to work with and doesn’t really add much to the story, other than someone for Blake to interact with on her journey. Giamatti delivers with what he has, as we should come to expect from him, however his role is that of exposition, someone there to help bring the story along while also providing that other cliche of disaster movies; the scientist that no-one listens to until it’s too late.
While this is obviously a vehicle for Johnson, it couldn’t hurt to attach some well-written support. Unfortunately, it isn’t just here that Peyton comes up short; the script feels a little loose in places and some of the dialogue falls into the disaster movie cliche category. Both Johnson and Gugino respond to the destruction taking place before their eyes with a dramatic “Oh my God” in scenes mere minutes apart. While that is a plausible response to such an event, you can’t help but feel that more could, and maybe should, have been done with what these characters utter.
Elsewhere, plot points seem to be all-too-quickly wrapped up or just simply left by the wayside. No matter the size of the budget or calibre of the director or cast, this really isn’t good enough. There is potential here for this film to be something more than it is, more than just another step on a well-trodden path of disaster epics. Regrettably, this one won’t leave a lasting impression once you leave the cinema.